So the cat's out of the bag, the Playstation Phone exists, it functions, and it looks...interesting. The tech heads over on the Mobot side of the office took the tipping canoe down to Spain to check it out, as you can see in the video above, and they were pretty impressed by it.
Let's start off with the way it looks. The Xperia Play, at first glance, looks a little like a more angular PSPGo in many ways. But whilst the Go was a largely unnecessary, overpriced gadget that attempted to reanimate the leprous corpse that was the PSP, the Xperia Play represents something of a middle ground between mobile app-related gaming and a more traditional handheld console. It's a middle ground that's slowly going to become smaller and smaller as it becomes more and more crowded until the separation between the two is non-existent.
As Lewis suggested in his response to the preview, the Xperia Play might look to be a pretty nice bit of kit. It'll be sporting Android Gingerbread, come loaded with a 1GHz Snapdragon processor and have an Adreno 205 running the graphics side of things:
In terms of software support, there’ll be around 50 games available at launch, with an as-yet-unconfirmed PSOne Classic. The PlayStation Phone has the backing of 20 developers, including Electronic Arts and Gameloft. On top of PlayStation Suite, the Xperia Play will also have access to apps on the Android Market.
Games are expected to sell for €3-7, which seems entirely reasonable. But how well do they actually run? [...] Games zip along at a smooth 60 frames per second. No complaints from me after a fairly lengthy session on Asphalt 6: Adrenaline.
That's an impressive start when it comes to the mobile market, but Lewis highlights the possibility that a high price point might well alienate a casual crowd and gear the device more towards hardcore gamers. Sony have suggested to press this week that they learned their mistakes from the PS3, but they were talking about the NGP. For the Xperia Play to have any kind of success it'll need to at least match the superlative iPhone 4 if not undercut it.
The future is most certainly going fully mobile and my concern is that by putting two horses into the race - one offering powerful handheld gaming, the other a significantly weaker model functioning fully as a mobile communications device - Sony's hope of spreading themselves over as vast a demographic as possible might backfire with one of the products failing.
That said, it's also important to note the official lack of Playstation branding when associated with the names of both products. Instead, Sony have chosen to focus on Playstation Suite - the hub of downloadable titles which will include PSOne originals - and have handed out tags, notable at the end of the Xperia Play's advert, that read 'Playstation Certified'. It looks like the days of Playstation simply being a console are numbered: what's around the corner is a gaming experience accessible across a wide range of devices, each tailored slightly to suit a different kind of consumer.
The dedicated buttons are a nice touch, but the graphical capabilities - that Adreno 205 is hardly the best chip on the market - might well let it down. And, with the NGP running four cores (with several of the XP's rivals now packing dual cores) and offering 3G, it might seem that the Xperia Play is a little underpowered. The iPhone 4 will be able to knock the socks off of it on launch day, but if Sony can keep the price down, that might not be such a negative when all's said and done. Then again, it might well be the case that by producing a ridiculously powerful handheld device, and one that seems a little lacklustre on paper, they've missed the point a little bit.
For the frugal gamer, this is going to present a nightmare. Who is this product aimed at? Who's going to buy both this and an NGP? The Xperia Play appears to be a smartphone designed for gamers, but its beauty looks to be only skin deep. Will buttons really make that much of a difference?
Time will tell.