Gamers can connect over cellphone networks and Wi-Fi hotspots, and use GPS location-tracking technology. Television footage showed some shoppers unwrapping their new purchases and starting to try them out at the store. "I'm so happy to see so many people lining up for PS Vita so early in the morning," Sony Computer Entertainment Japan President Hiroshi Kono wrote in his official blog after touring several Tokyo stores.
"I can tell they had anxiously waited for today's launch." For the Tokyo-based electronics and entertainment giant, the Vita is the biggest product launch since the PlayStation 3 console five years ago. It's also accompanied by two dozen software products — the largest number of launch titles in PlayStation history. The Vita has front and back cameras, a touchscreen in front, a touch pad on the back and two knob-like joysticks. It will enable gamers to play against each other using PlayStation 3 consoles over the Internet-based PlayStation Network, a system that was hit with a massive hacking attack earlier this year.
Nintendo ended up slashing prices on the 3DS within six months. The companies are challenged by the rise of smartphones and tablets, through which casual gamers play inexpensive and simple games like the mega-hit "Angry Birds." According to gaming magazine publisher Enterbrain Inc., the market for home-use video game consoles, including both handheld devices and standalones, fell by about 30 percent in 2010 from 2007, when sales peaked at about 688 billion yen.
In contrast, the market for online games for mobile phones hit about 320 billion yen in 2010, double what it was four years previously. Along with the proliferation of smartphones, which have larger display screens than cell phones, a growing number of people are playing games on social networking sites, with most titles exclusive to mobile phones. In Social Networking Site (SNS) games, people who have never met can play games in match or cooperative mode. Sony's older PSP models had no function to access networks via mobile phone lines, and consequently their online features were lacking. While the Vita device has the telecommunication function, only 24 game titles were available at the time of its release.
Yohei Yoshimuta, a 23-year-old software developer, graduated from Keio University's graduate school this past spring. He was recruited by game developer Gree Inc., signing a contract that could see him earning a salary as high as 10 million yen. Yoshimuta said that because the programming of SNS game software is relatively simple, "developers can easily demonstrate their skills by, for example, refining an SNS game, even after its release." This past spring, a famous software developer who worked on the popular video game series Final Fantasy left major game producer Square Enix Co. for Gree. A key factor in regaining the former glory of video game consoles will be whether the software producers can mitigate the flow of talented developers to the makers of the popular SNS games.
The PS Vita goes on sale in North America and Europe on Feb. 22.
(The Daily Yomiuri Online)