Sony's PSP successor, PlayStation Vita, will only be released in Japan in 2011, with US and European customers forced to wait until early 2012.
Executive vice president Kaz Hirai revealed the news at a press conference at Sony's Tokyo headquarters, according to AP. He declined to give specific release dates – more news is expected at Cologne's Gamescom later this month, and the Tokyo Game Show in September – and also denied that the price would be cut in response to Nintendo's decision to slash the price of the 3DS.
Prior to Nintendo's announcement, the entry-level Vita model, which supports WiFi but not 3G, was set to launch in the US at $249.99, the same price as the 3DS. With Nintendo cutting that price by a third, to $169.99, from next week, many wondered whether Sony would follow suit.
"We packed so much into the device and made it very affordable," Hirai said. "There is no need to lower the price just because somebody else that happens to be in the videogame business decided that they were going to lower [their] price."
While Hirai's confirmation that the Vita will not be seen in the US and Europe until next year is disappointing, it is not exactly surprising. While Sony said at E3 that Vita would be released this year, it has been managing expectations ever since the device was first unveiled in January with a vague release date of "holiday 2011".
SCEA president Jack Tretton said in January that the company's choice of words was "ambiguous for a reason…It's very difficult to have the quantities to be able to launch on a worldwide basis on the same date." In April, he said the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami was "maybe the straw that says maybe we only get to just one market by the end of the year."
As such Hirai was correct in his claim that this does not constitute a delay for the device; instead, he said it was to ensure a strong launch line-up in all territories. The failure to release worldwide before the end of the year, however, gives Nintendo's 3DS a clear run at Christmas.
With Sony's new handheld missing out on the most lucrative sales period of the year, and Nintendo set to release 3DS versions of Super Mario Bros and Super Mario Kart before the year is out, Vita's delay has at one made Nintendo's job a little easier and Sony's a little harder. The firm will doubtless hope that the sluggish 3DS sales were solely a reflection of its launch price, rather than symptomatic of a general decline in interest in gaming handhelds following the rapid rise of smartphones.