The next-generation PlayStation handheld device hits the market in less than a week, and while a countdown clock winds down on the Sony Electronics Web site, fans who can't wait can shell out an extra $50 to get a limited, First-Edition bundle that is already shipping.
For $349, Sony will send you the PlayStation Vita with a 4-gigabyte memory card and BigBig Studios' Little Deviants arcade game. Those who are more patient will get an 8 GB memory card, a one-month AT&T 250-megabyte DataConnect session pass and a PlayStation Network game for $299.
Four Cores for Hard-Core Gamers
The Vita, which shares its name with a U.S. company that makes pickled herring and other food products, is powered by an ARM Cortex A9 quad-core processor and has a 5-inch, multitouch capacitive OLED screen. It's equipped with a three-axis gyroscope and three-axis accelerometer and includes front and back cameras. It's equipped for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or 3G connection.
Sony does not list the camera specifications on its site but PC World described them as 0.3 megapixels, far weaker than most cell-phone cameras.
The Vita will square off against Nintendo's latest handheld, the 3DS. Although if offers 3D play without glasses, slow sales of the 3DS last year caused the company to drop the price sharply from $249 to $169, which boosted sales in the next quarter.
ABI Research digital home analyst Michael Inouye sees the two products targeting different audiences.
"I think the 3DS and Vita are different enough that each will appeal to each respective company's customer base," he said. "The 3DS is still geared towards younger and more casual gamers, although Nintendo realizes the mobile threat and is trying to appeal to the core gamer as well."
That could be one of the reasons for the 3DS price drop, he said, as consumers failed to be impressed by the 3D content and short inventory of games. Nintendo is feeling the heat from downloadable games for smartphones and tablets.
"The Vita is shipping on a very powerful hardware platform, for portables, and supports many features that will link the PS3 experience to the Vita," Inouye said, referring to the Vita's predecessor. "The screen is significantly larger and the device ships with two analog sticks."
Strong Title Lineup
Game titles for the Vita include Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed, Activision's Call of Duty, Gameloft's Asphalt Injection, Cambridge Studios' Killzone, and EA Sports Madden NFL 13, among many others.
"The launch titles for the Vita are among the best I've seen for any game system at launch...in terms of quality titles," Inouye said.
But among the potential hurdles: The price, considerably higher than the 3DS, especially with a 3G plan, and the apparent lack of a video output function.
"The original version of the PSP did not include a TV out feature but subsequent PSP generations added this feature," Inouye said. "The lack of this feature in the Vita seems to go against its strong hardware packaging. Quite a few high-end smartphones and tablets, for instance, have HDMI outputs to display content on an HDTV or monitor."