Xperia Play • Page 3

The other PlayStation in your pocket?

The EA games are of a pretty high standard, but it's Crash's presence that is probably of most interest to PlayStation fans. This port of Naughty Dog's classic PSone platformer came nested within another app called PlayStation Pocket. Nobody could explain what this was or what its relationship to PlayStation Suite might be, and it wasn't working on the handset I tested.

However, it seems safe to assume that Crash will handle superbly on the Xperia Play's control layout. The same will surely be true of the other PSone games that will be released via PlayStation Suite, and one assumes Sony will ensure these offer Xperia Play support as standard, eliminating the need for a touch-screen button overlay.

If you're excited about the prospect of revisiting or discovering the original PlayStation catalogue on your phone (and don't mind paying twice), then surely Xperia Play is the device for you.

But Sony has plans for PlayStation Suite to be more than a mere PSone emulator. They're not very well-defined at present, and they were poorly communicated at the PlayStation Meeting in Tokyo last month, but they do exist.

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Ich bin ein lifestyle gamer.

SCE wants the Suite to become a platform within a platform. The idea is developers and publishers will choose to create new and original games for it, while the PlayStation branding will promise premium gaming products (possibly at premium prices).

It's also offering the PlayStation Certified stamp to handset manufacturers, which will guarantee a certain level of gaming performance. The Play is the first phone to bear this stamp and of course has the unique advantage of those unmistakeable controls.

But SCE boss Kaz Hirai expressly stated in Tokyo that the point of PlayStation Suite was to reach as wide an audience as possible. So it's hard to imagine that developers, or even SCE itself, will limit the audience for new Suite games by designing with the Play's controls in mind.

The same goes for the wider Android marketplace, where studios will have an eye not just on all the rival touch-screen handsets but on porting to and from the more lucrative Apple App Store.

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Does the same fate await the Xperia Play as befell the Nokia N-Gage?

Xperia Play may well be the best phone to play traditional games on, but it seems unlikely to divert the mobile market away from its focus on simple touch-screen games unless Sony Computer Entertainment puts its considerable muscle behind the platform.

Will SCE insist on Xperia Play support as standard for all Suite games? Or will Sony Ericsson have to chase down developers individually, as it has done for the phone's launch line-up? Just how integrated are the plans of Sony's PlayStation business and its mobile phone manufacturer?

That's the million-dollar question. The answer will make the difference between the Xperia Play creating a niche for itself between smartphones and handheld games consoles, or joining the ranks of the many that have failed to do just that, such as Nokia's ill-fated N-Gage.

Until plans for PlayStation Suite are clarified, we won't know the answer. But based on SCE's arm's-length handling of the Xperia Play so far, the signs are not promising.

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