Sony Ericsson Cuts Gaming Phone Price In Half Two Months After Launch

Sony Ericsson's Xperia Play has been on the market in the US for just under eight weeks; reviews of the combined cell phone / gaming handheld have been mixed. The Android experience has been generally good, but the screen is exceptionally dim, certain hardware functions are limited, battery life is lower than average, and the device's game library remains anemic. This last has improved, but evidently not enough. Sony Ericsson has slashed the price of the Xperia Play to $100, down from the initial $200 price (with contract).

The dramatic price cut could be evidence that the Xperia Play isn't generating anywhere near as much interest as Sony had hoped. Reviews of the device have been harsh in some areas, with Ars Technica writing "we're close to calling this a gaming phone in name only. All the device has to offer in the way of gaming optimization is the addition of new physical controls, and only a smattering of games benefit significantly from them. Many of the games being billed as "Xperia Play-optimized" by Verizon originated on a touch platform and simply don't need physical buttons to make the gameplay good."

The phone may also be suffering from what's often referred to as the "Osborne Effect." The name refers to the Osborne Computer Corporation and the situation that developed after the company announced its upcoming Osborne 2 system. Legend has it that the Osborne 2 announcement caused Osborne 1 sales to collapse as customers and resellers cancelled orders in droves in favor of waiting for the next-generation system.* This drop off in sales crippled the company's ability to fund Osborne 2 development and ultimately led to the demise of the manufacturer.

The Xperia Play was much more interesting when it was seen as the sole successor to the PSP. As things are now, we know the Playstation Vita will assume that role by the fourth quarter. Sony is also set to debut its S1/S2 tablets in Q3 of this year. The S1/S2 will outclass the Play's relatively modest hardware, while the Vita will likely offer better gameplay and a brighter screen.

Cutting the XPeria's price by $100 could be an attempt to determine how customers measure the value of the device. Sony intends to bring the Playstation library to all four devices, with the Xperia serving as a gateway. It's not a bad strategy, but the company may need to be careful. The Xperia has the weakest hardware, which implies it may need the most focus and effort to squeeze maximum performance from its modest capabilities.

*Note: The truth is more complex. The osborne 2 announcement isn't the primary reason Osborne went out of business, but orders did fall off once retailers knew the second-generation system was coming.