Sony's Hiroshi Kawano demonstrates a PlayStation Vita at the company's Tokyo Game Show press conference Wednesday.
TOKYO — Sony will launch its new gaming portable PlayStation Vita in Japan on December 17 with 26 games, the gamemaker said on Wednesday.
At a press conference set in the tony Tokyo Midtown complex in Roppongi, Sony finally unveiled the full details on when gamers will be able to get their hands on PS Vita. The high-definition gaming platform is the successor to Sony’s PSP, which it launched in 2004. Besides beefier graphics and an expanded suite of on-board features, the Vita’s most prominent feature is the gorgeous OLED touchscreen.
A version of the device with 3G network capability will retail for 29,980 yen ($300 in the U.S.) with a Wi-Fi only version selling for 24,980 yen. Gamers outside Japan will not get to play Vita until some unspecified time next year.
26 games will hit shelves day and date with the new machine, Sony said, from new games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss to versions of popular console games like Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, announced by Capcom at the press conference. In all, over 100 games are currently in development for PS Vita, Sony said.
PlayStation Vita will have a battery life of about 3-5 hours when playing games, Sony said in a press release following the conference.
Vita will not use Memory Stick media nor SD cards, Sony said — instead, it will use a proprietary memory card that will cost approximately between $25 and $100 depending on the size of the card, from 4 GB to 32 GB.
Another big piece of news dropped by Sony at the briefing concerns the data provider for the Vita’s 3G service. Sony had already said at last year’s E3 that AT&T would be its partner for data plans in the United States; in Tokyo it added that Japanese mobile company NTT DoCoMo will provide 3G coverage for Vita in Japan. An NTT executive took the stage to announce that Vita owners would be able to choose from two different prepaid data plans.
For 980 yen (about $13) they can buy 20 hours of online gaming time, which must be used within 30 days. For 4980 yen (about $60), Vita owners can get 103 hours of 3G gaming that can be used over a 180-day period. (Sony and AT&T have not made any similar announcements for the United States.)
Our live blog coverage from Wednesday is below.
Now that Nintendo has unveiled its plans to revitalize its 3DS handheld system in Japan, it’s time for Sony to launch its attack with PlayStation Vita.
Sony will make major announcements about its upcoming handheld game system, which it will launch this year in Japan, at Tokyo Midtown plaza in Roppongi this Wednesday afternoon.
Our live blog coverage will begin at 1:00 p.m. Japan time, or about 9 p.m. Pacific.
Stay tuned for live updates.
12:50: We’re in the conference hall, ready to roll. The show will begin in 10 minutes’ time. Excited that Sony actually invited the foreign press to their event. They even gave us water.
12:57: Shan’t be long now. We’ve been asked to please refrain from talking on our cell phones during the conference. What if they’re Xperia Plays, though? What if that?
12:59: Everybody is sitting down and has been for quite some time. However, the event cannot start until precisely the stroke of 1. To do otherwise would be a tremendous social gaffe.
1:01: Beginning to think this is all an elaborate ruse.
1:03: Okay. Okay. It’s totally starting now I think.
1:04: Yes. The lights dim. Flashy things happen. Hiroshi Kawano, president of SCE Japan, walks out on stage. I have forgotten to put on my translation headset. He is recapping the PlayStation Meeting this year at which Sony announced PS Vita.
1:05: Introduces Andrew House, new president and group CEO of SCE. He speaks amazing Japanese. (I cannot remember ever seeing a non-Japanese executive speaking in formal Japanese at a Japan press conference.) He’s giving an overview of where Sony is right now with PSP and PS3.
1:08: House leaves the stage and turns it back over to Kawano, who seems like he’s going to be talking about sales over the last year or so. As of the end of June 2011, Sony has shipped 51 million PS3s, Since TGS 2010 49% of home game machine sales (in Japan, it seems) have been PS3s. Going very quickly through successful products like the Torne DVR unit, and that Ni no Kuni and Final Fantasy XIII-2 are expected to be big this year. They’re doing blue and red PS3 hardware this year. 71.4 million PSPs have been shipped as of end of June 2011.
1:10: 43% of all portable hardware sold in Japanese market since TGS 2010 were PSPs. 49% of software was PSP software. Introducing red/black duo-tone PSP for this year.
