Sony's successor to the PlayStation Portable, codenamed the Next Generation Portable or NGP for short. It will make use of a multi-touch screen much like the iPhone, though with traditional controls in addition. It will also continue on with the portable Augmented Reality concept first used by the PSP. It debuted at the beginning of 2011 in a private press conference by Sony and the official name (Vita) was bestowed to the system at E3 2011.
With their two most recent systems falling below expectations in terms of sales, they decided to pull out all the stops with:
- Instead of using the highly custom console technology that the Play Station 3 uses, the Vita uses common smartphone technology. This makes game development easier, considering most developers are already familiar to the technology and they are able to use assets from existing hardware ranging from home consoles to smartphones.
- This is the first widely-available dual analog handheld, addressing a flaw experienced on the PSP.
- In reaction to the growing small casual downloadable game market (such as iOS and Android), Vita features are similar to smartphones, such as a touch screen and motion sensor. Sony will also provide PS Suite, which will allow users connectivity between the Vita and a smartphone/tablet.
- Third party (especially western) support is expected to be big, ranging from big publishers such as EA to small indie developers. (Japan, where the PSP was far more successful, is already all-in.)
- The Vita is Sony's first system to use flashcards instead of optical disks for game distribution, which hopefully removes long loading times and increases battery life. Game flashcards are currently able to hold up to 16GB of information.
- The price is $249 for the wi-fi only model and $299 for the model with 3G support.
This is of course in addition to the system's pure power. Hands on impressions with the handheld from E3 say its output is almost as good as the Play Station 3.
Another feature of the hardware is the inclusion of a touch-sensitive pad on the back of the system. The first application was shown at the debut of the system demonstrating Nathan Drake of Uncharted climbing a vine. Sliding your fingers down the touch pad would cause Nate to ascend the vine. The system also sports an OLED screen (which is normally seen in smartphones) at four times the resolution of the PSP.
The PS Vita is stated to have a battery life of 3 - 5 hours depending on the system's settings, although many users are reporting a shorter battery life of 2 hours and a half. However, an external battery, available at the western launch, will increase that time to 15 hours of nonstop play at full settings.
The console doesn't have internal memory, it must be bought separately, in the format of a Sony Memory Stick, a new type of memory stick which so far is exclusive for the Vita; the PRO and DUO Memory Sticks used by the PSP won't work on it.
Additionally, the system supports Hideo Kojima's new pet project, Transfarring, allowing gamers to take up and continue their console games on their Vita using the same save file. Sony itself is working on a similar ability called "Continuous Play," that allows cloud-based storage of up to 1MB for each game and can be accessed online from anywhere.
Since it's unveiling on E3 2011, the system has been almost universally praised by the critics who've tried it.
Some early adopters experienced some issues (though not serious ones) with the Vita at launch, though Sony has released a firmware update to fix the problem.
When it was released in Japan, on December 17th, 2011, it did well for a week but lost 3/4ths of its sales numbers the next, being outsold the week of Christmas not just by its main competition, the Nintendo 3DS, but by the original PSP as well. And numbers have only declined since then. The international releases at the end of February tripled the total number of Vitas in consumer hands (400K sold as of the 31 Dec '11; 1.2mil sold as of 28 Feb '21), but considering the declines in Japan, it's the post-launch numbers everyone's interested in, and no such figures have yet been reported.