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Let’s PLAY: Gameloft Talks Xperia, Android and Real Buttons

April 1, 2011 Written by Sebastian Moss

With the Xperia PLAY launching today in the UK, and soon in the US, French publisher Gameloft has revealed its extensive line-up for the platform. Ten launch games, including several pre-loaded on the phone, make Gameloft the biggest PLAY publisher at the moment, so, to find out about why they are investing so heavily in the PLAY, what they think of the device, and what their future plans are, PlayStation LifeStyle chatted to Callum Rowley, Digital Marketing and Community Manager for Gameloft UK.

Hi, could you start by introducing yourself and telling us about your role at Gameloft?

My name is Callum Rowley and I’m the Digital Marketing and Community Manager for Gameloft UK.

Do you agree with statements made by some developers that touch screens simply cannot compare with real buttons?

Buttons have that familiar feel and intuitiveness of being able to map keys to actions within a game, but I don’t agree that touch-based controls can’t compare.

Touch-based controls have the benefit of offering lots of creativity in how you control movement or actions in your game – whether that’s through virtual joysticks, swiping or pressing different parts of the screen. Our games have a lot of variety in control, for example in N.O.V.A. 2 the player uses a virtual joystick and buttons like it were a controller, whereas in Asphalt 6: Adrenaline the player can control the cars direction with the gyroscope and tap the side of the screen to brake or boost. Each game also comes packed with multiple control options so the player can choose the layout which best suits them.

It really comes down to what the player prefers, be it a device with a control pad or a touch screen. The way the market is moving, with such variety in which devices are available, it’s enabling players to select a device with the control method they want to use for playing games – rather than being restricted to using something they may not like.

Gameloft has an unrivalled line-up planned for the Play’s launch, how confident are you in the platform?

It’s exciting. We’re pleased to be working so closely with Sony Ericsson for the Xperia Play launch. They appreciate that it doesn’t matter how good or innovative your device is if you don’t have any content for it. Adding a smartphone to the market that has dedicated console- like controls shows the mobile industry isn’t just moving one-directionally, so we hope it does very well – and we fully expect it will.

In most countries, the phone will come pre-loaded with Gameloft titles, do you think that Gameloft can become the main publisher for the Play?

We’ve got a stellar line-up planned for the device, with 10 titles fully optimised for the control pad at launch. These titles include some of our best sellers such as Spider-man: Total Mayhem and Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus which are going to provide hours of content for players – and will feel like playing on a miniature console.

Gameloft are definitely up there as one of the main publishers for the Xperia PLAY; it’s always been Gameloft’s philosophy to provide games to a worldwide audience through accessible channels – so supporting devices such as the Xperia PLAY and other new Android HD handsets is a core strategy for us.

Do you have similar plans to support the Play over its life-time?

We have a further 10 titles planned over six months once the device has launched. We’ve recently announced one of these titles will be an exclusive for the Xperia PLAY to be launched in Q2, called BackStab, which is an action-adventure set in 18th Century Caribbean. What this means is you won’t be able to play it anywhere else except on the Xperia PLAY for the first month of it’s release.

We think this commitment to content will show the Xperia PLAY is a major contender for video game content.

How does developing on the Xperia Play compare to other mobile phones?

It requires our developers to think in a different mindset – a mindset with physical console-like buttons, but it’s not much different. All of our games on all handsets are designed with accessibility in mind and we have 10 years of experience in that field – so they feature multiple control method selections that are all intuitive for the user. Developing for the Xperia PLAY is just adapting that further and instead of thinking about how control will best work on the touch screen or keypad, they’re thinking about how it best works on a control pad.

With the main Android store, carrier specific stores and the recent Amazon android store, do you foresee any problems with too many stores confusing consumers?

I don’t think it’s seen as confusing for the consumer. We sell our Android games on-device and on web through our own store rather than on these stores – except for a few select titles such as Asphalt 5. We’ve found consumers responsive to this approach of having our own Android store because they know exactly what to expect when they visit and they’re going to get a game that has been tailored to their device, for the best experience possible.

Who do you think will mainly be interested in the Play, just core PSP gamers and PlayStation fans, or the mass market?

The Xperia PLAY will attract an array of consumers – from PlayStation fans, those who like video games but don’t want to invest in a console with £40 games, straight through to those people who’ve never played a video game before.

It won’t attract just one crowd because with the dedicated control pad, the Xperia PLAY adds another layer of choice to the smartphone market. That choice is important for consumers because not everyone wants to play games in the same way.

In the long run, do you see the Play competing with the NGP?

The handheld market is clearly going in a strong direction, despite the increasing competition from gaming-enabled smartphones, tablets or other mediums such as set top boxes and smart televisions which offer high quality gaming for a fraction of the price. This I think is showing that even though the smartphone and handheld console markets are growing increasingly similar, they still attract a unique audience.

There is definitely room for both smartphone and handheld consoles to co-exist for now. Though with the technology in smartphones moving at an extremely quick pace, handheld console manufacturers may find themselves struggling to keep up in a few years time – I don’t think a handheld console can withstand a five-year life cycle in today’s climate.

What do you believe is the Play’s biggest competitor – other mobiles or dedicated gaming devices?

The video games sector is a very competitive industry, and I don’t think competition is just limited to one group or the other. In order for any new device to survive and compete it needs to have appealing content, which can be delivered through accessible means. At Gameloft we think the Xperia PLAY ticks all the boxes which is why we’re pleased to be supporting it in the ways we are, by providing a high-quality gaming experience tailored to the device’s strengths through a broad catalogue of games.