In the first U.S. event showcasing the PlayStation certified Xperia Play, Sony Ericsson revealed Havok's suite of middleware would work with the device.
The Havok support -– the middleware maker's first foray into the Android market -– comes on top of previously announced Unity support
for the Android 2.3-powered Xperia Play, which sports a slide-out set of buttons similar to those found on PlayStation consoles, as well as a touch pad area resembling dual analog sticks.
Hands-on demo units showed these controls being put to effective use in games ranging from a Bruce Lee based fighter, racing and space shooting games, and an enhanced version of iOS hit Dungeon Defender
that will be exclusive to the Xperia Play.
Havok lead pre-sales engineer Steve Ewart said aside from the buttons, the relative hardware power of the Xperia Play for a mobile platform helped attract the company to the device.
“As I understand it there's a particular set of [hardware] instructions on this device that's not on all the Android platforms,” Ewart said in an interview with Gamasutra. "With all of our customers, you've got the people that want to push it, ... they're pushing us so therefore we're pushing the platforms as well.”
The Xperia Play's extra power will help enable more complex games than many players are used to seeing on a mobile device, Ewart said.
“If you're going to have a physics simulation in there, and you're going to have lots of characters dying and piling up on each other -– that's the core physics problem … you're going to need extra capabilities to push that particular scenario,” he said.
Launching this month exclusively on Verizon in the U.S. and Rogers in Canada, the Xperia Play will initially have 50 games designed to make use of the unit's unique controls, from publishers including Glu Mobile, EA and Gameloft. This will include ports of 15 original PlayStation games, although the original Crash Bandicoot
was the only such title confirmed thus far.
Sony Ericsson's Market Development head Dominic Neil-Dwyer said he doesn't really see any of these initial titles as a killer app to drive Xperia Play purchases over competition from other smart phones. Rather, he thinks the slow accretion of button-powered game content, combined with a full-powered smart phone, will help consumers see the value.
“I don't see it being like a gaming platform, where you have one game that's exclusive to that," he told Gamasutra. "I think that people will buy it because, 'Hey it's a fantastic smartphone,' and 'Wow I can do some great games on it,' and 'My goodness that game and this game' and all that...”
Despite what will no doubt start out as a limited installed base compared to other, purely touch-screen-based smartphones, Neil-Dwyer said the ease and benefit of adding support for the Play's control scheme will be a no brainer for many mobile publishers.
“[Some] people are willing to pioneer, they see an opportunity to get in early and try this out … [but] if you're porting stuff that you've already done 90% of the work for, it makes sense,” he said.
At the event, Sony Ericsson also announced a sponsorship with Major League Gaming that will see the device promoted through MLG events and online content starting in April.