Sony’s Xperia Play was clearly a phone ahead of its time. Released in 2011, the device predates the rise of mobile gaming and modern handheld consoles like the Nintendo Switch. But now, years later, it appears an unreleased prototype of the Xperia Play 2 has surfaced, and it kind of makes me wish Sony would revive its gaming phone line.
Images of the alleged Xperia Play 2 were originally found on a Chinese trading app (and later posted to Reddit), with the owner claiming the phone is an old concept device only meant for exhibition. And while it’s hard to confirm the legitimacy of these photos, based on its design, this leaked prototype seems to be real.
For legal reasons, we can’t repost the images here (check out the link above), but similar to the original Xperia Play, this Xperia Play 2 concept sports both Xperia and Sony Ericsson branding along with a slide-out section featuring a PlayStation-style D-Pad and face buttons, dual touchpads, buttons for Start and Select, and even one for 3D. Along the top edge of the phone (in landscape mode), there are a few extra buttons, including two L and R shoulder triggers.
This Xperia Play 2 concept device is also a bit of a time capsule for Android phone design from the early 2010s, with this Xperia Play 2 still sporting capacitive touch Android nav buttons for Home, Back, Recent Apps, and Search. Unfortunately, that’s about everything we can glean from the photos, but even as a glimpse into what could have been, it’s quite tantalising.
Looking back, one reason the Xperia Play 2 may have never seen the light of day is that because less than a year after the original Xperia Play’s release in 2011, Sony chose not to renew its partnership with Ericsson, ending the 10-year joint venture between the two companies to develop and produce mobile phones for the global market. This may have caused Sony to pause or cancel development of the Xperia Play while it finalised the deal to purchase some of Ericsson’s remaining mobile phone assets.
But after seeing this unreleased Xperia Play 2 and with the upcoming release of the PS5, now would be a great time for Sony to give gaming phones another shot. Not only would the inclusion of a built-in controller with physical buttons help differentiate a new Xperia Play from other gaming phones like Asus’ ROG Phone 3, it could also help expand Sony’s PS Now game streaming service and give gamers a better way to play console titles on the go.
Sadly, the sceptic in me knows that with Sony beginning to wind down its support of the PS Vita, chances of an Xperia Play revival are incredibly slim. And with the rise of a mobile gamepad accessories like the Razer Kishi and others, the bean counters at big companies like Sony are probably scared that a phone with a built-in controller would alienate mainstream buyers, leaving the success of a resurrected Xperia Play in the hands of gamers who may already have their own mobile gamepads.
Still, for a phone that was a very early trendsetter, even seeing the existence of an Xperia Play 2 concept is enough to make you wonder how things might have played out differently in an alternative timeline.