Can the Xperia Play succeed?

Can the Xperia Play succeed?
In a world of quick-fix casual games, will the Xperia Play lack appeal?

Sony Ericsson's recent recovery stalled in the 4th quarter when results were weaker than expected.

President and chief executive, Bert Nordberg announced that Sony Ericsson sold 10 million Android devices last year, representing 50 per cent of its total unit shipment volume in 2010.

However, he also admitted that poor sales late in the year were at least partly due to its product momentum fizzling out.

Can the handsets announced on the eve of Mobile World Congress help turn the Swedish-Japanese company's fortunes around?

At the packed Sunday press conference, the 50/50 joint venture announced four new devices: Arc, Neo, Pro and the Xperia Play, also dubbed the 'PlayStation Phone.'

Of these, the Play was by far the most anticipated. The company couldn't stress enough that the PlayStation-branded Xperia Play was firstly a smartphone but also features a console-class gaming experience. Would this dedicated gaming mobile differentiate their products from rival manufacturers?

Good progress

Paul Brown, director of user experience practice at strategy analytics said these handsets represent good progress for Sony Ericsson. "The dedicated gaming controls of the Xperia Play provides a superior gaming experience compared to other mobile devices on the market today."

But he warns that Nokia has previously failed with dedicated gaming phones, the N-gage and N-Gage QD. "If Sony Ericsson is to succeed, not only do they need to provide quality hardware but also support it with superior games that are equal to dedicated portable gaming consoles such as the Nintendo DS."

Technology analyst at uSwitch, Ernest Doku, told TechRadar: "Sony Ericsson has finally delivered on the promise of bringing a phone to market bearing the PlayStation brand, but it arrives at a time when the landscape of mobile gaming has changed completely. With titles like Angry Birds and Cut The Rope thriving on their simplicity, low cost and 'quick-fix' gameplay, a device pitched as 'hardcore' like the Xperia Play may lack appeal."

Xperia Play games

"A platform lives and dies by the quality of the games, and the Xperia Play has to be careful not to rely too heavily on the Android Market's wares and deliver unique experiences via PlayStation Suite," added Doku.

Users will be able to access applications via Android Market as well as game content via PlayStation Suite. According to the company, there will be a total of 50 games at launch from 20 partners including Electronic Arts, Glu Mobile and Gameloft.

"The performance of the Xperia Play is impressive given that it only packs a 1Ghz single-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor in comparison to the growing trend of dual-core chipsets, said Stuart Robinson, director of handset component technologies at Strategy Analytics. "The graphics capability is provided by an Adreno GPU."

The 4-inch multi-touch screen features a 5.1 megapixel camera and runs on Android Gingerbread (2.3).

"I think it is a niche market but there is no other device out there currently with the same capability," added Robinson. "The only risk is who it's targeted at, which seems to be primarily teenage males."

Whilst Sony Ericsson gave no mention of pricing, it did announce an exclusive partnership with Verizon Wireless for the Xperia Play available this spring.