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Sony Announces New Portable Device At E3 Conference

June 7, 2011

At the E3 conference in Los Angeles today, Sony unveiled its next generation portable game device called PlayStation Vita.

Vita features GPS location tracking, touch interface and motion sensing capabilities to enhance the gaming experience.

Vita will be available in stores before the holiday buying season.

Company executives are calling the device Sony’s biggest product launch since the PlayStation 3 five years ago. PlayStation Vita will allow gamers to be connected with one another over cellphone networks and Wi-Fi hotspots.

In the US, Sony is partnering exclusively with AT&T Inc. for cellphone service. This comment drew audible disapproval from members of the audience as many people believe that AT&T provides poor connectivity, Reuters reports.

The device, will retail for $249 for its Wi-Fi-only version, and an upgraded version will have cellphone service will retail for $299, and buyers will have to subscribe to a cellular data plan. Vita is aimed at taking on Apple’s iPod Touch and the ever-growing crowd of smartphones and tablets that play games.

PlayStation Vita also features a front and back camera, a touchscreen in front, a touch pad on the back, an accelerometer and two knob-like joysticks.

It will enable gamers to play against people using PlayStation 3 consoles over the internet-based PlayStation Network, a system that was recently restored after being shut down due to a massive hacking attack.

“PlayStation Vita will revolutionize the portable entertainment experience,” Kazuo Hirai, group chief executive officer of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc., told a crowd of 6,000 at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. “The whole world is really in play.”

The Vita is only slightly larger than the PlayStation Portable, which has sold more than 70 million units worldwide since its launch in 2004. The PSP will continue to be sold along with new games.

Head of Sony’s US video games division Jack Tretton, apologized to users of the network and software makers over the recent hacking scandal that has plagued the PlayStation network, but joked that media should thank Sony for providing a story.

He added that activity on the PlayStation network was back up to 90 percent of what it had been before the security breach and that last week’s PlayStation sales were up 27 percent on a year earlier.

“We learned a lot during the recent outage of PlayStation Network,” Hirai said. “One of the most important things we learned was about the trust and loyalty of our customers.”

With connectivity as one of the primary selling points of the new system, restoring services quickly was seen as essential. For serious gamers, the ability to take up games where they left off, even while they are away from home, could be a key differentiation point from main rival Microsoft, which does not offer a portable device.

Sony is also aiming at Nintendo and the 3D game market with the release of a 3D display, which will come packaged with an HDMI cable and a copy of the upcoming Resistance 3 game.

Stealing a good bit of Sony’s thunder earlier in the day, BBC News reports, was Apple’s announcement of upcoming software and features for its portable products at the WWDC developer conference. Apple claimed that its iOS system, which runs on iPhones, iPad and iPods was the most popular gaming platform on the planet.

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