The competition in portable gaming is almost certain to intensify in Japan, ahead of the rest of the world, during the year-end shopping season.
The launch of the PlayStation Vita coincides with Japanese rival Nintendo Co. going on the offensive with new game titles for its portable 3DS, which did not go on sale in time for last year's holidays.
Sony has already said the Vita won't be ready in the U.S. or Europe until next year. The company did not give overseas sales dates, and said such details were undecided.
Hiroshi Kawano, head of Sony Corp.'s gaming unit, Sony Computer Entertainment, announced a Japan tie-up with major mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo for the PlayStation Vita, including a prepaid data reception plan of a 100 hours at 4,980 yen ($65).
In an effort to woo buyers, Kawano said 100 hours of free playing on the 3G mobile network will be offered with the first 500,000 purchase of Vita machines.
During his nearly two hour presentation at a Tokyo event hall, Kawano repeatedly stressed Sony was serious about pushing the Vita, which he said was targeting casual gamers playing on cellphones as well as hard-core fans who own PlayStation 3 home consoles.
He acknowledged a view in the gaming industry that energy was running low, but he said he was determined to make Vita a chance for growth.
"I believe the gaming industry can help bring a revival," he said, referring to the lagging overall Japanese economy.
In the past, Nintendo, which makes Super Mario and Pokemon games, has beaten Sony offerings in portables.
Nintendo has sold nearly 150 million DS handheld machines, outpacing the Sony PlayStation Portable at 71 million. Both machines went on sale in 2004.
But Nintendo's latest offering, the 3DS, which features glasses-free 3-D imagery, has gotten off to a relatively slow start, at 4.32 million sold so far around the world.
Appearing at a presentation Tuesday for the 3DS, the usually boastful Nintendo President Satoru Iwata said the company needs to do more to attract women to the 3DS, as that hasn't happened as it has with the DS and Wii home console.
Nintendo has already slashed the price of its 3DS. Starting last month, it cost 15,000 yen in Japan, down from 25,000. In the U.S., the price dropped to $169.99 from $249.99.
The PlayStation Vita will cost $249 in the U.S., and 24,980 yen in Japan, for a Wi-Fi only version, and $299 and 29,980 yen for a version that will also have a cellphone service.
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