I recently dropped by my local Sony store to check out the Sony Xperia Play. It is a really nice piece of gear that, if I didn’t already have an iPhone and Viewsonic G-Tablet would undoubtedly be adopting. The screen looks great and it seems just a bit more sluggish than my G-Tab which is running Vegan, a better version of the Android OS than comes installed on the G-Tabs.
Going off on a bit of a tangent, Android, the operating system which the Xperia Play uses, has a very open market which is much less curated than the Apple App Store. This results in a lot of junk but also a lot more options for someone that likes to tinker. For example, I picked up a Zeemote and was able to get it to function with my G-tab which greatly improves some gaming experiences with the device. This is positively impossible on my iPhone because of the tight reigns Apple keeps on the device. That said much less on Android just works, a problem that I expect that Sony is trying to address with the Play. I didn’t spend much time in the App store on the Play but did verify that it is accessible. Additionally Sony appears to have a curated list of games that are optimized for the Play available on the device which is very cool. If the device is supported in this way with both an open market and a curated experience available this could be very cool for consumers.
I spent most of my time with the Xperia Play checking out the hardware and installed games and must say that the addition of real controls makes a huge difference for traditional console style games. The buttons and plus pad are small and springy but feel up to Sony quality. The plus pad appears to be 4 separate buttons which seems a bit chintzy to me but feels high quality and useable enough that I did not care during my time with the device. The analog pads, I am not sure exactly what to call them, worked but felt like they would take a bit of getting used to. They were far preferable to on screen control pads used in many iOS and Android games which is what counts. Sure any old Android or iPhone can rock Angry Birds but I have not been able to play more than a few minutes of most console type titles, such as Dead Space or Battlefield, on my iPhone. A couple exceptions are a couple of Gameloft titles specifically Nova and Backstab both of which I enjoyed but have not finished. I believe that the Play can offer a superior console experience on a cell-phone to any previous cell.
My main concern is potential lack of support for the Play’s control scheme and the upcoming release of the Playstation Vita which could leave the Play in the lurch if it is not widely adopted. All in all I wish it the best of luck and would easily pick up a low priced non cell-phone version of the Play if it was available.