The first “PlayStation phone” is coming to Verizon Wireless in April, the CEO of phone maker Sony Ericsson said Sunday.

The Xperia Play phone will have a big touch screen and a pad that slides out to reveal control buttons similar to those on a Sony PlayStation Portable. The phone marks a change in strategy for Sony and a coup for Sony Ericsson, which has been trying to get its phones back into the U.S. market.

“Xperia Play comes pre-loaded with up to seven games to test your gaming skills to the max,” Sony Ericsson says agt its website. “But that’s just the start. Access thousands of titles from an ever-growing list of games from the world’s top publishers including PlayStation games.”

Sony Ericsson’s North American headquarters is located in Atlanta.

The company relocated its operation from Research Triangle Park, N.C. to Atlanta last September.

The phone looks similar to the PSP Go, a version of the PlayStation Portable released in 2009.

The Play phone will run Google Inc.’s Android operating system and play modified PlayStation games that won’t run on other phones. It’s the first time Sony has allowed its PlayStation games to run on hardware not made by Sony. The license isn’t exclusive to Sony Ericsson, so other phone makers could follow, but Sony Ericsson will have a substantial head start.

Sony Ericsson CEO Bert Nordberg demonstrated the phone in Barcelona, a day ahead of the opening of the Mobile World Congress trade show there. He said he didn’t know what the phone will cost.

For more Mobile World Congress news, read here.

Sony Ericsson is a joint venture of Sony Corp. of Japan and LM Ericsson AB of Sweden. They merged their phone-making businesses in 2001, and have faced calls to make phones that take advantage of Sony’s strength in game consoles since then. Recently, touch screen phones, especially Apple Inc.’s iPhone, have become big game platforms in their own right, thanks to their large screens and intuitive controls.

Verizon Wireless is the largest U.S. wireless carrier, but it hasn’t carried Sony Ericsson phones for several years. Last year, Sony Ericsson dropped the Symbian operating system, which is largely unknown in the U.S., in favor of Android, with the aim of penetrating the U.S. smart-phone market. Sony Ericsson’s worldwide sales have continued to slide, but it’s now able to sell more expensive phones, stemming some of the revenue decline.

Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. of New York and Vodafone Group PLC of Britain.

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