1:12: “Having said that, not everything was smooth,” says Kawano. He brings up the closing of PlayStation Network this spring. “This event raised our awareness of security issues,” he says. “PSN business bounced back to the level prior to the closure,” he said. “In summary, PSN business is very smooth over the last 12 months. Our challenge is the growth strategy in the future.”
1:13: Kawano talking up how PlayStation Vita will be a more connected console, and how this will be important to growth of PSN. “SNS based free gaming services are expanding,” he says. “Play styles are getting diversified. Casual games are widening the user base.”
1:15: Showing an introductory video for PlaySation Vita. Showing the menus, various games, etc. Showing Monster Hunter being played, of course, although that could just be the PSP version…
1:17: The price of the Vita has not changed, Kawano says. 29,980 yen for 3G, 24,980 yen for Wi-Fi only. Time for launch date info: Saturday December 17, in Japan.
1:20: More details about the 3G functions. Who will be the 3G data plan partner for Japan? It’s… NTT DoCoMo.
1:21: Kiyoyuki Tsujimura, president of NTT DoCoMo, takes the stage for a handshake photo op with Kawano.
1:22: He’s talking up the “pre-paid data plan” that NTT will have for PS Vita. A “simple” plan for users.
1:24: This is going to get a little confusing but here is the slide with the data plan pricing and limits. You’ll be able to buy 20 hours of PS Vita online time for 980 yen, and this apparently will be limited to 64 kbps. You’ll be able to buy 100 hours of PS Vita online time for 4980 yen, and this will get you either 100 hours of 64 kbps access or 3 hours of 5.7 mbps high-speed access.
I’m sure this will be more accurately detailed later.
1:26: Next slide says you can use 3G with PS Vita, or with the “cloud” or along with a “smartphone/tablet.” I don’t really know what this means.
1:27: Tsujimura leaves the stage.
1:28: It’s not that smartphones are competing with PS Vita, Kawano says; Sony is collaborating with them. (I’m still not quite sure what all that was about. Hopefully this will be explained in greater depth later.)
1:30: Kawano has some trouble getting a demo PS Vita unit to boot up on stage. He does it, though. He is walking us through what you do when you first boot up a PS Vita and connect to the 3G network. He is cautioning us that he is not actually connecting to 3G, this is just a demonstration of what it will be like.
1:34: Now that we are done watching Kawano enter his date of birth into the PS Vita, another SCEJ dude is on stage showing us some of the apps built into the Vita. He has adorable corgi pics on his home screen. You get out of the standby screen by peeling your wallpaper off the screen with your finger, like a sticker. Very cool little touch.
1:36: We’re watching some videos. Now we’re listening to music from the music player, viewing photos, etc.
1:37: When you want to close a window, you “peel” the corner off like a sticker. I like this. Now we’re going into Welcome Park, which has more applications. There’s one game in which you tap numbers on the screen — pretty much just to teach people how to use the touch screen, apparently. There’s a photo puzzle app where you take a pic of your face and make a jigsaw puzzle out of it.
1:40: There’s a lot more system software, and this guy would like to tell us about each and every one of them in excruciating detail.
1:40: You can connect PS Vita with a PS3 or a PC, which will have “content manager” software that will let you store and extract data from your home hardware. There’s a friends list for existing PSN accounts.
1:43: I think we are almost through hearing about the PS Vita’s options menu.
1:44: They are showing photos and names of developers who are working on PS Vita, then whisking the photos off the screen before you have the chance to see who they are. “The economy is slowing down, but if you ask me what kind of business model will revitalize the economy, I’m confident that Japan’s game industry will be able to play that important role,” Kawano says.
1:46: The cherub-faced Yoshinori Ono from Capcom comes on stage and jokes about how long we’ve all been sitting here and maybe we should get up and stretch. He says he’s not here to talk about Street Fighter x Tekken. He’s got a new announcement.
1:47: He pulls a Vita from deep inside his pants, and it is running Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. It will come out on December 17 alongside the hardware, Ono says.
1:48: All the modes from the PS3 fighting game will be in the Vita version, he says. Using the PS Vita network, all players across the world can fight. There will be a touch-screen control mode and it will use the built-in “Near” GPS app for some unexplained feature.
