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Sony Ericsson Xperia Play to get UK release in April with 50+ launch games

Sony Ericsson has formally unveiled its Xperia Play PlayStation Phone at Mobile World Congress, revealing that it will go on sale in March with more than 50 games available at launch.

The PlayStation Phone cometh, and sooner than you might have thought. Sony Ericsson formally unveiled its Xperia Play Android-based gaming phone last night, with more than 20 publishers already signed up to make games for it, and 50+ titles promised for its launch.

When will that launch be? Sony Ericsson said March, but UK operator T-Mobile has tweeted that it will start selling the device in April, while Orange tweeted "Q2" as its launch date. Vodafone and Three have also confirmed that they'll be selling the Xperia Play, so us Brits will have plenty of choice operator-wise.

The launch last night saw full specs for the device announced, including its 5-megapixel camera, 4-inch touchscreen, 1GHz Snapdragon processor and an Adreno GPU graphics processor. Sony Ericsson says the latter means we can expect 3D games to run like a dream -- up to 60 frames per second, in fact. As expected, the Xperia Play will come with Android 2.3 Gingerbread preloaded, and will be the first 'PlayStation Certified' smart phone.

That means it will be able to run Sony's recently announced PlayStation Suite service, although it's a bit hazy whether this will be available at launch: Sony Ericsson says it's "currently under development by Sony Computer Entertainment and due to launch later this year". A version of PSOne game Crash Bandicoot will be preloaded on the Xperia Play.

There will be some decent games available to download at launch though, including a multiplayer version of FIFA 10 -- not a typo, it's FIFA 10 rather than the current FIFA 11. EA is also bringing its Need for Speed and The Sims 3 franchises to Xperia Play, while Activision has partnered with Glu Mobile on a version of Guitar Hero, despite the series being canned on console earlier this month. Other publishers supporting the device include Gameloft, PopCap and Namco Bandai.

More good news for Xperia Play gamers: Sony Ericsson has signed a deal with game-engine maker Unity Technologies to help developers port their 3D titles to its new handset. Epic Games' Unreal Engine 3 also supports the new handset, meaning Xperia Play owners will enjoy games of the calibre of iOS hits Infinity Blade and Dungeon Defenders. In the absence of the PlayStation Suite, there'll be a preloaded app on the Xperia Play to help you find games that have been "optimised" for the device.

Sony Ericsson says it expects these games to cost between €5 and €10, indicating higher price points than on the iPhone. Google's Android Market app store will also be on the device for standard Android apps and games. Lastly, what about battery life? Sony Ericsson says the Xperia Play will let you play games for more than 5 hours 30 minutes on a single charge, with talktime of 8 hours and 25 minutes.

We've already got hands-on with the device at Sony Ericsson's launch event, and were impressed by the slide-out game controls, even if they make the handset feel a little bulky.