After the initial Xperia Play presentation and before an extended hands-on with the hardware, we got to follow up on a slightly cosier level with Sony Ericsson.
Talking to Christopher Bulcher, VP, head of product line – creative portfolio and product management. and Dominic Neil-Dwyer, head of business development for Xperia Play.
During the interview we also got a surprise appearance by Gameloft bigwig Gonzague de Vallois.
Pocket Gamer: You mentioned a PlayStation 1 game embedded on Xperia Play, what is it?
Dominic Neil-Dwyer: Well it's already playable on the pods here at the event so we can reveal this, it's the original Crash Bandicoot.
How is that working technically? Has the game been ported?
Christopher Bulcher: Essentially it's an emulation, but not just that, we put a lot of work in to make it scale and render. And of course Sony has a lot more knowledge on how to properly emulate the Playstation hardware.
What about the price point for these titles?
CB: Sony Computer Entertainment will obviously be setting the price for PS1 titles and I don't think that’s confirmed yet.
As for the rest, this will be determined by the publisher. If there is a guideline I’d guess somewhere between 5-10 euros. It’s important to stress that it’s about both worlds, classic Playstation titles and high quality HD mobile games from publishers like Gameloft, so perhaps Gonzague is best to ask?
[Gonzague de Vallois arrives during conversation]
Gonzague do you see this as a tier above on the price compared to Java and other formats?
Gonzague de Vallois: Yes because it’s a quality increase, we will adapt the pricing of course to suit the market, but we’d expect it to be above Java (currently 4-6 euros).
You mentioned that this was the first device with Playstation certification. What is required to earn this?
CB: There was no certification till this device was developed alongside PS, but ultimately it’s about the performance, the control keys and how it runs games – i.e. does it run these games in a way that Playstation does?
The bare minimum would include hardware controls and a certain graphical performance, but there’s no quantified screen size or anything like that, it’s more about the overall experience, the quality and how the buttons are implemented with the right tactile feeling.
When it comes to graphics performance it’s not just about processor, GPU and how we deal with RAM, high-speed memory, that all adds up to get the frame rates we need.
How does the power of this device rank in the overall handheld/mobile market?
DND: We’re still very early and we will all learn about the platform of course, but at this stage it’s more PlayStation 1 games that we’re looking at.
As things get better around the platform side the quality will increase and some of the game we’re seeing from third parties aren’t that far off from PlayStation 2 quality.
Where do you think the device fits into the market compared to handheld consoles, like the NGP
CB: The NGP was announced as being of virtually PlayStation 3 quality, but that’s a hard-core gaming device. We want to bring a smartphone with the best gaming experience in smartphone space.
People who want ultimate gaming experience they get NGP, but there’s a big market that no-one is really tapping into and we want to appeal way beyond just the existing gamers with this.
DND: I agree, in a way it’s more about changing people’s habits and expectations. For instance the Arc is a beautiful device, it’s more my type of device to be honest, certainly the sort of phone I thought I’d want to use day to day above the Play, but once you start getting games on here you find it’s so good you’re playing it all the time. I think we’ll convert more smartphone users to gamers, people who wouldn’t expect it.
Take social gaming on Facebook for instance, you’ve got 500 million playing social games, they’re obviously not in the more complex devices and we’ll have social games on this device but we think people will prefer using this with external controls rather than mucking about on a touchscreen.
So is this an extension of other gaming devices rather than a gaming platform in its own right?
CB: We don’t see it as competition to a console like the NGP, that’s a dedicated gaming device, you’ll use this more as a compliment, a different type of entertainment and for different situations.
Touchscreen is the standard for mobile and other gesture controls are gaining traction on console, so in some ways we’ve moved on now from button-pushing, do people still really want these gaming controls?
DND: We’ve done research on this and found that people definitely do want better key inputs and button control, and people are excited about this device when they use it. It’s a different taste, different game experience.
GdV: We believe the next revolution for mobile games is back to buttons and controls like this. For years people have played on pads but touch was seen on mobile as a way forward past keypads, the next revolution is likely to be away from pure touch.
So Gameloft is very strongly behind this device then?
GdV: We’re announcing a dozen titles for the launch – very strong support - this is an important device for us.
DND: We have to say it’s a perfect match with Gameloft…
PG: …yes you do have to say it, because Gonzague’s sat next to you! [Laughter]
You mentioned exclusive content in the presentation, will that be available soon? How will it be delivered? Will it be available on any other SE phone? Will it come via the Playstation Suite?
CB: The content will be delivered just for Xperia Play initially, you’ll pick up the games through the recommender widget which will direct you to wherever the game sits to download. It won’t be on Android market, the supporting publishers are giving us exclusivity (or at least a period of exclusivity).
Also, PlayStation Suite is a development platform not a delivery platform, games come out of PlayStation Suite but will be delivered on the PlayStation Store. With native Android games, there might be different delivery mechanisms and billing in background, but it ultimately shouldn’t matter where it’s coming from.
On the console gamepads you have functions like pressure sensitivity and feed-back, are the keypads pressure sensitive or with other console gamepad features?
DND: They’re not pressure sensitive... yet!
So that’s something you’re saving for the Xperia Play 2 then? Can we presume there’ll be further handsets in the range if it does well?
DND: Put it this way, this is just the start!
And on that suitably intriguing note, we say a big thank you to Dominic, Christopher and Gonzague.Click here for more Pocket Gamer coverage on the Xperia Play.