Sony PlayStation Vita pushed into 2012 for U.S. and Europe


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Sony’s launch of its PlayStation Vita handheld gaming system won’t occur this holiday season in the U.S. and is now being pushed into 2012.

The new gaming system, which will be a follow-up to both the successful but aging PlayStation Portable (PSP) and the slow-selling PSP Go, was previously expected to hit retailers in the U.S. and Europe by the end of the year.


That will no longer be the case, Sony Executive Deputy President Kazuo Hirai told Bloomberg on Thursday. He added, however, that the Vita will launch in Japan before the end of the year.

By not having the Vita in U.S. and European stores this holiday shopping season, Sony is passing up on a chance to rake in big sales.

Bloomberg noted that Sony took in more than 40% its revenue last fiscal year from Christmas sales in the two regions -- something it sorely needs after eight straight years of losses from its Bravia TV unit and costs of more than $172 million related to hacking attacks against the company this year. The cyber attacks have cost Sony nearly as much as the company suffered in damage from the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March.

‘The PlayStation business is a key pillar,’ Hirai told Bloomberg. ‘The video-game industry is evolving constantly. My expectation is for the PlayStation business to remain at the forefront of this very dynamic industry.’

A look at the Vita’s specs shows just how serious Sony is taking its gaming business.

The Vita will feature a 5-inch touch screen on the front of the unit and a touch pad on the back for controlling games using hand gestures (a move that can be considered a response to the rise of gaming on touch-screen smartphones). It will also have two cameras, one on the front and another on the back(features the Nintendo DS line has had for some time), that will be used for photos as well as augmented reality gaming.

Sony is also passing up an opportunity to overtake Nintendo as the leader in portable gaming console sales. Nintendo’s new handheld, the 3DS, has yet to catch on with consumers and produce the blockbuster sales of its predecessors. So far, Nintendo has sold more than 4 million 3DS units worldwide. Last year, Nintendo sold 27 million units of the previous generations of DS consoles.

As a result, Nintendo is dropping the price of the 3DS to $169.99 from $249.99 starting Aug. 12.

Sony’s Vita, when it enters the U.S. market, is set to sell for $249 or $300 in a 3G wireless model.

Hirai told Bloomberg that Sony has no plans to lower its launch price in reaction to Nintendo’s move.


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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles