Sony Vita handheld to go on sale in Japan on Dec. 17

Sony's new flagship handheld console will debut in time for the holiday season in Japan with a 3G version and 26 game titles.

Sony said Wednesday that its PlayStation Vita portable game console will go on sale Dec. 17 in Japan, with 26 game titles and a 3G version that will run on NTT DoCoMo's network.

The Vita will debut with a smattering of software designed to take advantage of its camera, network connectivity, and controls, including a touchpad on its back. Initial offerings include a version of the game "Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom" from Capcom, networked role playing and golf games, and an application that lets Vita users interact with popular Japanese video site Nico Nico Douga.

Hiroshi Kawano, President of Sony Computer Entertainment Japan, emphasized his company's cooperation with game designers at the event, referring to them as "like treasure" at a news conference in Tokyo.

"Sony wants to collaborate with these individuals and revitalize the industry," he said.

The initial set of 26 games introduced Monday was largely devoid of major titles, though Kawano said another 74 were under development, including games from established lines like Metal Gear Solid from Konami and Final Fantasy from Square Unix.

Sony's ability to quickly field a strong lineup for its new flagship handheld game console is crucial. Main rival Nintendo stumbled with the launch of its 3DS earlier this year, in large part due to a lack of compelling titles, and was forced to slash prices less than six months after launch by up to 40 percent worldwide.

Sony has refused to follow suit and cut its prices prior to launch, and reiterated Wednesday the Vita will cost 24,980 yen (US$324) for a Wi-fi only model and 29,980 yen (US$390) for a version with 3G and Wi-fi. NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest mobile carrier, will also charge for the use of its network for the 3G models, offering plans including one for 4,980 yen (US$65) for 103 hours of connected time.

The company is also emphasizing the networked functions of the Vita, showing a feature that will eventually let gamers play from where they left off on their PlayStation home consoles, as well as an application from Nico Nico that will allow Vita users to broadcast a game live and allow others to post comments during game play.

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