I got an e-mail informing me of a comment from “Roy” yesterday regarding my review of the Xperia Play, which I had published a few months ago. I’m republishing the comment here just so we’re all on the same page about what sparked this piece:   “Reviewer sounds a touch biased to me (got an […]
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OT: Cutting Edge Nostalgia on the Xperia Play

I got an e-mail informing me of a comment from “Roy” yesterday regarding my review of the Xperia Play, which I had published a few months ago. I’m republishing the comment here just so we’re all on the same page about what sparked this piece:

“Reviewer sounds a touch biased to me (got an Iphone will find fault in everything not Iphone), as stated it is a Playstation certified handset NOT a Playstation phone. If the reviewer had bothered to actually check out the market he would have found FPSE a spot-on Playstation emulator and then could have played any one of the thousands of PSone games released, rather than slate the Xperia Play based on it’s launch titles he should have hung about for a while(perhaps bought one)As the Play has just landed FIFA 12 3 months before all other android phones AND IT IS FREE, it easily walks all over the Iphone 3gs and I am surprised the reviewer even bothered to reopen the drawer he put his into……”

Let’s get a few things out of the way first. First of all, many smartphone reviews are based on loaners. That’s the way it has to work because people can’t keep buying smartphones off contract while still keeping enough cash to put broccoli on the table. Some are long term loans, but mine was lent to me for two weeks (it’s mentioned, though not explicitly, at the top of my Play review). As such, there was no opportunity for me to have “hung about” without dropping $300+ on an unlocked Play, and that wasn’t something I was inclined to do after playing with one. I do, however, own a PSX, PS2, and a PSP, so I am obviously willing to sink money into something that doesn’t start with a lower case i, and I know what to expect when it comes to the PlayStation brand.
I’ll also say that this piece isn’t about Android and iOS: this is about the idea of branding (PlayStation, in this case) and the way that companies sometimes slap a brand name onto a product.
Long before I liked the company’s products, Apple released the Motorola ROKR, a terrible “music phone” that could only accomodate an arbitrary 100 songs on a ported iTunes app (though I’ve heard users could use another, crappier app that allowed more songs). That’s an example of throwing a brand name onto a crappy product. People who were used to the iPod and iTunes music experience were disappointed with the ROKR E1, and justifiably so. When you see the words “iTunes” or “iPod”, certain feature expectations will accompany them. Arbitrary 100-song limits need not apply.
Like the ROKR, the Play simply isn’t good enough to warrant its PlayStation certification (whatever that actually means).  That doesn’t secretly read “not good enough in an Apple sort of way”, but simply “not good enough”.
What did I expect then? When I think of the PlayStation, I think of PSX titles like Twisted Metal and Final Fantasy VII, PS2 hits like God of War I and II, or PS3 exclusives like Uncharted. 
In other words, I buy PlayStation devices very much for the games that are made for them. The PS2, PS3, PSP are backwards compatible to an extent, but I buy them because games are made for them. I didn’t buy the PS2 because it could play PSX titles. I bought it to play PS2 games. 
So when people tout the Play as a glorified emulator combined with an Android phone, I don’t think it’s a terribly big deal. I wanted to see games made for a PlayStation-certified phone, not ones that were ported to, or adapted for it. That’s just PlayStation-esque at best. 
What the Xperia Play has on offer instead is a set of temporary exclusives, which are good for bragging rights, but they aren’t really a reason to choose one platform over another, and they’re certainly not what Sony should define the PlayStation brand by. The controls on the Play are good (aside from the analog sticks), but where is the accompanying unique games library made for a device with touchscreen *and* hardware controls?
The PlayStation name should mean more than the Xperia Play having titles like FIFA 12 and Minecraft PE three months earlier than all the other (non-Sony Ericsson Android phones). 
As for FPse for Android, which is a third-party emulator for playing PSX games: I’m convinced this app really wasn’t on the table when Sony cooked up the plans for the Play. It relies on using .ISO files from ripped PlayStation games. So while it’s conceivable that the people who use the app legitimately own thousands of PSX titles, it’s really much more likely that they’ve simply downloaded them illegally and loaded them onto their phones. I’m neither condoning nor condemning that behaviour in this piece, but I am definitely of the opinion that the Play was not released with a third-party PSX emulator in mind. The FPse has nothing to do with the concept of a PlayStation phone: it’s just a useful app that makes good use of the PlayStation-shaped buttons on the Play. 
If the Xperia Play is really serious about gaming, it should offer more cutting edge gaming, and not cutting edge nostalgia. PSX Ports should feel like a bonus, not the main event. 
As for optimized games: I’ll warrant that titles like FIFA 12 look quite good, but not *gotta have ’em* good. These were games that were designed for touchscreens first and adapted for the Play’s buttons second. I’m certain that the games benefit from the extra precision of hardware control, but I find it frustrating that they’re being pawned off as being “optimized” when the titles I played — Star Battalion, Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior, and Minecraft Pocket Edition — were really just adapted.
Those who would accuse me of placing the iPhone atop the BEST GAMING DEVICE EVAR podium are sorely mistaken (no, really, here’s some ice for that). There are some great titles on iOS, but they still feel very much like snacks to tide me over until meal time, which is when I sit down to game at a console or on my PC. I’ll always prefer to play “hardcore” games with hardware controls, and so I really did have high hopes for the Xperia Play.

I’ll listen to the fanboy taunts all day long when it comes to iOS because those are inevitable, but it’s disappointing to read accusations that basically claim that I dismissed the gaming potential of the Play from the start just because it doesn’t have an Apple logo on the back. That is patently false. 

I’m just insulted by Sony abusing their own good gaming name by throwing it onto a smartphone that barely has anything to do with the PlayStation brand as I’ve come to know it.

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