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The PlayStation Vita (PS Vita, or Vita) is a handheld game console developed and marketed by Sony Interactive Entertainment. It was first released in Japan on December 17, 2011, and in North America, Europe, and other international territories beginning on February 22, 2012. The console is the successor to the PlayStation Portable, and a part of the PlayStation brand of gaming devices; as part of the eighth generation of video game consoles, it primarily competed with the Nintendo 3DS.
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The original model of the handheld includes a 5-inch (130 mm) OLED multi-touch capacitive touchscreen, two analog joysticks, and front and shoulder push-button input, and supports Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and optional 3G. The Vita features a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore CPU and a quad-core SGX543MP GPU. The PS Vita 2000 series, a revised version of the system, was released across 2013 and 2014. It has all of the same features with a slightly smaller size, extended battery life, and an LCD screen instead of OLED. Sony released the PlayStation TV, a short-lived, re-purposed version of the Vita that uses a television screen like a home video game console, discontinued at the end of 2015. As of 2023, it is Sony's last handheld console.
The Vita's design was intended to meld the experience of big-budget, dedicated video game platforms with the then up-and-coming trend of mobile gaming as seen on smart phones and tablets. However, in the year after the device's successful launch, sales of the hardware and its bigger budget games stalled, threatening to end its lifespan. A concentrated effort to attract smaller independent developers in the West, combined with strong support from mid-level Japanese companies, helped keep the platform afloat. Though this led to less diversity in its game library, it strengthened support in JRPGs, visual novels, and Western-developed indie games. This built moderate sales in Japan and a smaller yet passionate userbase in the West. Though Sony has not released exact sales figures, late-lifespan sales estimates are around 15 to 16 million units. In the platform's later years, Sony promoted the PlayStation Vita's ability to work in conjunction with its other gaming products, such as Remote Play of PlayStation 4 games, similar to the Wii U's function of Off-TV Play.
While the Vita hosted several acclaimed titles and built a small but loyal and passionate fanbase, the system is regarded as a commercial failure, with a lack of support from Sony and major third-party developers along with competition from the significantly more successful Nintendo 3DS and smart devices noted as major factors. Production of the system and physical game cards in the West ended in March 2019, with Sony having no plans for a successor.
After the success of Nintendo's Game Boy family of handheld game consoles throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, with little market competition, and Sony's massive success with its PlayStation and PlayStation 2 home video game consoles around the same time, Sony entered the handheld market as well. In 2004, it released the PlayStation Portable (PSP) to compete with the Nintendo DS as part of the seventh generation of video game consoles. After a slow start in the worldwide market, it was invigorated in Japan with multiple releases in the Monster Hunter series. With the series being less popular in western regions, it failed to revive the platform in the same way. The PSP ended up being a mixed result for the company. It was seen as a success in that it was the only handheld video game platform that had ever significantly competed with Nintendo for market share, with almost 80 million units sold in its lifespan, roughly the same amount as Nintendo's Game Boy Advance had during the sixth generation of video game consoles. This is only a little more than half of the sales of its actual market competitor, the DS, which was more than 150 million units by the end of 2011.
Rumors of a successor to the PSP came as early as July 2009 when Eurogamer reported that Sony was working on such a device, which would utilize the PowerVR SGX543MP processor and perform at a level similar to the original Xbox. Through mid-2010, websites continued to run stories about accounts of the existence of a "PSP 2". Reports arose during the Tokyo Game Show that the device was unveiled internally during a private meeting during mid-September held at Sony Computer Entertainment's headquarters in Aoyama, Tokyo. Shortly after, reports of development kits for the handheld had reportedly already been shipped to numerous video game developers including both first-party and third-party developers to start making games for the device, a report later confirmed by Mortal Kombat Executive Producer Shaun Himmerick. By November, Senior Vice President of Electronic Arts, Patrick Soderlund, confirmed that he had seen that the PlayStation Portable successor existed, but could not confirm details. In the same month, VG247 released pictures of an early prototype version showing a PSP Go-like slide-screen design along with two analog sticks, two cameras and a microphone, though the report mentioned that overheating issues had since caused them to move away from the design in favor of a model more similar to the original PlayStation Portable device.
