Sony Ericsson Makes Xperia Play Gaming Phone Official

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Sony Ericsson officially unveiled its Android-based PlayStation phone, the Xperia Play, with a TV ad screened during the Super Bowl American football game on Sunday.

Ad slots during the game sell for a premium, and have been used by tech companies for major announcements since 1984, when Apple screened its "Big Brother" ad for the Mac.

Sony-Ericsson's ad on Sunday showed a back-alley surgeon adding opposable thumbs to Google's Android robot, and the tagline "Android is ready to play," followed by images of the phone.

The Xperia Play has a touchscreen and slide-out PlayStation controls, including four navigation buttons to the left and x, square, circle and triangle buttons to the right. The smartphone is also PlayStation Certified, which means it will run Android 2.3 and be able to play some PlayStation one games.

The PlayStation Certified branding is part of Sony's PlayStation Suite, which was announced on Jan. 27 and will also include a store where users will be able to download content and a new game development environment. By the end of 2011, other device makers will also be able to certify their smartphones and tablets.

Official specifications for the Xperia Play are still missing, but rumored specs include a 4.2-inch screen, the same size as the previously announced Xperia Arc. The phone may also be equipped with a 1GHz processor and a 5-megapixel camera.

The increasing popularity of smartphones, and the move to downloadable games, has redrawn the portable gaming map, and put pressure on traditional vendors like Sony and Nintendo.

It remains to be seen whether Sony Ericsson can find a market between regular smartphones and dedicated gaming devices, including the upcoming Nintendo 3DS, and not everyone is convinced that will be the case. By combining two product categories, you usually end up compromising one side or the other, according to Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner. For most casual gamers a regular smartphone will be enough and most core gamers still want a proper gaming device, she said.

The success of the Xperia Play will also be determined by the availability of good games, according to Richard Webb, directing analyst at market research company Infonetics.

Sony Ericsson will provide more details of the new gaming-centric Android-based smartphone at a news conference at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Feb. 13.

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