Sony Ericsson officially debuted the Xperia Play smartphone at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Sunday. It combines a traditional mobile phone with a portable gaming console.

Look at that, do you recognize these keys? This is a real, certified, PlayStation certified game controller. Complete with trigger keys and analog joysticks. You keep  your hands on the controls rather than all over the screen.  Let’s talk about finding games. You launch the Xperia Play launch and you can browse all of your content, recently added and you can get more games if you click on more games you get access to all of the premium content all optimized for the Xperia Play.

The phone runs Gingerbread, the next version of Google’s Android operating system and comes preloaded with PlayStation 1 game titles. Later in the year the PlayStation store will open and allow users to download a wider variety of games. The phone itself will launch in about a month.

I’m pretty certain that over the coming days you’re going to hear from many operators about their specific plans to launch Xperia Play, but tonight I am especially pleased to confirm that consumers in the US will be among the first to enjoy Xperia Play. In line with our strategic intention to increase focus on the United States the final announcement tonight is a new partnership between Sony Ericsson and Verizon Wireless who will be the first carrier to sell Xperia Play in the US starting in early Spring.

Pricing and other launch details weren’t announced and it remains to be seen if the company can find a market between regular smartphones and dedicated gaming devices. One analyst said that by combining two product categories, you usually end up compromising one side or another.