Most of you might still be seeing red and cursing Sony Mobile. But what are we actually angry about?
It'S been a difficult couple of months for Xperia Play fans. That's putting it mildly. Sony had us believe - and we have written and speculated extensively on this - that there were several updates and events that were going to extend and enhance the lifespan of our favourite slidey gamey phone device. Like Woody from Toy Story, we always knew we'd get an all-too-brief chance in the sun before bigger, better toys relegated us to the bottom of the toybox, but we hoped that Sony's corporate plans would at least stay that day for a while at least. And Sony had made all the right noises too. It was all looking so rosy for a time. A big ICS update was confirmed and on its way, which on its own would totally transform the Play. The PlayStation Suite was imminent, promising a more cohesive stab at content delivery and content, empowering Sony to bring as much of their back catalogue to the Play as they could muster.
For some of you, the lack of ICS is tempting you to newer shinier devices. Does the whole situation leave you feeling a little like Andy?
The results of Sony's labours are, to all intents and purposes, nothing. As you know, the ICS update for the Play was cancelled at pretty much the last second. Sony cited issues with the way ICS deals with hardware assets and how they are treated internally, meaning that games written for Gingerbread wouldn't be able to utilise the gamepad without being totally rewritten. I'm sure Sony at the very least must have sounded out some of the bigger developers to see which of them were willing to rewrite their controller code for Play 4.0, to which the answer must have obviously been a flat no, hence why no ICS. It's sad, but understandable, but that hasn't stopped a tirade of abuse and ill feeling towards Sony. "F**k you Sony!", reads one of the more restrained quotes on this subject over on xperiablog.net. "I waited a long time for an update and I sat there watching other 2011 [Xperia] models get ICS and one of many reasons why I decided to get this mobile was because a shop advisor told me that this phone was set for an ICS update and Sony have the nerve to let down many dedicated fans of the play? It pisses me off!"
While we would never advocate the purchase of any mobile on the strength of future updates, it is at least understandable why so many Play fans would be so up in arms with Sony over this. They were, after all, promised ICS - it was confirmed to be in the works and had already begun rolling out to other Xperia phones before the bombshell landed, so while we understand the vitriol, we do at least acknowledge Sony's reasons for not hobbling the Play with a sluggish Android update that would have broken all the games. Remember those things? The Play's raison d'être, its reason for existing? Think about it pragmatically, what would be the point of the Play if every Play-compatible game previously released was no longer compatible? Bloody useless phone we'd have then, right?
The Playstation Suite has yet to show the world its true potential, but first it needs to expand its library of games available.
But the other update - the PlayStation Suite, is somewhat less forgivable. Here was Sony's chance at redemption, a platform for them to load up every past franchise from several formats - PS1, PSP and perhaps more - and give us and every other PlayStation-certified device access to the rich, glorious back-catalogue of Sony's two decades of hits. And as far as I can see, the actual PlayStation Suite has only been released in certain territories - not the UK, for instance (or at least not officially) - and even if you sideload it, you'll wish you hadn't, as there is a tiny, almost embarrassingly miniscule amount of content available. There are very few of the big past hits to be found - where's Gran Turismo? - and what is available is ancient, sparsely populated, and... expensive. A fiver for The Little Mermaid II anyone? There was a big lesson for Sony to learn here - that people expect to pay a couple of quid tops for mobile games, but that you can then correspondingly sell many more copies and recoup your costs. Works for Apple, at least, but hey, what do we know. It's a lesson Sony has resolutely failed to learn: check out the prices for new releases on the Vita. Crrrazy. So, here we are. Forever stuck with Gingerbread, a half-assed PlayStation suite populated by a few obscure, massively overpriced, ancient games no-one really wants to play and a skint parent company that has seemingly cut all ties. Future's bleak, isn't it?
It's kind of why I haven't written an article for XperiaGamer for three months, to be honest - I was really struggling to see any positives. But you know what? In hindsight - now that I've had time to chew over everything - I'm glad we're not getting ICS. From all reports it would have totally hobbled the Play anyway as it was always fairly marginal from a hardware perspective. Sure, technically it'll run ICS, but it's right there just on the edge of capability. Chuck a few apps and games on it and it'd have run out of RAM and ran like a three-legged dog. Quite frankly Sony did us a favour by not releasing it, not least because it would have broken every game yet released, as I've already alluded to. Far better to stick with Gingerbread - which is a perfectly good OS anyway - than to have the latest, which ain't always the greatest. And really, who's going to miss the PlayStation Suite if all Sony are going to use it for is as a very expensive version of MAME? Especially if they aren't going to at least concentrate on their past triple-A stuff? I for one won't miss it too much, and for the price of one title I could buy three, four, maybe even five native Android games, maybe even with built-in Play controller support, that will at the very least be contemporary, and great fun to boot.
Onlive and Xperia PLAY were made for each other, extending the potential library of games available to PLAY owners to even include the cutting edge console games.
Listen, we all knew the day would come when Sony would cut its ties, the phone would stop being sold in any serious numbers and we'd be on our own. That doesn't mean it's now useless or worthless now, does it? We keep harping on about OnLive on this site, but really, it honestly is the Play's stab at immortality - this is just one content hub that will always have new, current-gen games available, and there are other mainstays such as MAME and other emulators too. That's without mentioning the mainstream Android market, which even now keeps churning out new titles replete with built-in Play support - the XDA developers website currently lists a total of 322 games written to support the Play, a list that keeps growing all the time. And by not releasing ICS, Sony have removed the inevitable schism that would have developed with pre- and post-ICS games - then nobody would have known what worked, and under what software versions. It would have been a mess, one we could do without.
The fact is, The Xperia Play is, and will continue to be - perhaps for some time - a wonderfully unique device. There really is nothing else like it. For good or bad, what you see now is what you're going to get for the rest of your time with it. And thank heaven for that.