Friday, May 20, 2011

Verizon 'PlayStation Phone' Unlikely to Lure Gamers Away from iPhone


COMMENTARY | Who knew, when it first came out, that the iPhone would be so popular with gamers? Epic Games, ID Software, EA and Square-Enix already have games on the App Store, some of them truly -- well, epic. Even the iPad's getting some gaming love, from "Plants vs. Zombies" to analog joystick attachments.

Obviously, not all of the major players in the gaming space are happy about this. Nintendo considers Apple a threat, according to Forbes, and Sony Ericsson is building Android phones now. "PlayStation Certified" Android phones. Like the Xperia Play, which is coming to Verizon May 26 for $199, reports BGR.

The Play's the thing

The Xperia Play has some truly impressive specs. It doesn't have a dual-core processor, but it has as much RAM as an XBox 360, the standard front-facing camera, and between six and eight hours of talk time. Its screen is almost as sharp as the iPhone's, and it comes with unique Android features, such as Google Voice Search and the latest Google apps.

What makes it a PlayStation phone, though, are its gaming features -- like a slide-out controller with shoulder buttons and analog thumbpads, plus apps that let you buy PlayStation games and access the PlayStation Network. And it's not just 10-year-old classic games that are being featured on the Xperia Play,either; over 60 games are being sold through its built-in store, including exclusives, and the Android Market has its own gaming section.

iOS exclusives

The problem for Android and PlayStation gamers, though, is that the iPhone has the Xperia Play beat when it comes to exclusive games -- at least games that aren't found on any other smartphones. And while some of these games, like "PopCap's," are coming to Amazon's "Appstore for Android," publishers like Epic Games have held back, according to Gizmodo, for a variety of reasons

Even companies that develop games for both platforms typically write for the iPhone first, and for Android much later (if at all). Square-Enix's called "Chaos Rings," that is an iPhone/iPod/iPad exclusive.

A game-changer?

Sony seems to be embracing Android because, unlike other game companies, it makes a lot of its money from gaming hardware rather than the games themselves. Convergence devices like smartphones are where things are heading, and Android does a lot of the heavy lifting of making a smartphone. Hence, the "PlayStation Phone."

Unlike Sony, gamers aren't tied to hardware platforms, and are free to choose which device they want to game on. So the question is, does the Xperia Play offer anything that could induce gamers to buy it over the iPhone?

The slider controller is a neat touch, and Sony's clearly committed to Android for the foreseeable future. That means more games, and more "PlayStation Certified" phones, are coming. The iPhone is where smartphone gamers are right now, though, which leaves Sony with an uphill battle ahead of it.

Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.

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