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The continuing saga of the PlayStation Phone

New videos show as yet unconfirmed handset working

New videos have surfaced which appear to show the long-rumoured but never confirmed PlayStation phone working, adding fuel to the rumour that the device's release is imminent.

It's certainly a story with plenty of heritage, whether you're convinced by the video and existing blurry photos or not. In fact, the first time anyone considered the idea was after Ken Kutaragi posited the inclusion of mobile phone functions on the original PlayStation Portable way back in 2003.

The story went quiet for a number of years, when the predicted rise of mobile gaming gradually appeared to lose traction. Then the book was reopened by Sony itself in 2007, when Sony Ericsson president Miles Flint admitted that a PlayStation-branded phone might be on the cards after the success of a Bravia-branded handset in Japan.

"It's an area of possible future activity," Flint told the Financial Times. "We need to make sure that it is a credible phone, and be sure we are justified in putting that identity on it."

Sony Ericsson is fifty per cent owned by Sony, and its handsets have carried the Walkman and CyberShot brand names as well as Bravia. The close relationship, combined with the burgeoning market for mobile gaming, would make the step seem to be an obvious one, and the rumour mill continued to grind out its uncertain product later in 2007.

In November of that year, Sony COO Jim Ryan appeared to drop heavy hints about the potential for collaboration on a PlayStation-branded phone in an interview with the Economic Times.

"The PlayStation is a proven success and so is Sony Ericsson. Convergence with the two arms working together is definitely plausible," Ryan was reported as saying. "It is hugely intellectually seductive to have a console-oriented phone."

However, these reports were soon quashed by voices inside Sony, who claimed that the paper had in fact misquoted Ryan.

"Jim Ryan was in fact misquoted by the Economic Times of India about this issue. We are not currently working together on the creation of a PlayStation Phone," a spokesman told GamesIndustry.biz.

The story took a new twist seven months later, when new speculation arose, putting to a possible release date of Christmas 2009 on the handset, but also highlighting a perceived cooling of the relationship between Sony and Sony Ericsson.

An unnamed industry source was reported as telling MarketingWeek that relations between the two companies were "frosty", with Sony regretting allowing the mobile manufacturer to use its Walkman branding.

However, in 2009, Sony Ericsson released the Aino, a handset which allowed users to connect remotely to a PlayStation 3 and view media stored there. The relationship appeared to be thawing, with some analysts predicting that the collaboration was a pre-cursor to a fully enabled PlayStation phone.

The rumours died away again, but not for long. Soon, reports emerged that the phone would launch with an Android OS, with a sliding design similar to that of the recently launched PSPgo.

Soon, blurry photographs emerged, apparently showing a device which carried PlayStation branding, and the distinctive PlayStation button pattern alongside a D-pad and shoulder buttons.

Then Bert Nordberg of Sony Ericsson fanned the flames once more, suggesting that rumours with this much history tend to have at least one foot in reality.

"There's a lot of smoke, and I tell you there must be a fire somewhere," Nordberg told The Wall Street Journal. "Sony has an extremely strong offering in the gaming market, and that's very interesting."

And now, over the weekend, video footage has emerged, apparently showing a fully functional Sony Ericsson handset, complete with an open app displaying the PlayStation logo.

Reports suggest that Sony will launch the PlayStation Phone in February 2011 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, with Sony Ericsson currently toying with an off-contract price set somewhere around $500 (£318 approx), including five free games.

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Dan Pearson

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