1:50: “Regarding Vita, we have one key word, which is community,” Ono says. You’ll be able to play the games over 3G and Wi-Fi, and connect to other players in various ways.
1:53: Both of these games are playable at TGS, he says. Kawano returns to the stage.
1:55: Nearly one hour into the conference, the first video of a videogame being played. It is to show that Toro and Kuro, the little cats from Sony’s Doko Demo Issho games, will be in SF vs. Tekken to get brutally beaten up on by the martial artists.
1:56: Square Enix executive Hashimoto comes on stage. Two games for PS Vita are in the works. The first is “Lord of Apocalypse,” an action RPG. This will be out at the same time as PS Vita, December 17. The second game is called “Army Corps of Hell.” You have to fight large groups of monsters in order to regain “the hegemony of hell.” This will also come out on the launch date of PS Vita.
1:58: Two more games to talk about today: FInal Fantasy Type-0 for PSP will be out on October 27, and Final Fantasy XIII-2 for PS3 will come out in December.
2:00: They’re doing a Final Fantasy X remake in HD apparently. They’re doing it for PS3 and PS Vita.
2:03: “I’m sorry we could not show you anything” of these launch games that are coming out in a couple months, Hashimoto says. That is kind of weird now that he mentions it, yes. Oh, it’s Hideo Kojima!
2:04: HE IS TALKING ABOUT TRANSFARRING
2:05: Kojima is going over previous announcements of the Metal Gear HD remakes for PS3. Also, he’ll release the PS2 HD remakes for PS Vita in 2012, he says.
2:07: Zone of the Enders HD remakes are also coming to PS Vita in 2012. The message so far seems to be “We hope you like ports and PS2 games.” Kojima is talking about transfarring [sic] data from PS3 to PS Vita. They’re working on the Fox Engine, developing at the same time for PS3 and PS Vita. They’re working on a title with the “same launch date of the new gaming device.” An original game, he cannot disclose the title now. “When the time is right, I’d like to show you how you can enjoy transfarring, and what is the look and feel of the new title.”
2:10: “This is the only portable device that allows the core functionality,” says Kojima. What he means is that 3DS is not for core gamers, apparently. He exits.
2:11: Kawano now wants to introduce “various titles that will broaden the possibility of games.” Masami Yamamoto from Sony’s Japan game studio takes the stage. With Hot Shots Golf 6, the ‘values of competition” will be changed by connectivity — there will be a “daily national competition” for players of this golf game.
2:14: There’s a new game called “Yuusha no Kiroku” which is based on the “Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman!” series, it’s a daily calendar game that turns your day to day schedules into tasks in a game. So it’s a gamification app. There’s a “friend network” called “Everyone Together” based on Doko Demo Issho. It integrates your PSN social graph — looks kind of like Mii Plaza, where your avatars all hang out.
2:19: An executive from Nico Nico Douga, the Japanese YouTube style site, is here to tell us something. PS Vita will have built in support for Nico Nico videos.
2:21: In 2012, you’ll be able to do Nico Nico uploading and broadcasting from your PS Vita. Later in the year, you’ll apparently be able to to live streaming broadcasts of your game playing.
2:25: The Nico Nico part is over. Who will come on stage next? Oh, Kawano is now going to talk about the number and specific names of the launch titles. 26 launch titles. He’s running through them very, very fast. Uncharted, Ridge Racer, BlazBlue Extend, Army Corps of Hell. Katamari Damacy no Vita is also shown on screen, just a logo.
2:30: As many as 100 games will be launched soon after the hardware comes out. They’re showing massive lists of games, way too much to write down. Finally, Kawano will talk about PSP title support. “If you have the UMD software, so as to respond from the request from our customers, we are considering special download versions of UMD software.” Sony will announce more about this in the future.
2:33: Apparently you’ll get 100 free hours of 3G for the first 500,000 units of PS Vita sold. Pre-orders start October 15. There will be a lot of accessories available that day.
2:36: Sony will have a national tour in Japan to let people get their hands on Vita. And now, time for closing remarks. That’s it for the conference!
All photos: Robert Gilhooly/Wired.com