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The Xperiation Date

Brendan Caldwell | 20 Jan 2012 13:00
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Put simply, gamers weren't convinced. It was a device with multiple functions, yes, but it was still something they didn't really need. This is not to demerit the idea of 'convergence'. A Swiss army knife is a very useful tool for many small things. Yet there are a lot of things which come outside the range of a Swiss army knife's function. You would use a Swiss army knife to cut string, kindling or tree bark. But you would not use a Swiss army knife to cut fillet steak (you could by necessity but you wouldn't by choice).

No matter how hard a company would like an audience to exist, they can't will it into existence.

This is the problem which lay with the Xperia Play from the very moment it launched - not only was it masquerading the "hardcore" titles it had as "steak" to a mass of consumers, it was also offering them a tiny red gadget with which to cut this steak. It offered this not by necessity but as a choice between itself and other portable platforms on which you could play core games - the various PSPs and DS'.

The makers of the phone expected a lot of hardcore gamers to show interest (their advertising certainly courted this demographic) but no matter how hard a company would like an audience to exist, they can't will it into existence. Especially when the gadget costs as much as £500 sim-free on release.

And then there were the games themselves. Even the games that take advantage of the phone's controls only get as far as being console-ish. These games then have to compete on two fronts. Compared to good touchscreen games, they can be awkward and clumsy to control. Compared to good console games, they lack depth and long-term playability. Once again the desire to fuse two distinct species of play has resulted in a crossbreed that very few find desirable.

The truth is that there is a huge gap between the kind of games you see on phones and those you see on console. It's not being snobbish to point out that they are played under entirely different circumstances - that's just reality. Phone games you generally play while you are idling and waiting for something to happen - on the train, on the toilet - whereas console-style games you generally play after actively seeking them out.

Strangely, the games which most fans of the Xperia Play cite as the central appeal of the phone are illegally downloaded ROMs played on emulators. Most users want to play The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past again - a console game for free, one that is still superior when stood next to the platform's current action RPG offerings like the Zenonia series. The tragedy is that these 'grey market' retro titles are definitely the best selling point of the phone when speaking to hardcore gamers but there is no way this could ever be a part of Sony's official marketing campaign. Especially when among the emulators lies FPse - a PlayStation emulator that offers more games than the device's own PlayStation Classics library (a paltry half-dozen games and not a Final Fantasy among them).

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