PlayStation Vita enjoys great first week. Is it enough?

The PlayStation Vita, the newest handheld from Sony, is due on shelves in the States in 2012. In Japan, the Vita is already off and running.  

The PlayStation Vita, the new handheld from Sony, is expected to hit shelves in the US in February of 2012.

The PlayStation Vita – competitor to the Nintendo 3DS, and successor to the Sony PSP – isn't slated to hit shelves in the US until February. But in Japan, the Vita has already launched, and according to the analytics firm Enterbrain, the device is off to a strong start. In a press release this week, Enterbrain estimated that Sony had unloaded 321,000 Vita units in two days, just shy of the 371,000 3DS units sold by Nintendo over the same time period. 

The Vita, more so than the 3DS, is a graphical powerhouse, intended to appeal to committed gamers. As Sony exec Shuhei Yoshida told Eurogamer earlier this year, "if you are a very casual person who might just want to kill time as you're waiting for your train, you might not need a dedicated, big game experience. But if you like games, if you really love games, you would want to play the kind of games you like, even on the portable." 

Among the niceties on the Vita are a 5-inch OLED touch screen, a 4-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor, the Sixaxis motion sensing system and a three-axis electronic compass. In the US, the Vita will sell at two price points: $250 for a Wi-Fi-only version or $300 for a 3G version. In an early hands-on with the device, the CNET team called the Vita "dazzling." 

The question, of course, is whether even a "dazzling" gaming portable will be able to grab lasting market traction in 2012. Many users increasingly prefer to play portable games on their tablets or smart phones, calling into question the very concept of a committed gaming device (to say nothing of a committed gaming device that costs 300 bucks with 3G monthly payments). 

Consider the Nintendo 3DS, which debuted in the US in late March to generally favorable reviews. By June, however Nintendo had managed to unload only 710,000 3DS units – far short of expectations – and in late July, in an effort to work up some excitement in the device, Nintendo dropped the price on its 3DS from $249 to $169. It was, one pundit quipped, the "fastest post-launch price drop (by one-third) ever."

Sales are reportedly up – Nintendo execs have promised the 3DS has "good momentum" going into the holidays – but thus far, the 3DS has fallen far short of the DS, the insanely popular handheld launched by Nintendo in 2004. 

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