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GDC 2011: Xperia PLAY Preview

Posted on Wednesday, March 2 @ 22:06:00 Eastern by


We've been covering the Xperia PLAY extensively. Long before it was even made official. Finally, we got our hands on the device that Sony Ericsson believes will change the landscape of mobile gaming forever. 

Though it's still too early to really tell, the Xperia PLAY might not be the revolution Sony Ericsson is hoping for, but it's definitely a great machine -- both for gaming and as a high-end Android smartphone. Sony Ericsson's marketing campaign is pure genius and represents what the Xperia PLAY offers perfectly. 

What you need.


People "need" to be connected at all times. Connected to their friends, social networks, and an internet full of information. Due to this "need", smartphones are becoming a staple in everyday life. Fortunately, the "what you need" part of the Xperia PLAY is a full-featured Android handset running on the latest version of Google's Android OS for smartphones, Android 2.3 aka Gingerbread (Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" is also now available, but is designed specifically for tablets).

This version on Gingerbread has a Sony Ericsson developed "skin" running over your standard Android, which is essentially a few widgets and design tweaks. Luckily, it doesn't bog down the Android experience the way other manufacturer's skins do, such as the now notorious Motoblur from Motorola. The result is a snappy, user-friendly smartphone interface with easy access to the stuff you'd use most.

What you want.


Being an Android smartphone is nice and all, but it's a big "been there, done that". What makes the Xperia PLAY so special is the fact that it features PlayStation buttons, a d-pad, L and R triggers and a touch-sensitive pad that functions as dual analog sticks would. It's got everything you want need for a more deep, traditional game experience.  It still has a touch screen that's all the norm with smartphones, but it can be used in conjunction with the standard controller buttons for even more input possibilities.

The buttons are tucked away behind the phone's screen, and slides out for access, much like you've seen with QWERTY slider keyboards like the Motorola Droid. The sliding mechanism is well-built and very springy, much like the PSPgo. Though, the size of both the base and the buttons themselves are significantly smaller on the Xperia PLAY. They're just the right size to maintain a sleek smartphone form factor, while still allowing for full-control over the games you're playing.

The games themselves, for right now, are all things you've seen before on other smartphones, just with a more familiar way to play. That's going to change very quickly, though. We spoke briefly with engineers from Havok and Unity, which are development tools used on home consoles like the PS3. These development tools have been optimized to allow "simple" porting of top titles over to the Xperia PLAY. It's not just the dev tools either, Sony Ericsson has partnered with well-known mobile developers like EA and Gameloft, who will support the device with game content at launch and thereafter. One developer even claimed that the Xperia PLAY was "much more powerful than the Wii". Sure the Wii isn't as powerful as the Xbox 360 or PS3, but this is a smartphone we're talking about.

On top of what we just mentioned, being the world's first PlayStation Certified smartphone means the Xperia PLAY will have access to PlayStation Suite, a download service for "PlayStation quality" games. The first of these games will be the PSOne's Crash Bandicoot, and will come pre-loaded on the Xperia PLAY at launch. More PSOne classics will follow, and eventually new titles built specifically for the Xperia PLAY and PlayStation Suite service will be made available.

The device itself is about the size of an iPhone or comparable smartphone and has a extremely high-quality build. The unit also has a glossy, finger-print attracting finish, and chrome trims out the buttons. It's definitely a sleek, sexy piece of hardware, but obviously what's really important here is the gaming capabilities.

Even though we had plenty of time with the Xperia PLAY, there are still a few unanswered questions. What's the exact release date (we want something more solid than Spring) and how much will it cost? We asked, but the reps at Sony Ericsson were quick to explain that they weren't yet ready to make announcements on price. Whatever it costs, it's a great solution for gamers who want a better experience on the go. We'll find out more as Spring draws closer.


Related Games:   Xperia Play
Tags:   GDC
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