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It looks like Sony was getting ready to bring its PlayStation Now cloud gaming service to mobile phones long before the idea of cloud gaming services on the iPhone was even being debated, and Apple had insider knowledge of what the console maker was up to.
A new report from The Verge reveals another confidential document that has surfaced from the Epic v. Apple trial. It shows that Apple got tipped off about Sony’s plans back in 2017, which were described as an unannounced “mobile extension of an existing streaming device for PlayStation users.”
According to the documents, the service would have provided streaming access to over 450 PS3 games right out of the gate, with PS4 games expected to follow.
The document, which was labeled “HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL — ATTORNEY’S EYES ONLY,” appears to have been rounding up potential competitors as Apple began strategizing for the launch of its Apple Arcade service.
In a presentation slide listing “Industry embracing subscriptions,” PlayStation Now is shown as a mobile contender alongside Nintendo Switch, Hatch, FunPlus’ The Label, and Big Fish’s Game Club. Notably, back then, Xbox Game Pass and Nvidia’s GeForce NOW were only considered Console and PC services, and Google’s Stadia didn’t exist at all back then.
Another slide shows how Apple was in the process of lining up its plans for Apple Arcade, preparing to target 30 top game studios to try to get as many as “a few hundred titles” on board.
The 2017 presentation also reveals that Apple had planned from the very start of Apple Arcade to launch with over 100 titles while also aiming to add 10 new ones per month. The original timeline also listed the 2018 fiscal year as the timeframe to design, build, license, and announce the service while it would launch in its 2019 fiscal year.
While Apple obviously must have approached key game developers well ahead of time, it slightly missed most of these other targets. Apple Arcade wasn’t announced to the public until March 2019, and it didn’t go live until September of that year — basically the very tail end of its 2019 Fiscal Year, and only did so with 62 games.
PlayStation Now obviously never materialized on mobile devices, and it’s hard to say why Sony abandoned its plans for mobile gaming. Even though this was before Apple cracked down on game streaming services, perhaps Sony could see the writing on the wall, or perhaps it just saw more value in sticking with console sales.
It’s a strategy that seems to have paid off, and Sony has managed to maintain a better relationship with Apple than many of its rivals. While Steam, Microsoft, and Google were fighting for mobile access, Sony just quietly carried on with its console business and avoided burning any bridges with Apple.
For instance, Sony was first to embrace cross-platform play between the iPhone and PS4 and later offer full remote console play on the iPhone. It’s also been ahead of the curve in adding services like Apple Music to its consoles and offering up free Apple TV+ promotions.
However, as The Verge notes, Sony may have also simply been biding its time. Now that Apple has opened the door a crack for game streaming services, it’s possible that the company’s new Project Spartacus could also eventually make its way to the iPhone and iPad.