In context: Hardcore Sony fans likely get all misty-eyed over the company’s PlayStation Portable (PSP) and Vita gaming consoles, two formidable products that could rival Nintendo’s handheld offerings at the time. In 2011, when smartphones were rapidly gaining popularity and power, Sony tinkered with the idea of a PlayStation-inspired Android smartphone called the Xperia Play that had dedicated PSP-like gaming buttons on its slide-out controller section. It saw limited success that forced Sony to abandon its sequel, whose alleged prototype has now surfaced on the web.
Sony’s daring and arguably more interesting phone designs gave us products like the Xperia Play, the company’s vision of an Android-powered PlayStation smartphone that would run exclusives like Crash Bandicoot, alongside the usual Google Play Store titles as well as supporting telephonic capabilities.
What sounded like a promising idea on paper ultimately failed to take off with Sony’s half-hearted execution, thanks to bulky hardware, clunky software and a very limited game library that gave existing PSP/Vita owners little reason to get the console-phone hybrid.
While we never saw a sequel to the Xperia Play from 2011, a prototype unit was recently spotted in a Chinese used goods app that allegedly shows what Sony (when it was Sony Ericsson) had been working on before it abandoned the device.
Alongside “analog” touchpads and the PSP-like layout, Sony added a button labeled “3D” that would presumably support stereoscopic 3D content that briefly became a fad on Xbox 360/PS3 and was also popularized on mobile by devices like the LG Optimus 3D and the HTC Evo 3D.
Had the original idea gained enough traction, Sony might have launched some iteration of this hardware as a mobile/portable companion to the PlayStation 4 that arrived in 2013. Of course, we later learned that Sony had no plans for such a device, whose mobile division now exclusively churns out expensive, tall Xperias.
With Microsoft doing its own thing with the recently launched xCloud on mobile as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and Nintendo now focusing all efforts on its hugely popular Switch, Sony remains the only major player among the big three to miss out on handheld gaming. Although services like PlayStation Now and Remote Play offer players some flexibility, a truly handheld device that could play/stream PS5 exclusives, among other games, appears to be a lucrative category for Sony to explore.