At the Mobile World Congress today I got an opportunity to have a go of the new Sony Ericsson Xperia Play. It’s not hard to see why it’s being billed as the "PlayStation Phone". Running on Gingerbread (Android 2.3), it’s a beautiful device with heaps of features. But its focus is clearly gaming.
You slide up the face to reveal the gaming controls, which are modeled on a Sony PlayStation DualShock controller. Instead of joysticks there are two round touch pads and there’s one set of shoulder buttons that can also be used for the usual Android functions (back, menu, home and search). While the four-inch display is on the small side for a gaming device, the colors were bright and the graphics were brilliant (854x480-pixel resolution; 16.7 million colors). Overall, the display keeps up with the other gaming features. I had a play with Bruce Lee and Crash Bandicoot, which both looked and felt like they were on a gaming device, not a phone that could also be used for games (other confirmed titles are Need for Speed, The Sims 3, Assassin’s Creed, Guitar Hero and Splinter Cell).
I was a little concerned when I asked the Sony representative about the phone’s online ecosystem. It is here where Apple has managed to smash the competition. Games will be available from an online Sony Ericsson store as well as through the Android Market. That seemed a little patched together and I had trouble getting information on exactly how this works. In response to questions on developer access I only got confused answers and the issue of in-app purchases was well beyond them. This is not just an issue with staff not being across the details, there is genuine confusion about how this will all fit together, according to a nearby insider who helped me with some of my questions.
Of course, the really exciting thing for me was the implications for immersive gaming. They have the location based side covered with assisted-GPS, although the surprise would have been if it hadn’t had it. It also opens the door to augmented reality play with a 5.1-megapixel camera. But most exciting, when I first slid it open it really felt like I was holding an immersive gaming device: a game controller where the only screen attached to it shows you a live feed of what's in front of you. Overall, this is a powerful immersive gaming device and it was really fun to play with. I just hope that Sony allows us to create innovative content without commercial roadblocks.