Android With Thumbs: Sony Ericsson Announces the Xperia Play
For months, rumours and images of Sony Ericsson smartphones with PlayStation Joypads photoshopped onto them have been circulating on tech sites, but early this week we received confirmation from Sony Ericsson that it was all true. The “Xperia Play”, soon to be launched, is just what the rumours promised: a “PlayStation phone”. In homage to the aforementioned fans’ photoshopped images perhaps, Sony Ericsson’s YouTube promo depicts Google’s ‘droid getting thumbs stitched onto itself horror-film-style by a back-alley surgeon – the Xperia Play is, it says, “Android with thumbs”. With console-born and – more importantly – console-quality games, such as Electronic Arts’ FIFA and NFL series (football for both sides of the pond), now migrating onto Android Market, many hardcore gamers will welcome the addition of a Joypad to their phone – much like music lovers welcomed the addition of MP3 players to mobile phones. The logic behind Sony Ericsson’s product shows a distinct parallel: why carry two devices – a handheld console and a phone – when you can carry one? There are differences though between mobile music c. 2005 and mobile games c.2011: firstly, mobile gaming has been around for quite a while, and has gone through a recent revolution (as I discussed in my recent report); and secondly, it, and other platforms – notably home consoles – are moving in a different direction, interaction-wise. The adoption of smartphones with motion-sensing interactive technology, such as touchscreens, accelerometers and GPS, which has spawned new genres, shows no sign of slowing in the immediate future, and augmented reality is yet to take-off (as discussed by my colleague Windsor Holden in his recent report). Further, the key trend in gaming in general – with new products, such as, the Xbox Kinect, and the established Wii – is also motion-sensing. Nevertheless, there are times when many gamers will prefer the classic Joypad: a number of developers have integrated Joypad controls into the UI (User Interface) of their games, but with gaming being so dependent on touch and timing, touchscreens aren’t always up to it – especially on a device that is used on the go. While casual games titles, such as the smash hit Angry Birds, are ideally suited to touchscreens, more complex games, beloved by hardcore games aren’t. Sony Ericsson has therefore clearly identified a market for this product, and this device is part of their increased focus on high-end devices. The word the company uses is “revolutionary” – a term frequently applied to the iPhone for its transformation of mobile music and other entertainment services. Many in the industry will now be watching this product closely to see if it can have this kind of impact on mobile gaming.