Looks like the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play panic has already started. According to CVG, the number of downloads concerning Xperia Play specific games as been quite low.
Lets look at the figures: Cool Boarders 2 – 100-500 (downloads); Destruction Darby – 500-1,000; Jumping Flash – 50-100; MediEvil – 100-500 and Syphon Filter – 100-500. Those stats don't quite compete with Angry Birds but is it cause for concern? Maybe, but I doubt Sony executives will be getting any sleepless nights over it. This is a statement they released:
"I think there's also an awareness thing for people that are getting their hands on the device and where they are choosing to purchase games. There's only a few, at the minute, PlayStation One titles there, and there's more coming on a regular basis, and there's the whole PlayStation as a content provider exclusive to the device, the story about that, that will emerge and people will see.
So, there's no concerns, it's a revolutionary device, it's shaking up the market, we're very pleased with it. In terms of getting the PlayStation Certified program out, generally, we're very happy. I think we'll make a full assessment of if it has achieved our expectations fully, further down the line, so we're very happy.
We know there's a lot more to come that we're not, obviously, releasing yet. We're releasing as we go, rather than telling everyone the full story, and I think everyone appreciates that you have a good line-up at the start of selling a device, because it is a smartphone and it has a good line-up – and that line-up will grow – and the feedback we got on that line-up is that it is a good line-up, so we're very happy where we are."
So Whats The Problem?
Despite being the fabled Playstation Phone and having a built in gamepad, the phone itself lacks that special quality thanks to some outdated hardware. While the Bravia engine powered screen and game controls on a phone are great, in this day and age a 2nd generation, single core Snapdragon processor with an Adreno 205 GPU just doesn't compare to what the Motorola Atrix, HTC Sensation and Samsung Galaxy S2 are packing, even Samsung's Hummingbird processor is on par if not more powerful. Add the small amount of internal memory (just 400 MB) and the Xperia Play starts to look more like last years high end Android phone.
Another problem is that the Next Generation Portable is just around the corner which promises to be a serious piece of kit for any handheld gamer looking to get their hardcore on. Will anyone wanting a dedicated handhold console also want the Xperia Play? People with phones will also get mp3 players so it is possible but could people be taking a cautious approach towards the Xperia Play while they are waiting to learn more about the NGP. It is worth noting that the Playstation Suite will also be available on this device to and it will be interesting to see if purchases can be played on both devices without paying twice.
Speaking of price it remains to be seen if consumers are willing to pay upwards of $16 for a game no matter how complex. Gameloft on the iOS app store seem to have prices set around $4.99 – $6.99, the beautiful looking Infinity Blade retails at $5.99. In order to compete Sony has to keep costs down and compete making sure if they charge high amounts then you get your moneys worth.
Or Is There?
It's not all bad though and this early doom and gloom is very premature. Lets not forget the phone is not even out yet in a few countries which includes North America arguably the biggest market for this phone. Secondly the games out at the moment do not necessarily represent the best games that were available for the PS1. Lets at least wait until Crash Bandicoot is out, and after that lets wait and see the figures if Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy get re-released in the store or some of the other bigger and better games that graced the PlayStation One. Lets not forget there are also developers like Gameloft who are making original content that could appeal to those people looking for something a bit different.
Also even if the specs are not top of the line, if the games are of a high quality in terms of playability, depth and fun then people will buy the Xperia Play. The iPhone didn't become a popular gaming platform based on specs (although admittedly it has helped it recently), it became popular because people created fun games for it and as people got more adjusted for developing games for it so the depth got better. Sony have an advantage thanks to in-depth PS1 games already at their disposal.
It is interesting to see that according to iTunes most of the top grossing games for iOS are free. While it may be in Sony's core to charge outright for games it seems that the mobile gaming space is moving towards in app payments. The reason these games gross so much is because users are willing to pay for extras. Now that Google has introduced in app payments this would allow Sony and its collaborators in future to charge lower amounts of money straight away and offer extras such as armour, weapons, advancements etc in order to make more money in the long run.
Thats the big question. Of course the Sony S1 and S2 tablets will also be Playstation certified which will be very interesting if they are 3.1 Honeycomb tablets which would allow you to use a PS3 gamepad. The other obvious thing is to spread out the Playstation Certificate Program to other handset makers, the only problem being if people want to play games that were originally intended for a lot of buttons to be cramped onto one touchscreen. For this problem there is a different approach they can take and one that smaller companies are trying to create at the moment, an add-on like the icontrolpad giving people handy access to full gaming controls when they feel like playing Parappa the rapper properly… Whether Sony decide to take this path is highly speculative on my part (or possibly more hopeful than anything) and it is unknown whether the costs of developing such a add-on for a number of different screen sizes would outweigh the potential sales through the Playstation Suite.
I would be interested to know what our readers think of this. How people feel about Sony at the moment after their Playstation Network mess is vital to how many people are ready to trust them when buying products from them. Are their any Xperia Play users who feel the potential of the device is not being used yet? Hit the comments below to tell us what you think.