The next-generation PlayStation Portable, known as the PlayStation Vita, was announced at this year’s E3 conference on Monday. The new handheld includes new features such as a 5-inch OLED touch screen display and analog sticks that work as controllers.
Sony went to great lengths to explain the reasoning behind the "Vita" name:
“Vita”, which means “Life” in Latin, was chosen as the most appropriate name for the next generation portable entertainment system as it enables a revolutionary combination of rich gaming and social connectivity within a real world context. SCE is aiming to transform every aspect of user’s daily life into an entertainment experience.
Gameplay itself is also fairly different from what’re used to on earlier consoles: the new analog sticks allow for better precision, the new touch-screen, along with a touch pad on the back, gives gamers a 3D-like experience (although it’s important to stress that the display on the Vita is not 3D), allowing them to “touch, grab, trace, push and pull”, as Sony put it. The new device will also include a gyroscope and accelerometer, yet another way to control the game. This new form of gameplay is, in my opinion, an attempt to compete with gaming capabilities in iOS devices, which have taken the casual gaming world by storm, while at the same time appeal to Sony’s loyal fan base.
Aside from its own games, Vita will be able to play older PSP games using a built-in emulator. Lower-resolution games will be up-scaled and their graphics smoothened on the fly, without user intervention.
Sony’s new device will also have two social features. "Near" uses the system’s location service to display the games users nearby have played recently, as well as exchange virtual game-related items, such as such as character costumes, weapons, and treasures; and "Party", a new service that will allow voice and text chatting between PlayStation users, across the whole operating system, even within games or the console’s built-in web browser.
Software-wise, Vita includes a revamped interface, known as LiveArea, to take advantage of the new touch controls.
The console sports a quad-core ARM Cortex A9, front and rear cameras, built-in stereo microphone and speakers, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, a PlayStation Vita card slot, an SD card slot, and a multi-purpose port for data and accessory communications. The Wi-Fi-only version will be available for $249 in the US, and a 3G version will be selling for $299. Both devices will start selling at the end of this year.