By Patrick Avenell (Follow me on Twitter)

SYDNEY, NSW: Smartphones are as common rugby league scandals right now, with Sony Ericsson today announcing the availability of the Xperia Play on Telstra and Optus from next Wednesday (8 June 2011).

After the pomp and circumstance of HTC and Samsung’s launches last week, there has been an understated tone to this week’s releases. Yesterday, LG launched its flagship Optimus Black handset with a sparse press release. Today, Sony Ericsson follows this Lo-Fi trend, with a simple release — not even including pricing — for its smartphone-cum-handheld gaming console.

This is a crossover category first mined by Nokia to complete failure, with the N-Gage platform/device unable to satisfy consumers of either phones or gaming consoles. This platform was finally discontinued in 2010.

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History will not deter Sony Ericsson, however, with Oceania MD Brendan Johnston delivering the obligatory ebullient bromide/pun about how this gaming handset will change the metaphorical game.

“We believe that the Xperia Play is a game changer and now we’re able to provide Australia with the chance to make its own mind up,” Johnston said.  “Xperia Play provides a first of its kind gaming experience on the latest version of Android.  What more could you need or want?”

Everyone can answer Johnson’s question in the comments box below.

As for the telcos, Optus already has its pricing for the Play up on its website. For $0 upfront on a $79 cap ($1,738 minimum cost over 24 months) users get $900 included value and 3GB data per month. Optus also offers the following upfront/cap combinations: $5/$59, $9/$49, $16/$29, $18/$19. This last one, at $850, is the cheapest minimum cost plan over 24 months.

No pricing from Telstra at the time of writing, though inductive reasoning suggests the Freedom Connect plans will be applicable for this handset.

Interestingly, Sony Ericsson chose not to include a single technical specification about this handset in its release. With or without a press conference, most smartphone launches necessitate tree felling to service the reams of information foisted upon journalists. We have requested a detailed specification guide from Sony Ericsson — though we do have some information.

The Xperia Play runs off Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), has a 4-inch touchscreen, 5.1MP rear camera, 0.3MP VGA front camera and 400MB of memory (expandable via MicroSD to 32GB). Apparently it weight 175 grams.

There are six games preloaded on the Xperia Play: Star Battalion, FIFA 10, Madden NFL 11, Sims 3, Bruce Lee and Crash Bandicoot. Sony Ericsson has said that more than 60 games will available to download by release launch date.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play has the geometrical buttons familiar to PlayStation users.