Android Gaming Has Finally Arrived

Mark our words: 2011 is the year for . Two years ago, the iPhone was effectively the only phone that supported serious gaming--unless you consider Brickbreaker on the BlackBerry to be the ultimate gaming experience. Last spring, Google proved that it was serious about gaming when it hired to act as its "Developer Advocate" for games. But gaming developers seemed a bit hesitant to climb on board with the platform. When we surveyed the games available in the Android Market, we found a lot of sad rip-offs of popular iPhone games, plagued by shoddy graphics and buggy game play. There wasn't even a games section in the Market!

But the announcement last fall of an Android version of the well-loved iPhone game Angry Birds signaled that other popular, big-name games might be headed to Android as well. And rumors of an Android-based , which could supposedly play 3D PSP games, further strengthened the perception that Android might finally be ready for gaming.

Fast-forward to Mobile World Congress 2011: Perhaps the worst-kept secret of the show, the Sony "PlayStation phone" finally became real. Dubbed the , the gaming phone features a D-pad (for in-game direction control), four game control buttons and a set of circular touchpads in the middle, which function like a joystick for some games. You won't find the PlayStation logo anywhere on the phone, but the Xperia Play will be able to run certain PlayStation games.

Sony also announced its PlayStation Suite, a standard "software platform" designed to bring PlayStation games to more devices--specifically, to ones that run at least Android 2.3 and receive a "PlayStation Certified" designation from Sony. The games will be distributed through a marketplace that Sony will set up later this year. The result should be a lot more Android phones in the future that are tricked out for optimal game control.

At this year's Gaming Development conference, Sony Ericsson also revealed that the Xperia Play will be the official mobile phone of (MLG), North America's . MLG attracts about 40 million gamers and represents some of the top professional gamers in the world. The fact that a mobile phone is now regarded as a medium for competitive gaming is a huge step for Android gaming.