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Sony seeks to change the subject with launch of Playstation Vita

Doug Gross
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Sony introduces Playstation Vita
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Device will have 5-inch touch screen, cameras, touch pads and a pair of mounted joysticks
  • Launch marks Sony's biggest advance in the handheld gaming space since Sony PSP in 2006
  • Sony's U.S. president called recent outage of Playstation Network "elephant in the room"
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Los Angeles (CNN) -- After weeks of headlines about the outage of its hacker-compromised online gaming system, Sony on Monday looked to change the conversation with Playstation Vita, a machine they say will "revolutionize" handheld game play.

The gaming system, which will be available by this year's holiday season, marries advances in portable gaming with the Playstation's longstanding gaming pedigree, said Sony president of consumer products Kazuo Hirai.

"Playstation Vita will revolutionize the portable entertainment experience," he said. "It is an experience you really need to see and feel to believe."

The Vita was unveiled as part of Sony's presentation on the eve of the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, which officially begins Tuesday.

The device will have a 5-inch touch screen and feature front and back-mounted cameras and touch pads in addition to a pair of mounted joysticks. The system will let players use any, or all, of those controls during a game.

With more than 80 titles already in development, according to Sony, the Vita will offer cross-platform play, letting players continue some games between the Vita and the Playstation or, in some cases, even play multiplayer games against others using either a Vita or Playstation.

The Wi-Fi only version will sell for $249 and a 3G model, with exclusive AT&T service, will be $299.

The Vita, which Sony had been calling the NGP (next-generation portable) before its official unveiling, marks the company's biggest advance in the handheld gaming space since it introduced the Sony PSP in 2006.

It doesn't feature 3D gaming, like rival Nintendo's 3DS, which was rolled out at last year's E3. But Hirai teased that the dual cameras will be used in another emerging video-game space -- augmented reality.

"With Playstation Vita, the whole world really is in play," he said.

John Davidson, of gaming website GameSpot, liked what he saw of the Vita after an early look, calling its visual fidelity "remarkable."

"Definitely closer to handheld 'HD' experience than previous handhelds," he said in an email to CNN.

Jack Tretton, president of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, didn't waste time Monday addressing the hacker-caused outage that had the Playstation Network down for the better part of a month for most players.

He called it the "elephant in the room" and thanked gamers for staying loyal during the down time.

"You are the lifeblood of this company. Without you there is no Playstation," Tretton said. "I want to apologize, both personally and on behalf of the company, for any anxiety we caused you.

"I know we took you away from what you enjoy most ... and it is you that causes us both to be humble and amazed at the amount of dedication and support you continue to give to the Playstation brand."

Noting the weeks of negative headlines, he jokingly said "you're welcome" to members of the media. He said that more than 90 percent of users have returned to the online network, which saw its online store returned last week.

Sony also kept up the push for 3-D gaming Monday by taking on what's been considered one of the key stumbling blocks to its success: Price.

Acknowledging that the cost of 3-D television remains prohibitive for many gamers, Tretton announced that Sony will be making a Playstation-branded 3-D console that will sell, along with a set of 3-D glasses and the upcoming 3-D game "Resistance 3," for $499.

The 24-inch console, which can also be used to watch 3-D movies and television, offers a split-screen mode for multi-player gaming.

"We know that gaming is going to drive 3-D adoption," Tretton said.

Among the upcoming games Sony featured, the two that got the most attention were "Uncharted: Drake's Deception" and "Bioshock: Infinite."

Both will be available for the Playstation and Vita.