Sony Ericsson Reveals Game Plan With Xperia Play

The long-rumored PlayStation phone is finally here.

Today, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Sony Ericsson unveiled the Xperia Play.

While the device does not have the PlayStation namesake, it has a slide-out controller pad, complete with the four inconic PlayStation buttons: The circle, cross, square and triangle.

The phone was one of three announced today by Sony Ericsson, the joint venture between Sony and Ericsson.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play will be available globally in select markets starting in march at an undisclosed price. The first carrier to carry the device will be Verizon Wireless.

But it’s a little unclear how the Xperia Play will fit into Sony’s wider lineup of portable gaming devices.

Sony recently announced the NGP, a gaming device that has nearly every capability of a phone, except for the ability to make a call. It has a forward- and rear-facing camera, as well as 3G connectivity to allow for constant Internet access. In addition, Sony continues to maintain the PlayStation portable, or PSP, brand.

Xperia Play will run on Android’s latest operating system, Gingerbread, and is the first certified PlayStation smartphone, meaning it will have access to PlayStation’s strong catalog of game content.

The content will be key to the device’s success.

But smartphones already on the market today, especially the iPhone, have a wide variety of inexpensive games to pick from. Microsoft has also integrated Xbox features and many of its console’s games into the Windows Phone 7 experience.

Sony Ericsson said it will have 50 titles available at launch. It has partnered with key publishers in the gaming industry to make great titles available at launch, including EA’s Need for Speed, Sims 3 and a world-first multiplayer version of FIFA 10 for mobile. Other titles will come from Glu, Activision and Gameloft.

But of course, all of these games will have to be tailored to the Xperia Play’s one-of-a-kind game controller, making for a longer development time.

As Sony Ericsson prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary, it believes it has successfully made the transition to building smartphones, banking on the Android operating system. Still, it remains a small niche player with a global market share of four percent last year.

Sony Ericsson forecasts modest growth in units in the global handset market for 2011.

Sony Ericsson also unveiled the Xperia Neo and the Xperia Pro, two smartphones also running Android’s Gingerbread. The pro will have a slide-out Qwerty keyboard and will be aimed at business users. The Pro will be available in Q2, and the Neo will be available by the end of Q1. Prices were unavailable.

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