What the Xperia Play means for mobile gaming

What the Xperia Play means for mobile gaming
Aaron Lee

By Aaron Lee

March 15th 2011 at 3:00PM

We quiz Sony Ericsson, EA and Gameloft on what the Play means for the mobile market

With a retractable gamepad and PlayStation games, the Xperia Play is the closest we’ve come to a mobile for gamers.But can the Xperia Play appeal to those who are just looking to play the next Angry Birds?

A joint collaboration between Sony Ericsson and Sony Computer Entertainment, the mobile features a range of content which they believe will give it the versatility to appeal beyond traditional gamers.

“We believe the Xperia Play will have widespread appeal to a number of consumer audiences including casual and enthusiastic gamers,” says Matt Beavis, head of PR and sponsorship at Sony Ericsson.

“Through the PlayStation Suite initiative, Sony Computer Entertainment will bring PlayStation content to the Android platform. This will of course benefit Xperia Play and mean we will have quality PlayStation content on the device.”

And, in the long-term, this development platform may help Sony regain a hold on the mobile gaming market, as it is being rolled out across a range of PlayStation Certified devices, including the rumoured PlayStation tablet.

GAMES FOR ALL

Along with access to the Android Marketplace and its library of games, there will be over 50 titles available at launch, from publishers EA, Glu Mobile and Gameloft.

Speaking to publishers, making use of the Play’s gamepad is allowing them to deliver a broader range of genres with a higher level of control than touchscreens.

Several popular franchises are being optimised for the device, including FIFA, The Sims 3, Assassin’s Creed, Splinter Cell and Guitar Hero.

An EA spokesperson says: “The device recognises what EA has believed for some time - that games are one of the key elements that smartphone users are seeking.

“We don’t really see any limitations to who might enjoy playing games on the Xperia Play, so the titles we’ll make available for it will range from those that will attract a more hardcore audience, but also those that will be of interest to casual gamers.”

Gameloft UK’s digital marketing and community manager, Callum Rowley, says: “Gameloft’s philosophy has always been to create the highest quality games on the device the consumer wants to own. The Xperia Play offers an alternative, yet still accessible, avenue to the smartphone market, and with its emphasis on games it will bring new people into gaming. This can only be a good thing in our view.”

Yet the question is will consumers opt for these PlayStation-specific downloadable versions or the cheaper, and ever comparable, Android apps?

The consensus at present appears to be wait and see what the market responds to.

The recent reveal that PlayStation Network content must be re-purchased on the Xperia Play is also raising questions that we may have another PSP Go situation here.

HANDHELD HYBRID

Chris James, managing director of Steel Media, which owns handheld gaming site Pocket Gamer, sees it as “a brilliant addition to the smartphone world.” He is more optimistic about the device’s potential for reaching dedicated gamers as well as casual audiences.

“It’s a touch-screen device like pretty much every other smartphone hitting the market right now so you can play the latest Android casual games in precisely the same way you could on any other Android device.

“In addition, it’s quite likely that some casual gamers will prefer using the control pad to the touchscreen in the first place. It frees up the screen and makes the experience better and arguably easier to control in some cases,” he says.

Where Xperia Play will fit into the current mobile market is still up for debate.

We’ll soon find out whether it is a gaming phone or a phone for all.

James says: “It’s establishing a new niche as a ‘gaming phone’, which considering the incredible similarities between most modern smartphones is an understandable and quite likely direction for manufacturers to follow as they seek to differentiate their products.

“I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see further iterations in the same line from Sony and potentially a response from other manufacturers.

“The other viewpoint is that this is a belated and gimmicky attempt to cross-pollinate the smartphone and the handheld console, and apply the ‘PlayStation’ brand to the mobile space.

“The prevailing view is likely to be down to how successful the device is at retail, and that in turn will be affected by the manner in which both SCE and Sony Ericsson get behind the handset and the content available for it.”