If you had any hopes of getting Sony's Vita handheld by Christmas this year, Sony has just dashed away your yuletide wishes. While there was no solid release date given when the company announced the Vita during their E3 press conference, there was obviously some glimmering speck of hope that the touch-screen device would release prior to 2012. Well, it is getting a 2011 release date – in Japan. North America and Europe will have to wait until sometime early next year.
Speaking to reporters in Tokyo this morning (via MSN), Sony executive vice-president Kaz Hirai stated that the Vita will release to the Japanese market this year, but won't roll out in other regions until "early next year." Obviously, this isn't great news for Sony, who will miss the ever-important holiday shopping season in the Western markets. The 3DS also missed the holiday shopping window and we've seen how well that's gone. Unfortunately, there's still no solid dates to be found anywhere.
Hirai stated that the delay was to ensure that the new handheld launches with a solid line-up of games. Given the ongoing struggle of the Nintendo 3DS, with its less than stellar launch games, this is probably a smart decision on the part of Sony.
Hirai also dismissed the notion of any price change for the Vita, following Nintendo's recent announcement that the 3DS price-point would tumble by $80.
"We packed so much into the device and made it very affordable," Hirai said this morning. "There is no need to lower the price just because somebody else that happens to be in the video game business decided that they were going to lower their price."
Obviously, Sony couldn't have predicted – hell, none of us could – that the 3DS would see such a drastic price change so soon after its launch. Sony were generally lauded after announcing that the wi-fi version of Vita would be available for the same price as the Nintendo handheld – $249.99.
It's going to be interesting to see how this handheld battle between Sony and Nintendo shakes out. The PlayStation Portable never saw the sales figures of the Nintendo DS, but Sony has a distinct opportunity here to compete in the handheld sector. Granted, there's no telling if either company can stop the juggernaut that is Apple and the ever-emerging mobile games market.