Sony Ericsson unveiled in Barcelona its hotly-awaited PlayStation phone, the Xperia Play, which is the company’s riposte to a raft of sophisticated game-playing smartphones offered by rivals.

Just hours before the Mobile World Congress trade expo opened in the Spanish city, the Xperia Play was put on show. It is optimised for gaming and instead of the usual pullout keyboard offers a set of thumb-driven, PlayStation-style controls.

Sony Ericsson said the gadget would go on sale worldwide from next month. In the United States, Verizon is to lead the rollout. No details were given on the European launch. The company is to offer with it many of the classic games played on the PlayStation and PSP (PlayStation Portable).

The company said more than 20 games design companies including Gameloft and Electronic Arts were currently devising new games for the Play and they would be sold via the Playstation Suite platform.

It added that the games would also run on other makers’ Android phones. The PSP and its rival, the Nintendo DS, once reigned supreme as the distraction of choice for children and teens, but have faced rising competition in the past year from smartphones with high-resolution displays that offer similar fun.

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