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Sony Ericsson's Tim Harrison

On where the Xperia Play stands now, and where he hopes it's heading

The Xperia play is one of those instances of long-standing rumour finally made flesh. For many years, commentators, press and consumers alike discussed the wisdom and merit of Sony cross-breeding its PlayStation brand with Sony Ericsson's handset technology to create a gaming phone, an idea both courted and vigorously denied by the company itself.

When the handset was finally revealed, it was with great fanfare, but not a great deal has been heard of it since. We caught up with newly-appointed head of content marketing & strategy Tim Harrison at last week's Gamescom to find out what's happening with the platform.

GamesIndustry.bizXperia Play has been at market for a while now - are you able to release any sales figures or attach rates?
Tim Harrison

We're not able to share any official sales figures as yet, but just to say where we are in terms of the journey - obviously the device has been out for a number of months but it's still very early in its lifespan.

We're still very much building the overall content story - we obviously released with a bunch of games and we've announced a great new catalogue of games here at Gamescom. We've got a really broad cross-section of content for it.

That's why we're here at the show, to try and bring the story across that we've got AAA content coming through. We've obviously got existing partnerships with EA and Gameloft and those kind of guys, more console franchise type content coming through from the Android market.

We've got new PlayStation content coming through, more classics, but also we're particularly focused on some of the new developer talent. On our booth we've got something called Standout, which is a developer program which is designed to bring out the best of Android talent.

The Standout program is something we're trying to use to gee up the ecosystem around Xperia Play. Obviously Android Market is a fantastic platform, in terms of discoverability it's just the beginning really. So what we do is focus a lot of stuff on the device. We've got our games launcher so when you slide open the device you get instant access to a curated selection of what we believe are the best games we have available for the Xperia Play.

We've also got 10 or 12 new indie developers, some of the best talent available out there, on the stand today. So in terms of the device life cycle it's early days, we've got very positive feedback from consumers and operators so far - we've launched with all of the major operators around the globe.

We've recently announced that AT&T will be launching the device in the states, alongside the Verizon presence that we have. We've just run a big campaign with Verizon in the US called the Back to School campaign, alongside some re-positioning of the price there to try and bring the price into reach for some of the younger contingent.

It's looking very positive, but as far as the life cycle of the device is concerned, it's still very early days.

GamesIndustry.bizYou mentioned trying to reach a younger audience - initially with the PlayStation classics content you seemed to be aiming at a age range which is already well represented in the smartphone market...
Tim Harrison

I think the device has broad appeal. Obviously some of those classic titles have a slightly older appeal, but retro gaming is a massive movement in its own right. Some of these kids are playing these games for the first time, but they remember them, they know about them. I think you've seen the success of games like Minecraft, which we launched on Monday. It's all about developing a broad portfolio of content.

That's why our Standout developers are so important - a lot of those are one, two, three man shops. It shows what Android is becoming capable of. The demographic is broad, the content is broad. But obviously as the market develops, we've got some quite aggressive pricing on Xperia Play, so obviously that younger demographic is finding that quite appealing.

GamesIndustry.bizMentioning the Minecraft exclusive - that's quite a coup. Can you share any of the details of that deal with us?
Tim Harrison

It's a timed exclusive, so it will be coming to other devices, it's certainly Android exclusive to Xperia Play for a period of time. I think probably Mojang themselves can give you more information on that. Notch seems to be quite happy to talk at conferences about stuff.

Obviously we've only just launched at the moment, but what we're trying to show with Minecraft, and what we're trying to demonstrate with Xperia Play is that it's really not just for hardcore gamers. Minecraft is a sensation at the moment, an unexpected sensation. The opportunity to have an exclusive on Xperia Play was fantastic for us.

Obviously Mojang are a Swedish company too, which is very nice for us and our Swedish colleagues. They pretty much want to launch on this device because they love the control mechanism - they could see that the game would translate very swiftly to that mechanism.

We're really pleased with that association.

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