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Sony unveils new handheld video game console

David Gura Feb 21, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: Sony’s going to release its latest gizmo tomorrow. The Playstation Vita goes on sale in the U.S. and Europe. It’s the successor to the PSP, the Playstation Portable. That is, it’s a handheld game console with a five-inch touchscreen, motion sensors and two cameras. But when everybody and their grandma already has tablets and smartphones with big touch screens, motion sensors and cameras — who really needs a Playstation Vita?

Marketplace’s David Gura reports.

David Gura: These days, you can play video games pretty much anywhere. Jesse Divnich is an analyst with EEDAR.

Jesse Divnich: In the elevator, in the office, or at home.  

Or even in a radio studio.

Divnich: So it really comes down to the experience you’re looking for.

Divnich says games designed for tablets and smart phones are fun and addictive, but they’re way different from the kind of games made for Xbox 360 and Wii. They’re much more sophisticated. What’s “Angry Birds,” by comparison?

Divnich: A bite-sized snack of entertainment.

Sony is going after gamers who want more than just a snack. They want vivid, single-player games — a 12-course dinner to go. These are young men with disposable incomes, living in and around big cities.

Carl Howe does consumer research for The Yankee Group.

Carl Howe: They’ve got to tap into the die-hard gamers and convince them that this is going to give them something better than what they’re going to get on their phone.  And that’s a tall order.

Especially when the low-end model costs $250. Howe says he’s skeptical the Playstation Vita will be as successful as the PSP. Sony sold more than 60 million of those worldwide. But the Vita looks pretty sleek — it has two joysticks, a touch pad on the back.

Howe: High-resolution graphics, accelerated 3D, 30 frames per second. This is not some second-order video game experience.

Sony is trying to make that case with a $50 million marketing campaign, hoping that, if it’s successful, gamers will open their wallets and find room in their already-packed pockets for one more device.

I’m David Gura for Marketplace.

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