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Before there was the Xperia Play

Sony Ericsson's Xperia Play combines gaming and a cell phone in one device. But it's not the first time the company has tried to bring the two worlds together.

Sony Ericsson's Z600a inside the Gameboard Sony Ericsson

Sony Ericsson is betting big that its Xperia Play will offer a new way to bring gamers and phone users together, but it's not the first time that the company has tried to do so.

Seven years ago, just as Sony Ericsson was getting into a groove with notable handsets like the P910 and S710, the company rolled out one of the more interesting mobile accessories I've ever seen. The EGB-10 Gameboard allowed you to play games on selected Sony Ericsson handsets while using controls that were more comfortable than a standard navigational keypad.

Though its design was a far cry from a Sony PlayStation controller, the Gameboard had most of the essential gaming elements, including a circular toggle on the left and four function keys on the right. As it didn't have a power switch, it would work only when you snapped a handset into the frame in the center. You'd still use a phone's display to see your game, but the Gameboard's controls would take over.

I couldn't find CNET's original review of the Gameboard (here's the First Look featuring our long departed Cell Phone Diva Joni Blecher), though I remember using the accessory with Sony Ericsson's Z600a flip phone (it also was compatible with the Sony Ericsson T630 and K500).

Though the Gameboard was a neat idea and the controls were easy to use, it was ahead of its time given the poor quality of mobile gaming in 2004. Indeed, I used it for a only few minutes before moving on. What's more, I found that even my avid gamer colleagues and friends felt the same way.

Now with the Xperia Play, Sony Ericsson is back for another try. I'm intrigued by what I saw of the Xperia Play at Mobile World Congress and remain floored that it will come to Verizon Wireless (Sony Ericsson has few CDMA phones). We still don't have an availability date or a review model, but we'll get some more time with the device as part of the Game Developers Conference. Check back for more hands-on impressions.