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PlayStation Network hack misses Xperia Play, but it’s still not out yet

by Phil Hornshaw

It appears the Xperia Play isn’t going to be available for Android gaming fans just yet, despite Sony promising a “very early second quarter” release back when it was still promising such things.

While the “PlayStation Phone” saw something of a worldwide release earlier this year, it still hasn’t hit U.S. shores. It sounds like the phone is contending with some major bug issues across the Atlantic, in the UK and other places, so maybe the delay is a good thing, although it sure is a downer to have to wait for what is easily the highest-quality gaming device in the smartphone market. Rumor has it Sony is looking at a May 26 release date in the U.S.

But the delay in the Xperia Play could be something of a blessing for potential buyers, given the massive breach to its PlayStation Network and Qriocity service that Sony suffered a couple of weeks ago. That situation has been a bit of a nightmare for PlayStation owners who like to game online with Sony’s hardware -- the entire PlayStation online service is down (as is Qriocity, Sony’s music and video on-demand service), the victim of a massive hacker attack.

According to a story from Reuters, the hack hasn’t affected Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Play because data for Sony’s PlayStation division and the 50-50 joint venture between Sony and Ericsson are found on two different data servers. Sony Ericsson, it seems, is totally unaffected by the hack that has brought Sony’s entertainment division to a standstill.

That’s very, very good news, considering that the Xperia Play is supposed to join up with the PlayStation Network in some capacity using Sony’s PlayStation Suite service. That service will allow users to buy from a catalogue of old PlayStation games to load onto their phones, as well as play against PlayStation Suite gamers on various devices.

PlayStation Network users have a lot to worry about: Sony was slow in admitting that the PlayStation Network had been hacked at the end of April, and it took even longer for the company to come out and say that user information had been stolen -- as many as 80 million accounts that could include user name and email information, as well as passwords. Sony maintains that no credit card data has been stolen, but the company also is offering a free year of identity theft protection services to everyone with a Qriocity or PlayStation Network account.

So it might be a good thing that we haven’t seen the Play, or that Sony just announced two new tablets that have PlayStation branding but not release dates. The PlayStation Network and Qriocity have been down for weeks now -- in fact, missing a deadline to be back up just today, with no end in sight -- and while the big hack is definitely hurting the Sony and PlayStation brands, as Reuters points out, this is a great opportunity for Sony Ericsson to head off a potential disaster before it happens.

Some analysts told Reuters the impact on the Xperia Play from the PSN and Qriocity hack fallout would be limited, but even if it isn’t, Sony Ericsson should be stepping up its network security for its PlayStation-branded products, and being very vocal about it. With heightened security in place, the mobile company has an opportunity to point to the fiasco as a learning experience that allowed Xperia Play customers to be better protected right out of the gate -- turning both the hack and the delay in the U.S. Play launch into positives, rather than negatives.