Xperia Play shipment stolen, Sony Ericsson announces US launch; UPDATE: Theft was a stunt

xperia play launchThe wait for the Xperia Play just got a little longer: Vodafone announced this morning that the Sony Ericsson gaming phone’s New Zealand launch will be delayed. If it’s any consolation, the setback isn’t due to any corporate hiccup or technical malfunctions – the shipment of Xperia Plays destined for shelves was stolen.

On its Twitter this morning, Vodafone posted a notice reading: “…Regret to advise the Xperia Play launch will be delayed. Major security breach. This shipment of phones has been stolen.” But this most recent hitch isn’t the end of Sony Ericsson’s shortage issues. The manufacturer started off with a limited supply as a result of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and also held off on its UK release due to a software glitch.

vodafone nz storeVodafone New Zealand also posted a tiny photo to its Facebook Page of the store’s damage (at right). But in an interesting twist, Vodafone external communications manager Matthew East gave New Zealand publication TechDay a cryptic explanation of the events, saying “Fear not, all will be revealed on Facebook tomorrow.” Is this part of some marketing ploy? And if so, Vodafone would be wise to remember Dell’s disastrous publicity stunt that ended in police charges being filed. The lesson: Mixing viral marketing with faux illegalities treads on some dangerous and possibly embarrassing territory.

In better news, the Xperia Play finally has a US release date. The PlayStation phone will make its stateside debut in stores May 26 (available for order online May 19), and will launch with Verizon Wireless. It will retail for $199.99 when users sign up for a two-year contract.

[UPDATE]

The entire thing was indeed a marketing ploy. Vodafone’s Matthew East told The Australian this morning the alleged Xperia Play theft was a stunt. Good one…?

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