Gaming is at the core of the Xperia Play's "raison d'être," of course, so it deserves some focused editorial attention. Slide the screen up and underneath it you'll find the gamepad, which is conceptually reminiscent of a DualShock controller. You already saw this photo a few pages back; here it is again as a reminder:

On one end is a digital directional key suite, and on the other is a set of 'face' buttons. Below them are an Android 'start' button (on the left) and 'select' and 'start' buttons (on the right). Since Sony Ericsson desired to make the Xperia Play as thin as possible, there's no vertical room for DualShock-like D-Pad analog sticks or even the single, thinner analog joystick of a PlayStation Portable. Instead, Sony Ericsson substituted circular capacitive sliders, with capacitive buttons (providing, among other things, orientation-handy indents) in their centers. And where are the DualShock-like L1 and R1 controls? In normal portrait-orientation phone use, they're on one side of the Xperia Play, bracketing the volume toggle. And when you're ready to "get your game on" and landscape orientation-rotate the phone, they end up on the top edges of the lower slider layer, behind the screen.

Verizon bundles seven game titles with its version of the the Xperia Play: Asphalt 6, Bruce Lee: Dragon Warrior, Crash Bandicoot, Madden NFL 2011, Tetris, The Sims 3, and Star Battalion, accessible both standalone via the Android home screen and (with the exception of Tetris, for unknown reasons) within the Xperia Play application:

Additional content is available for download through the Xperia Play app, on a separate screen. I counted 43 titles, at a range of first-download (up to $9.99, from my limited sampling) and subscription (up to $3.49) prices. But what currently exists isn't hardware-exclusive; it's also available on other platforms:

To that point, one common complaint I read from Xperia Play owners is that they needed to re-purchase game titles they'd already bought for other Sony hardware; the existing licenses couldn't be expanded (or at least transferred) to include the Xperia Play. Folks also weren't particularly fond of the D-Pad-replacing capacitive circular pads, and I tend to concur; my success in convincing them to react in the way I intended was somewhat hit-and-miss, and the overall lack of tactile feedback versus a joystick left me overwhelmed. With that said, I'm more forgiving than some in understanding the design constraints that compelled Sony Ericsson to use them.

The bundled, Xperia Play-optimized games I auditioned generally provided an acceptable playback experience, albeit with occasional stutters on a few titles. Bruce Lee: Dragon Warrior was probably the most immersive title I tried, from both audio and visual standpoints; I say this as someone who's not even a particular fan of the action fighter genre. Flight simulation and racing games are more my cup of tea; as such, Asphalt 6 and Star Battalion didn't disappoint, either, though I generally found myself underwhelmed by the inferior richness of the Xperia Play titles (which were reminiscent to me of PlayStation 1 or Nintendo 64 content of days past) in comparison to games intended for a dedicated-function portable console.

As you'll read in detail in the sections to come, the Xperia Play's hardware allotment is modest, but leading-edge graphics drivers from Qualcomm provide the phone with more robust performance than that of its similar-component peers. Nonetheless, the dearth of compelling Xperia Play-optimized content is disappointing, and dulls the overall enthusiasm for the system. Hopefully, AT&T's recent embrace of the Xperia Play is indicative of better news to (soon) come in this regard. And speaking of hardware, a mini-HDMI output that would enable optional tethering of the Xperia Play to a television or other larger display for a more immersive gaming experience is also a notable 'miss'; perhaps if a second-generation design ever appears, Sony Ericsson will see fit to include such a capability.

Other games can be downloaded from Google's Android Market, the Amazon Market for Android, or the Verizon VCast Store. I frankly don't recommend the VCast Store, due both due to its comparatively limited selection and higher prices. Gun Bros, for example, is available for free from the Android Market; the very same title will cost you $6.99 for first download from the VCast Store, or $2.99 for re-download. These generic Android titles don't leverage the Xperia Play gamepad, of course, no matter that they play smoothly on the hardware. Fortunately, many of them harness the handset's accelerometer, as do (optionally, versus the mechanical controls) the Xperia Play-optimized titles.

