Verizon Wireless to Debut Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Play Gaming Phone in March

Sony Ericsson

The smartphone was officially unveiled at a press conference in Barcelona, Spain to kick off the annual Mobile World Congress 2011.

BARCELONA, Spain – Sony Ericsson and Sony Computer Entertainment are finally joining forces in the mobile gaming space to compete with Apple, which has seen its iPhone and iPad tablet dominate the mobile gaming space.

Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Play smartphone was officially unveiled at a press conference in Barcelona, Spain to kick off the annual Mobile World Congress 2011 telecommunications convention. And Verizon Wireless, which recently started selling Apple’s iPhone 4, will have the U.S. launch exclusive on Xperia Play, formerly known as the PlayStation Phone, come March. Sony Ericsson did not reveal the price of the new phone or its games.

"Xperia Play will forever change the way people think about smartphones and mobile gaming," said Rikko Sakaguchi, executive vice president and chief creation officer at Sony Ericsson.

Xperia Play, which Sony Ericsson first showed a glimpse of during a Super Bowl XLV commercial, was built for gaming. The phone features a slide-out game pad with a digital D-pad, two analog touch pads, two shoulder buttons and four PlayStation icons (circle, cross, square and triangle) – similar to the PlayStation 3 controller. It comes with a 4” multi-touch screen running 480 by 854 resolution.

Under the hood, the device features Qualcomm’s optimized Snapdragon processor with a 1 Ghz CPU and embedded Adreno 205 GPU graphics processor. This power will allow PlayStation games to be played on the go running at 60 frames per second, just like on Sony’s console. Sony said there will be over 50 games available for the new device at launch. Asphalt Adrenaline 6, Bruce Lee, Star Battalion, The Sims 3, and Tetris will come pre-installed on the gaming phone, which is expected to offer over five hours of gaming battery life.

"The device’s dedicated gaming keypad gives FIFA players what matters most in a soccer game — ultimate ball control, quick player selection on the pitch, effortless passes and more,"said Travis Boatman, VP of Worldwide Studios for EA Mobile. "The Xperia Play’s unique gamepad also delivers robust control in The Sims 3 bringing a whole new life simulation experience to fans of the franchise."

Some of the big games shown during the press conference included EA Mobile’s Need For Speed and a world-first multiplayer version of FIFA 10. GLU Mobile and Activision showed off Guitar Hero on the new phone, while Gameloft had popular game franchises Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell on display. Sony Ericsson also announced a partnership with Unity Technologies to offer new developers the opportunity to create original games for this new platform.

French game publisher Gameloft will have 10 titles available for the March launch and an additional 10 games available by September.

"My vision since the creation of Gameloft was to turn video games into a true mass market form of entertainment," said Michel Guillemot, president of Gameloft. "This vision is realized with the launch of Xperia Play, which combines a perfect smartphone for daily use as well as a real game controller to provide the best gaming experience ever seen on a mobile phone."

Xperia Play comes with a 5 megapixel phone, which will be used for both gaming and social networking, and runs on Google’s latest Android platform, Gingerbread. The phone will come pre-loaded with software that will enable gamers to find the latest PlayStation mobile offerings through PlayStation Suite, which Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) announced recently in Japan.

Although Xperia Play will be the only smartphone with PlayStation-style controllers, SCE is opening up PlayStation Suite to all Android phones and tablets later this year.

"Xperia Play and PlayStation Certified gaming are great examples of the kind of innovation that’s possible in the open Android ecosystem," said Andy Rubin, vice president of engineering at Google.

In addition, SCE is launching NGP (Next Generation PlayStation System) later this year, which is a new dedicated gaming portable that will feature PlayStation 3-quality visuals.

Michael Pachter, video game analyst for Wedbush Morgan Securities, doesn’t believe the new Xperia Play phone will have any impact on Sony’s sales of NGP hardware.