Is There Still Hope for the Xperia Play?

Is There Still Hope for the Xperia Play?

Remember the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play smartphone? You can be forgiven if its existence has slipped out of your mind over the past few months. Sony’s Android phone, which has a special emphasis on gaming (especially retro PSOne games), has existed in North America since April 2011, but hasn’t made a big impact on a very busy, very big market.

Sony realizes that the Xperia Play hasn’t made much of an imprint on the smartphone scene, and it hopes to rectify that. In an interview with Gamesindustry.biz conducted at Gamescom 2011, Tim Harrison, Sony Ericsson’s head of content marketing and strategy, assured Xperia Play adopters that there are some great “AAA” titles on the horizon.

“We’re still very much building the overall content story – we obviously released with a bunch of games and we’ve announced a great new catalogue of games here at Gamescom,” Harrison said. “We’ve got a really broad cross-section of content for it. We’ve got new PlayStation content coming through, more classics, but also we’re particularly focused on some of the new developer talent.”

A solid selection of original titles and some more coveted PSOne classics would be a big boost for the Xperia Play, but it might not be enough. When the Nintendo 3DS failed to maintain high sales numbers after a mere four months at market, the company shifted into panic mode and dropped the price of the handheld. Two of the Nintendo 3DS’s problems echoed the Xperia Play exactly: High cost and a lack of games. Potential Xperia Play users can obviously get a discounted phone through their cell phone provider, though said discounts almost always come through a contract. Nintendo’s cut has revitalized 3DS sales, and it has the strength of its franchises behind it. But with the iOS game market booming, it’s not as likely that people will hold back on a smartphone purchase just to see where the Xperia Play winds up game-wise in a few months.

What’s more, fragmentation issues are hobbling the distribution of some of the “AAA” titles Harrison talks about in his interview with GI.biz. “Dead Space by EA was released during GamesCom but only on their Flexion Store so far for Xperia Play owners leaving the rest of the Xperia Play owners who don’t have access to the Flexion store behind,” writer Andrew Huff pointed out on DroidGamers.com. “Triple-A titles are great but we have to be able to actually play all of them.”

Nobody needs to remind Sony that the smartphone market is smoking hot. Every extra second that the Xperia Play takes to get up to speed is another purchase lost to a competitor. Harrison claims that the Xperia Play is still in its “early days,” but six slow months may as well be a lifetime as far as smartphones are concerned. And with the PlayStation Vita on the horizon, everyone’s attention is turned to Sony’s next “real” handheld. Unless the Xperia Play can pull of some really wicked cool games, it’s not going to garner a whole lot of attention through the rest of the year.

But miracles do happen, and the Xperia Play is a neat little phone. Hopefully, Sony can successfully jump-start the device, fix some of its fragmentation issues and give it the dose of rocket fuel that it needs to become a real contender in the smartphone market.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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