[Games] It’s Pocket Grenade Time You Hussy!

Is this advert for Sony Ericsson’s new gaming-focussed Xperia Play smartphone, which stars Flight of the Conchords Kristen Schaal, possibly the best advert ever? Yes.

Is the Xperia Play, an Android handset with PlayStation-inspired gaming controls, looking more and more tempting as an ownership proposition every single day? Yes.

Honestly I’m seriously thinking about getting one of these puppies. Apple’s App Store (copyright and trade mark etc etc) may have revolutionised the delivery of mobile gaming, but the ham-fisted attempts of most developers to shoe-horn regular arcade or joypad controls onto a touch screen have mostly failed miserably.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play - stupid name, great controls?

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play - stupid name, great controls?

I’ve lost count of the gaming apps I’ve bought, played for ten minutes, then rejected on the grounds that I can’t be doing with fiddly on-screen controls. Sonic 4, NBA Jam and Speedball Evolution are all great games, but each succeeds despite its hamstrung controls. Each would be improved exponentially on the Xperia Play.

However that brings me to the Play’s biggest issue. Support. Out of the box, standard Android games won’t work with the new controls. There’s just no way for the Play to intelligently retrofit its control scheme onto titles designed for touch. Sony Ericsson says it’s working with partners to develop launch titles that support the Play. The ad above features Modern Combat 2, what appears to be a warfare based FPS whose title and theme seem to have taken a page or two out of the book of a certain Activision hit. If that’s the best the Play can muster I’m worried.

Yes, but can it run Crysis?

Yes, but can it run Crysis?

I want the Play to work. I want it to sell in such vast numbers that the makers of popular Android games patch their titles to support physical controls. I want it to become a financial imperative for the developers of great iOS titles like Speedball and NBA Jam to port their games to Android, with Xperia Play controls baked in. But the kind of sales numbers needed to make that a reality can only be driven by solid launch titles and a steady stream of support from day one.

If all the titles sold through Sony’s forthcoming PlayStation store for Android use the Play’s controls, that will help. A killer app or two will go down a treat too. And if Sony can keep its promise to make emulated PSOne games available on the Play for a reasonable price, this could just be a more important handheld gaming device than a certain bit of kit coming our way from Nintendo in the next couple of days. Here’s hoping.

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