PlayStation Vita: Will 2012 Launch Work?

PlayStation Vita: Will 2012 Launch Work?

Are you reluctant to enter the next phase of the handheld gaming wars because you’re waiting to see what the PlayStation Vita has to offer? You may as well go make a sandwich: Sony recently announced that the PS Vita won’t be coming to North America or Europe until an unspecified date in 2012. Japan will be getting the system in time for the holidays, but unless you’re looking to import (and that’s a viable option, as the PS Vita is reportedly not region locked), that won’t do you a whole lot of good.

This announcement from Sony isn’t a huge surprise, as the company confirmed at E3 2011 that the PS Vita would “start” to launch at the end of 2011. Well, it’s starting. The question is, how will the system’s celebrity and sales fare against the Nintendo 3DS without a synchronized worldwide launch? Will history repeat itself, with the more affordable and available Nintendo 3DS getting a sizable head start on Sony’s entry in the handheld wars?

It’s going to be tricky for Sony to catch up, but the PS Vita is certainly not a wash at this point. The Nintendo 3DS price cut will definitely drive up demand for the system: Between the price drop and an upcoming wave of first-party games, there’s little doubt that Nintendo’s handheld will be the star of 2011’s holiday season. However, there’s still enough hesitation to go around. The 3DS price drop alone is indication enough that Nintendo is not infallible in all matters portable, and that fact alone might have shaken up consumers’ confidence in the system. In other words, maybe there are numerous handheld gaming enthusiasts who will be happy enough to stick to their Nintendo DS/Nintendo DSi until the PS Vita solidifies its position in Japan and hits Western stores.

Beyond that? It’s hard to say. The PS Vita will still be priced between $250-$300 (the bigger number belongs to the 3G-enabled version of the system), and as Nintendo learned, that’s a lot of money to ask for a portable game system. On the other hand, the PS Vita will have a lot to offer, including a five-inch touchscreen, a touchpad on the back of the system, two analogue sticks (a must-have for 3D games), motion controls, front and rear cameras, and a GPS.

Good stuff, but any way you look at things, Sony stands on the cusp of a hard lesson. Some people want their smartphones to do everything, and that includes games. iPhone fills that need nicely. Many of us still want dedicated game machines, and with the price cut in effect, the 3DS will look handsome enough alongside an iOS device. Where does that leave the PS Vita, with its high price tag, late launch, and plethora of features? By the time the system is available worldwide, portable gamers may have long since filled their need.

However, the very idea of a 3G enabled system with a touch screen and two analogue sticks is mighty appetizing. For someone who wants a smartphone-inspired system that truly does it all and can play games without restricting the player to shoddy virtual d-pads, the PS Vita will be well worth the wait.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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