Sony Ericsson Woos Developers to PlayStation Phone, But Fails to Tap Into Existing PSP Titles

Recognizing that a wide variety of games will be key to its success, Sony Ericsson held a press conference at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco yesterday to drum up developer support for the upcoming launch of the Xperia Play, its first PlayStation-certified smartphone.

As part of its efforts, the handset-maker announced partnerships with Unity and Havok, two companies that offer tools to help developers build games for various platforms, including consoles, PCs and mobile.

The event represented the Xperia Play’s U.S. debut after it was officially unveiled last month at Mobile World Congress.

While the new tools will make it easier to move over an existing game to the device, what’s missing is a plan to leverage the thousands of games already built for the PlayStation Portable.

In theory, PSP games could easily be adapted for the Experia Play because of the commonalities of the two devices, ranging from the screen size to the similar set of controls.

When asked why there wasn’t a simple way to port the games, Peter Farmer, Sony Ericsson’s head of marketing in North America, told us: “That’s Sony’s business.”

Too true. While Sony Ericsson is a joint venture between Sony and Ericsson, the PSP  is owned exclusively by Sony.

He added that since the device is running on Google’s Android, the spirit is to be open to the whole developer community, including those that are already participating in the Android Market. Because of that, he sees more casual games coming to the platform than you typically see on the PSP, which focuses more traditional console gaming experiences.

That’s not to say that a PlayStation Portable game won’t be separately built for the Xperia Play.

At launch, Sony Ericsson expects to have 50 titles available, and says a few games will be pre-installed games, including Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior by Digital Legends, Asphalt 6 by Gameloft, Star Battalion by Gameloft and The Sims 3 by Electronic Arts. Farmer said games will cost about $5 to $10 apiece, which is average for the mobile industry.

In addition, to help with the phone’s marketing efforts ahead of the spring launch on Verizon Wireless, it also announced a year-long sponsorship to become the official mobile handset of the Major League Gaming, a professional video game league.

The MLG has a dedicated gaming audience of 8 million people, who participate in online competitions, as well as six tournaments around the country, where players will get hands-on experience with the devices. In addition, Sony Ericsson will also sponsor a new video segment on highlighting popular apps and games.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus