E3 2011: Sony unveils new portable console, PlayStation Vita
Looking to get past its woes with rogue hackers who continue to wreak havoc with its computer networks, Sony on Monday night unveiled its upcoming portable console, which it dubbed PlayStation Vita, at the E3 video game convention in Los Angeles.
Jack Tretton, the head of Sony's PlayStation business in North America, defused a potential public- relations bomb by addressing the "elephant in the room" at the opening of the company's presentation to thousands of journalists, game developers and retailers who attended the Sony's news conference at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
"I want to apologize both personally and on behalf of my company," said Tretton, who reported that the PlayStation Network, an online service for PlayStation 3 console users, was back up to 90% of its activity before hackers infiltrated the system and stole the account information of tens of millions of customers.
The brief apology seemed to suffice as the audience's attention turned to the PlayStation Vita, a portable game console that boasts a 5-inch ultra-high contrast OLED front display, a touch pad in the back and two cameras to support augmented reality games. The device is a successor to the PlayStation Portable, of which more than 70 million units have been sold since it was first introduced in 2004.
Sony, which expects to begin shipping Vita for the holidays, priced a version with the ability to connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi at $250. A version that can also tap into cellular 3G service will cost $300.
Although Sony may have been able to sidestep the PSN-outage land mine, it inadvertently tripped a different bomb when it announced the service provider for the Vita. Loud boos from the audience greeted the news that Sony had selected AT&T as the device's exclusive carrier, lighting up a tinder box of consumer resentment and frustration with the cellphone service.
Despite the sour note, Sony moved on to present a rash of game titles for the new console, which has 80 games in development from numerous developers, including Capcom, Sega, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft Entertainment and THQ.
Another device that drew approving nods from the audience was a 24-inch 3-D screen that can display two separate images to two people looking at the same screen. The feature, which works by flashing separate images to players wearing Sony's active-shutter 3-D glasses, would allow two players involved in the same multi-player game to see only their perspective of the game. Currently, such games have to split the screen in half to give each player a different view of what he or she is are doing.
Slated for sale this fall, the $500 screen would come bundled with 3-D glasses, an HDMI cable to connect the display to a game console and the upcoming Resistance 3 game.
Despite some market skepticism regarding 3-D, Sony continues to push the technology.
"Our commitment to 3-D is unwavering," Tretton said.
-- Alex Pham
Photo: The PlayStation Vita handheld console, set to go on sale this fall. Credit: Sony Corp.