Monday, 19 December 2011

Sony launches new PS Vita console

PS vita
Shoppers show off their newly-bought PS Vita consoles in Tokyo. Photograph: AP
Sony has ended one of its worst-ever years on a high note, with the launch of its cutting-edge handheld console, the PlayStation Vita, in Japan.
Several Tokyo shops opened at 7am on Saturday to mark the PS Vita's debut, although attention was focused on the Tsutaya store in the trendy shopping district of Shibuya, where the machine's first official customer was presented with his purchase by the world's most high-powered shop assistants, Kaz Hirai and Andrew House – the former is executive deputy president of Sony and chairman of Sony Computer Entertainment, its video games wing, while House is president and CEO of SCE.
The PS Vita was certainly well received in Tokyo: Kensho Monden, one of the first people to buy it, said: "I think its screen, in particular, is very good. I've bought Ridge Racer, and I bought the 3G version [the base model is Wi-Fi enabled only, but in Japan, Wi-Fi hot-spots are surprisingly thin on the ground] so I can play it across the network with my friends."
Hundreds of customers braved freezing temperatures to queue outside Tsutaya for the launch, in a noticeably more orderly manner than is typical for similar launches in the UK, where much fewer shops are involved and the formalities take place when midnight signals the arrival of the designated day.
Many commentators have singled the PS Vita out as a barometer of the state of the games industry, arguing that the rise of mobile phone gaming is eating into its traditional base and suggesting that Sony's replacement for the PSP could struggle as a result.
House contended that: "PS Vita is designed to deliver the ultimate portable entertainment experience. It offers a new group of gaming experiences that were never possible before, through a unique combination of interfaces and features, and brings a wider variety of genres to portable gaming."
It nods heavily towards mobile phones by including native support for social networking staples such as Facebook, Twitter, Skype and Foursquare, and House singled out an initiative called PlayStation Suite, which will essentially allow developers to deliver more casual games across Android mobile phones and the PS Vita.
PS-vita He said: "We'll be happy to welcome in a new audience and migrate them to a deeper experience." And there are plenty of keen portable gamers out there – the PSP, in seven years on sale, has sold a cumulative 73m units, according to House.
The PS Vita avoids one trap into which Nintendo's initially unsuccessful 3DS fell: it was supported by a healthy portfolio of 24 games – "The largest number of launch titles in PlayStation history," according to House.
Which is an impressive achievement, given that Sony's manufacturing was hit in 2011 by the Fukushima earthquake and subsequent tsunami, the flooding in Thailand and even the outbreak of looting in London, which saw its giant Sony DADC warehouse in Enfield burned to the ground.
UK consumers will have to wait until 22 February to buy the PS Vita, which will cost from £229.99. And even if the mobile phone market does eat into its popularity, Sony took the precaution of buying out Ericsson earlier this year, so that it now wholly owns the Sony Ericsson mobile phone concern.
But with an impressive 5in OLED touch-screen – the largest ever seen on a portable gaming console – and a wealth of features including motion-sensing and a rear touch-pad plus, crucially, dual analogue joysticks to give hardcore gamers the control they crave, the PS Vita has more than enough ammunition to take on the mobile phones and tablets.

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