Defining Mobile Gaming

The Beginning

Ten years ago, if you ask anyone what mobile gaming is and they would probably think you are referring to the ‘Snake’ game on their Nokia phones. Java game  came next with the release of color phones (for the younger reader, yes phone use to come with monochrome screen – see picture below) and little developer house started to mushroom developing these cool java games. Around the early 2000s,  the Symbian OS becomes dominant and a good number of Symbian games sprouted out amongst the java games.

Nokia’s N-Gage

Mobile gaming took off fairly quickly in Japan. By 2003, there were already a wide-variety of games available on the Japanese handset. For the rest of the world, we have Nokia N-Gage at that time. It was one of the first Mobile Device dedicated for gaming. However, with it’s high price tag and limited library of games, N-Gage didn’t really take off. Ok, try naming 10 popular titles from N-Gage. Erm Tomb Raider, Rayman…? Now name 10 popular games from Nintendo GBA. Pokemon, Legend of Zelda, Wario…You get the point.

Furthermore, portable gaming devices such as Game Boy Advance greatly outsold the N-Gage at that time. People still prefer to have a separate device for gaming. So Nokia decided to stop producing handsets dedicated for gaming and instead overhauled N-Gage changing it into a gaming service compatible with several of its smartphone such as Nokie N96 and N85 by 2007.

Rise Of Touch-based Game on iPhone and Android

When iPhone came out in 2007, mobile games started to take off. It gave birth to companies like Rovio (makers of Angry Bird) and HalfBrick (maker of Fruit Ninja). Casual gaming is brought to a whole new level.

The entire keypad is removed. So playing games on mobile is via the touch screen which in some sense remove the barrier for the casual gamers who are not used to the idea of playing with a game pad. My mum can’t handle a PS3 controller but she plays Angry Bird with ease on her iPhone, swiping and launching bird off the catapult.

The PlayStation Phone!

Meanwhile, while every one is happily playing games on their touch screen Android, iPhone and iPad, gamers like me who is used to playing games on physical controller has to carry two devices with them, a PSP and a mobile phone. So when rumours of a Playstation Phone surface way back in 2006, I was excited about the handset. However, it took a while when Xperia Play finally launched in Singapore last April in 2011. Finally a handphone with a dedicated solid buttons for gaming! Not to mention the all familiar PlayStation X/O/Square and Triangle button!

The Xperia Play (Aka, the PlayStation Phone)

What we love:

The gamepad! The D-pad and all-familiar PlayStation buttons will make any PlayStation Fan (myself included) feel right at home! While I have a bit of problem with reaching my finger out to the shoulder button, overall, the keypads and buttons feels really good for the hands.

The speakers of the phone, to our surprise, produces quite good sound quality as well!

What we don’t like:

Instead of two analog stick found for PS controller, Sony placed in two circular touchpad. When I tried playing games with the touchpad, I find it a bit cumbersome for us as we need to slide over it a couple of time to turn our characters around or sometime the in-game camera will spin around too quickly for FPS game. It doesn’t work that well.

The 4-inch LED-backlit LCD screen, well not stellar, should be good enough for most people. However, with iPhone’s Retina Display and Samsung’s AMOLED,  this older LED-backlit screen seems to lose it luster of yesteryear.


I got a chance to try out some of the games on a Xperia Play. Among them were PES 2011, Minecraft and Battlefield Bad Company 2. While the game library isn’t impressive at the moment, with the device being PlayStation certified, there is a chance that more classic PS games may start to surface for Xperia Play. Love to be able to replay FFXII on the Xperia Play!

PES 2011 on Xperia Play is definitely a better playing experience than on a normal Android phone which lacks the keypad. Playing PES2011 on a standard Android Phone which uses a on-screen keypad is really a nuisance as my thumbs block out about 20% of the screen. Ok may I have fat fingers but I am just not a fan of on screen keypad. On the other hand, the Xperia Play’s entire suite of buttons really improves the experience for PES 2011. . At times, you would feel that you are playing a PSP only to realize that you are playing on the phone when someone calls you and the phone rings. However, the touchpad were really quite bad for playing the game and I end up using the D-pad.

When I was playing Battlefield Bad Company 2, I  had problem with the two circular touchpad again. Either I move too much to the left, or my crosshair just have problem going to where I want. This is the major complain that I have. Other than that, after playing it for a while, I got a hang of it and the game play gets better.

Cloud Gaming

OnLive on Xperia Play! For those who don’t know about OnLive (it is currently only available in the US and UK), it is a cloud gaming solution. Basically, with an internet connection, you can get to play titles like Assassin’s Creed Revelation, L.A. Noire on your mobile devices. In cloud gaming, the servers in the cloud do the hard work of graphic processing while delivering the rendered results as a streaming video to your connected devices. Your mobile devices simply act as an input device, of which your inputs are sent via the internet, and a display.

Although OnLive is already on Android, having it on Xperia Play would mean that you can play your favourite console games with a decent gamepad on your mobile! Isn’t it cool? While the only thing is that it is not available yet in Singapore. Keeping our finger crossed on that one.

Last word…

Gaming on your Mobile Phone has come a long way since the time of playing Snake on Nokia Handset. With better graphics and processing power that are inbuilt in today’s modern smartphone, gaming on your mobile phone is now gaining pace. Furthermore, people are spending more time now with their smartphone.

With PS Vita now released, there are times when I just wish Sony could smack in a GSM module into the beast and have cellphone functionality for PS Vita. Well waiting for that to happen, Xperia Play would be a good choice for Android users who is keen on a better gaming experience.

Perhaps for the casual gamers who are happy with smashing the angry birds or slashing fruits with their finger, a standard touchscreen Android Phone or iPhone should satisfy your mobile gaming needs.

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