Don’t compare it to the iPad, Nintendo’s 3DS, or even its predecessor, the PlayStation Portable.
Vita, the upcoming handheld device, is hoping it’s in a class of its own, says John Koller, Sony’s PlayStation director of hardware marketing.
It better be.
In the three years the device has been under development, smartphones and tablets have become mainstream and the need for dedicated portable gaming devices has been weakened.
And if Nintendo’s 3DS is any indication, Vita’s prospects aren’t good. The 3DS struggled after missing the holidays last season, and Nintendo was forced to cut the price drastically almost immediately.
“This is a larger game experience. We think we are insulated from the competition,” Koller said. “We love mobile games. Mobile and tablets games are additive.”
As an example, while an HD game on the iPad could be a couple of gigabytes, a game on the Vita could range from 20GB to 40GB. That would take up a substantial amount of the iPad’s memory, and take an awful long time to download.
The horizontal device is large and fits in your hands comfortably.
There’s a touchscreen on the front and a touchpad on the back, there are both forward-facing and rear-facing cameras, there are dual analog sticks to support first-person shooters, and there’s integration with the PS3, which will allow game makers to provide the ability to start playing the game on the console, leave the house and pick up where you left playing on the Vita. If developers allow it, users will also be able to stream games that they bought for the console to their handheld using Wi-Fi.
The Wi-Fi version starts at $249 and the 3G version costs $299, not including a data plan with AT&T.
As with any new connected gaming device, it will also experiment with things such as augmented reality, social features — such as Twitter and Facebook integration — and location-based services.
Koller described the demand as robust. Of the current PlayStation Portable owners, 60 percent have said they will upgrade in the next 18 months, and of the console owners, 63 percent said they would buy one. Of course, those two markets have a lot of overlap.
Initially, the device was expected to come out before Christmas, but after it was announced at E3 in June it faced delays. Recently, Sony announced it would come out in Japan first, and then hit the U.S. and other areas on Feb. 22.
Koller said the delay was due to meeting demand and that pre-orders are “substantial.”
He added, “We’ve increased production materially since E3. We learned our lesson to make sure you have enough product.”
Koller argues that the PSP launched in March 2005 and it still sold one million units in the first week, so missing the holidays is not detrimental.
He believes with more than 100 substantial games in development worldwide, there will be plenty of reasons for people to buy it right away. That’s where the Nintendo 3DS faltered: Not enough 3-D games at launch to justify buying it.
Today, Sony is announcing a special bundle that will launch a week early for those who are particularly anxious to get their hands on the device.
The PS Vita First Edition Bundle will be available for pre-order starting today. For $350, consumers will get the 3G version of the device, a 4GB memory card, a travel case, and the game, Little Deviants. The devices will be available for pick-up on Feb. 15.