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Why Xperia Play isn't the next N-Gage

Target consumer a "very cool, young person".

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

The Xperia Play will avoid the N-Gage's fate, Sony Ericsson has insisted.

The Nokia N-Gage, which died at the end of 2010, launched in 2003 as a portable game machine with mobile phone technology.

Critics said the N-Gage failed because of its buttons, which were difficult to use for gaming, and its design, which made it awkward to use as a phone.

The Xperia Play, the world's first PlayStation-certified smartphone, is different, however, because when used as a mobile phone it looks just like a mobile phone.

"Because it wasn't a smartphone, and it wasn't a phone first," was Sony Ericsson's Dom Neil-Dwyer's response when asked why the N-Gage flopped in a Gamasutra interview conducted at E3 last month.

"As you can see from the design of [the Xperia Play], when you hold it in portrait it's a smartphone. It's not a game device that you can make some phone calls on, it's a smartphone.

"When you've got the game keys hidden and you're just holding it like that, people wouldn't know what it is, but obviously when you pop it open it's a great gaming device."

The Xperia Play launched in the UK in April with over 60 games available to download.

They included some original PlayStation games that were exclusive to the PlayStation-certified phone.

Games are downloadable via the Xperia Play launcher – an application launched by sliding open the device's gamepad. It recommends games and lets you search for titles optimised for Xperia Play.

Neil-Dwyer said the Xperia Play targets "very cool, young people".

"The people that are going to be buying this are looking for something new," he said.

"There's just a sea of touchscreen devices out there and they're looking for something cool. So that's the type of consumer that we're looking for. I bumped into someone here at E3 that had one and they're exactly the type of person we're targeting, which is a very cool, young person that wants something different, right? And that's basically our target audience."

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