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Mobile Minecraft to debut on ... wait what? Xperia Play?

Looks like the first mobile users to get a crack at Minecraft will be owners of Sony Ericsson's Xperia Play, exclusively. Considering the phone runs Android, we have to ask ourselves why.

Minecraft is the indie-developed block-building game that's taken the PC and Mac gaming world by storm. A "sandbox" game which lets you build whatever you can think of out of textured cubes, Minecraft is finally making its way to the mobile device market - but not on regular Android phones, iOS, Nintendo 3DS or PSP as some might imagine. No, it's going to debut on the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play - the "PlayStation Phone."

Gaming news site Gamasutra confirmed the news with Minecraft developer Mojang on Tuesday. The company previously confirmed plans to introduce Minecraft for Android devices. That remains true - the Xperia Play is an Android-based phone - but Mojang said that the Xperia Play will be the first in line to get the popular game.

Minecraft has distinguished itself as a playground for gamers with a creative bent. Some modes of the game emphasize building and creation exclusively, while others emphasize multiplayer activity, monster fighting and more.

Xperia Play the first PlayStation-certified smartphone. It features a built-in game pad shaped similarly to the game controller included with the PlayStation 3 - dual-analog thumbpads instead of thumbsticks, but complete with directional pad, shoulder buttons, and the familiar four-button (circle, square, triangle, X) configuration on PlayStation devices. Support for the Xperia Play's game pad is available through a drop-in API available to Android developers. X

Xperia Play begins shipping this week in the United States on Verizon Wireless, priced at $199 with two-year contract. The device runs Android 2.3 "Gingerbread."

Mojang hasn't yet revealed when Mobile Minecraft will be released, for how much or how long the Xperia Play will get it exclusively. But the game will feature customized controls designed to take advantage of the Xperia Play's unique interface, according to Mojang.

iPhone users should fear not - Mojang confirms that a version of Minecraft is also in development for their devices.

Mojang's decision to debut the mobile version of Minecraft on the Xperia Play is a bit of a headscratcher. Sony Ericsson has certainly positioned the new phone as a gamer's device, but at this point it's only starting to find an audience. It would have made more sense to cast a wider net by making the game available to all Android users.

Perhaps Mojang is hoping that by limiting Mobile Minecraft's user base to a select group, they'll be able to tweak gameplay before rolling out the game to a much larger audience. Or perhaps they're being compensated for the exclusivity. Either way, you're going to need one of two things to play Mobile Minecraft: An Xperia Play, or patience until your device is supported.