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Xperia Play's PlayStation games selling less than 1,000 units

by Phil Hornshaw

Although it’s still due to release in the U.S. later this month, it appears Sony Ericsson’s PlayStation-branded Xperia Play smartphone is floundering.

The biggest selling point for the Play, outside its slide-down gamepad in place of a hardware keyboard, is the ability for the device to download and play a big catalogue of old PlayStation games from back when the original 32-bit console was the king of all video games. The PSone, as it’s now known, was a revolution in gaming and it carried some of the most popular games in history, but you wouldn’t know it from download sales on the device so far.

Right now, even the best-selling PSone games available on the Xperia Play have sold fewer than 1,000 units each -- a painful realization for a feature that was supposed to be a similar revolution for mobile gaming as it was for console gaming 13 years ago.

PlayStation Lifestyle has the figures, pegging the top-selling PSone game on the Play right now, Destruction Derby, as selling only between 500 and 1,000 units. Other popular games, like Cool Borders 2, MediEvil and Syphon Filter were all popular in their day, with Syphon Filter becoming a third-person shooter series that released several more games on the popularity of the first, have sold less than 500.

While not having the Xperia Play in the U.S. has robbed it of a huge market of PlayStation fans (the phone is expected to launch here on May 26), those sales figures still seem painfully low. One big issue may be the premium Sony is placing on PSone games -- on the Play, they’re reportedly clocking in at £3.99, according to Pocket Gamer. That’s about $6.50 U.S., which is about the price of a premium game in the Android Market (or comparably, the iTunes App Store).

There are three big issues with that price point: (1) PSone games are old, and they look it; (2) Most of the players interested in PSone games have already played them or already own them, and the market to sell those games dwindles (and old graphics, it’s sad to say, turn off younger players who don’t have nostalgia driving their spending); and (3) PSone games, with their weak graphics and older, better-known experiences, are priced higher than some new generation mobile games that look and play better, especially on the Xperia Play.

Taken together, it’s actually no wonder why PSone downloads would be a tough sell on the platform. Sony has yet to roll out its PlayStation Suite software, which might help add new features to old games by making them more social and allowing players to at least connect with one another using leaderboards and Trophies (the PlayStation equivalent of achievements). All in all, it’s a recipe for failure.

In an interview with PlayStation Lifestyle, Dominic Neil-Dwyer, market development head at Sony Ericsson, said part of the issue could be the low number of PSone titles available right now and the relative lack of awareness about them. More PlayStation Classics are being released as soon as they’re available for the device, so it sounds as if Sony Ericsson still thinks it’s too early in the game to get worried about the download figures. “So, there’s no concerns, it’s a revolutionary device, it’s shaking up the market, we’re very pleased with it,” Neil-Dwyer said.