Sony Ericsson announced tonight the launch of the new “PlayStation phone”, officially called Xperia PLAY, shipping this March. The device will be the first PlayStation Certified Android device, running Gingerbread 2.3. One of the first primary markets will be the US where Sony Ericsson partners with Verizon exclusively, the company announced at a launch event taking place in a hip Barcelona beach club prior to the Mobile World Congress.

Interestingly, the Danish-born Unity Technologies has struck a deal with Sony Ericsson for the new device, in which Unity’s technology comes embedded. The partnership is the first of its kind for Unity that hasn’t teamed up this way with a platform manufacturer before.

The Xperia PLAy handset features a slide-out gamepad, which has a PlayStation-style D-pad, two analog D-pads, and X, O, triangle, and square action buttons. Sony Ericsson has secured over 50 launch titles from over 20 developers. Also selected old school PS1 titles are available for the device at launch on the Android Market, for example Crash Bandicoot and Destruction Derby.

Kazuo Hirai, President of Networked Products and Services Group at Sony Corporation also expressed that Sony is working to release more PlayStation Certified phones with different hardware manufacturers.

Unity has implemented a special API specific to the Xperia PLAY in order to offer developers an easy way of implementing the Xperia PLAY’s gaming controls and optimizing their games for them. This is the first such device Unity has supported in this way, and Unity is the only middleware company Sony Ericsson is working with in this depth. It will be interesting to see if other manufacturers will follow Sony Ericsson’s lead.

Unity has over 350,000 registered users, including big firms like Cartoon Network, Coca-Cola, Disney, Electronic Arts, and LEGO, as well as small studios, independent professionals, students and hobbyists. The growth for the company has been fast, having just surpassed 250,000 developers milestone in October 2010.

Additionally, Unity has achieved over 35 million installs of its free Unity Web Player. The company has also been available for the iPhone since 2008, boasting that 10-20% of the top selling games on Unity are iPhone ones.

Unity has recently formed a business unit called Union, which aims to syndicate high quality video games to mobile phones, app stores, tablets, set-top boxes, connected TVs and other emerging platforms.


Disclaimer: the author’s employer is one of the launch partners for the Xperia PLAY.