Camera, Display, And Battery Life Bill Of Materials
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  • RoninX - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    Maybe they should just release a 3G/4G version of the Vita that makes calls.

    Then you would get by far the best portable gaming experience without having to carry two devices.
    Reply
  • SimKill - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    But then battery life would go to the dogs. Reply
  • etobare - Monday, August 08, 2011 - link

    There you make it sound as if xperia play didn't have access to android non-xperia play optimized games... i concur with much of the review but that may lead to confusion Reply
  • Mike1111 - Monday, August 08, 2011 - link

    A gaming smartphone with fewer, more expensive and worse looking games compared to iOS devices? Why even bother. It's a niche market at best. To have a chance in the mainstream market the successor must have PS Vita-like hardware, graphics and kick-ass games. And should Apple ever decide to make an adequate Bluetooth profile available for (analog) gamepads then the dedicated gaming smartphone market is dead anyway. Reply
  • lowlymarine - Monday, August 08, 2011 - link

    I just finished a run of BrowserMark on my Captivate (AT&T Galaxy S) and got a score of over 71,000. Admittedly I'm running at a fairly modest overclock of 1.2 GHz, but unless each one of those 200 MHz are imbued with pure magic, there's no way the likes of the Droid 3 and the Atrix should be doing worse. Similar with Sunspider - my 3193ms result (yes, on 0.9) beats out even the fastest device you've tested. I'm not using Firefox Mobile or something either; this is all with the stock AOSP browser.

    I'm just curious as to why there's the massive discrepancy in browser performance. My Linpack scores are, while still nearly 3 times what you've got for the SGS (largely attributable to the difference between Gingerbread and Eclair, I'm sure), no where near those of the dual-core powerhouses. I know the second core won't really help them on Sunspider et al., but certainly it shouldn't be hurting them?
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Monday, August 08, 2011 - link

    Are you using other/newer kernels and roms? They usually add nice boosts to those benchmarks by either having better drivers, better optimizations or just fewer active programs. :-) Reply
  • Vepsa - Monday, August 08, 2011 - link

    I considered getting a Xperia Play, but I decided against since I kinda like having more than 512MB of RAM on my phone. The bulk doesn't bother me and nor does the SoC since I have the same one in my Droid Incredible 2. If the phone had had 1GB of RAM & 2GB+ of app storage I would have probably gotten it. The only thing that will get more games made for them is if more are sold since its an open API. Reply
  • StormyParis - Monday, August 08, 2011 - link

    Did someone just receive a new digital camera ? Is there an epidemic of photographic logorrhea I'm not aware of ? Are Ars writers paid a lot more for each picture ? Or is it about the page views ?

    One could easily cut half the pictures in the article (first page), redo some (you can put 3 phones in a single picture for comparison, yessir....).

    This article is giving me a feeling akin to PCmag's infamous "slideshows"
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, August 08, 2011 - link

    Fixed :)

    We have no internal mandates for picture or page count, sometimes it's easier just to string a bunch of images together rather than toss them in a gallery but I've done the latter here at your request :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • StormyParis - Monday, August 08, 2011 - link

    Thanks. Am I the only one bothered when there are so many pics in an article ? because, frankly, the numerous screenshots and charts on the following pages also bother me. With Anandtech's already narrow, heavily paginated format, there's lots of scrolling involved already... I find more than 1 pic/page a pain, except when the pics are *really* needed... which they are not, for example, to report a *one-number* test result. It gets even worse when reading the article on my phone or tablet.

    Personally, I simply jumped to the conclusion after a few pages. I find the galleries you put in the first coupl of pages the best trade off: really motivated readers can see all the pictures, the rest of us can read the article without kilometers of scrolling. <ripoff source="Arrested Development ">It's a nice way to satisfy the "buy" crowd and the "curious" crowd, and we're all buy/curious </ripoff>
    Reply

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