Jan. 11, 2011 at 6:04 PM ET
O PlayStation Phone where art thou? Are you for real? Are you merely a figment of our imagination or perhaps an orchestrated hoax? If you are for real, when will you finally grace us with your presence?
It seems that never has a gadget that doesn't officially exist been revealed so much. In the last week alone, Sony Ericsson's hybrid gaming gadget/smart phone has made an appearance in leaked photos, in leaked videos, has had its specs revealed and has been torn apart — all its guts put on display for the world to see.
And game analysts are now predicting we may actually see the device — officially — by February.
Michael Pachter, games analyst for Wedbush Morgan Securities, told me he thinks there's a very good chance Sony will reveal the gadget — a cross between the PlayStation Portable game machine and a smart phone — during the Mobile World Congress taking place in Spain in February or during Game Developer's Conference which takes place from Feb. 28 to March 4.
Meanwhile Jesse Divnich, a games analyst with Electronic Entertainment Design and Research, told me it will certainly be revealed this year, perhaps as early as this spring.
"It depends whether the focus will be as a games platform or as a phone device," he said. "If it's as a games platform we'll most likely see it somewhere between GDC and the Electronic Entertainment Expo," which takes place in June.
But Pachter also points out that he originally thought Sony would unveil the game phone at last week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The company didn't reveal it ... to the surprise and disappointment of many.
If the leaked photos and videos are to be believed — and Pachter thinks they are very likely real — the PlayStation Phone, which seems to be branded the Xperia Play, is going to be smart phone running on Android with a touch screen as well as a slide-out slate that includes a long touch pad, a D-pad and the standard four PlayStation buttons, all the better to control your games with.
On Monday, the following YouTube video surfaced showing the PlayStation Phone playing original PlayStation games "Resident Evil/Biohazard 2" and "Rage Racer."
Meanwhile, the machine was taken apart and its insides put on display by the Chinese web site TGbus.
But that's only the latest in a flood of Xperia leaks. On Saturday, Engadget brought us photos of the PlayStation Phone, also leaked by the Chinese web site TGbus. They show the device alongside other phones and gaming handhelds.
This comes on the heels of last Thursday's reveal of additional photos, videos and the device's technical specs by the Chinese website IT168. The PlayStation Phone, it seems, is to be powered by a Qualcomm Adreno 205 GPU, along with probably a 1GHz Snapdragon QSD8255. It will have a 4-inch LCD with 854 x 480 resolution, a 5-megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash, 512MB RAM, 512MB ROM, a microSD slot, SIM slot, micro-USB, as well as a second mic on the back.
So with all this information floating around out there, why has Sony remained mum for so long?
"It's anyone's guess," said Divnich. "It could be FCC approvals, manufacturing delays, software issues or even just strategic release timing."
Pachter has a slightly different take.
"I think Sony is struggling with positioning and I think that this thing is the smart phone equivalent of the N-Gage," he said. For those who don't know, the N-Gage was a game machine/phone hybrid launched in the early 2000 from Nokia. "The N-Gage fell on its face because it was too big as a phone so it wasn't comfortable. It was hard to use as a phone, though it was OK as a gaming device."
Hybrid tech devices have historically had a hard time finding their niche, he said, while also pointing out that there is a lot of competition right now — both on the portable gaming side of things and the smart phone side of things.
"The problem is, as a gaming device, it runs into competition from the Nintendo 3DS" — due to launch in March — "which is far more novel than an updated PSP," he said. "And you run into competition from iPhones, Android phones and Windows 7 phones. Nobody is just going to concede share to Sony."
But Pachter said he also believes the game/smart phone combo could do well.
"I think this is the right time to do a hybrid device if you're going to do it," he said. "The N-Gage failed because no one wanted to carry both a gaming device and a phone. But the handheld gaming market was young and 10 years ago, people younger than 14 didn't carry phones. Now a lot of people under 14 carry phones."
Meanwhile, the iPhone has taught people that playing games on a smart phone can be, in fact, a lot of fun even if the controls aren't ideal. With the Xperia Play's buttons and D-Pad, Sony will no doubt pitch it as offering a far superior gaming experience than an iPhone. And if it is an Android phone, it could have access to the Android Market and all the game apps found there as well.
Pachter said that parents like himself very well might take a look at the Nintendo 3DS compared to the PlayStation Phone and, if they are priced similarly, just might be wooed into choosing a PlayStation Phone for their kids since it offers them in-depth gaming as well everything else today's tech-savvy youngsters want (phone, texting and access to the Internet).
"I think that Sony has got issues because it's more phone than most people need and it's more gaming device than most people need," Pachter said. "But I think they've got a shot. The question is, is it going to be a good gaming device and a good phone? Or is it going to be good at one and bad at another? Or is it going to be bad at both?"
Of course, only time ... and the official release of an official device ... will tell.