Throughout 2010, Sony would not confirm these reports of a PSP successor, but would make comments regarding making future hardware. Shuhei Yoshida, President of SCE Worldwide Studios revealed that his studio, despite usually being more involved with software, had a continued role in future hardware development at the time. In December, Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Kazuo Hirai stated that Sony aimed to appeal to a wide demographic of people by using multiple input methods on future hardware; buttons and joysticks for traditional handheld game system users, and touchscreens for smart phone users. The device was officially announced by Sony on January 27, 2011, at their "PlayStation Meeting" press conference held by the company in Japan. The system, only known by its code name "Next Generation Portable", was announced to be a handheld gaming device that aimed for PlayStation 3 quality visuals, which was later clarified to not be taken at a literal level because, according to David Coombes, platform research manager at Sony Computer Entertainment America, "Well, it's not going to run at 2 GHz [like the PS3] because the battery would last five minutes and it would probably set fire to your pants". Its power was later described by Sony engineers as about halfway between the PSP and PS3. As rumors had suggested, the device was designed to present "the best of both worlds" between mobile and handheld gaming, including a 5-inch OLED touchscreen, a rear touchpad coupled with physical buttons and dual analog sticks. Sony also revealed that the device would be using a mix of retail and digital distribution of games. Further details were announced at Game Developers Conference 2011, including that Sony would be dropping the PSP's UMD disc format in favor of small game cartridges of 2 GB or 4 GB size variants. along with two cameras, facial detection, head detection and tracking capabilities.
On June 6, 2011, at E3 2011, Sony announced that the device's official name would be the PlayStation Vita, with the word "vita" being Latin for "life". Despite reports of the 2011 earthquakes in Japan delaying the release of the device, Sony reconfirmed that it was on track for a late 2011 release in Japan and a February 2012 release date for other major regions of the world. The release date was later narrowed down to a December 17, 2011, release in Japan, and a February 22, 2012 release date for America and Europe, although a limited edition was released a week earlier in North America on February 15, 2012, which included the 3G/WiFi model of the device, the game Little Deviants, a limited-edition carry case, and a 4 GB memory card. The Vita launched with 26 titles in Japan, with Sony announcing that there were over 100 titles in development prior to the system's release overall. The Vita launched in the west with 25 titles, including original titles such as Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Wipeout 2048, and ports of games such as FIFA 12 and Rayman Origins.
With higher-profile games not pushing the system sales enough in 2012, big third party companies like Ubisoft and Activision started reducing or eliminating support for the system, especially in the West. Additionally, while the Monster Hunter series had significantly boosted the sales of the PSP, its absence instead hurt the Vita. Its developer, Capcom, had decided to release Monster Hunter Tri and future Monster Hunter games exclusively on the Nintendo 3DS, where it would sell millions of copies for Sony's main competitor. With support diminishing, Shahid Ahmad, Sony's Director of Strategic Content, instead began a new approach to software, through directly reaching out to, and making accommodations for, smaller, independent developers who were previously release games for mobile and PC platforms. While not completely reversing the sales trends of the Vita, the lower costs of making or porting smaller-budget games made it easier for developers to make a profit on the systems's smaller userbase, and in turn, increased consumer attention on the console, keeping the device afloat. Fez, Spelunky, Hotline Miami, and OlliOlli all found success with releases on Vita. Ahmad also maintained interest in the device by directly interacting with consumers on social media; the game Tales of Hearts R was localized into English only because it was number one in a survey of games desired on the platform. Sony continued to support the system with games through 2013 as well, albeit lesser so, with titles such as Killzone: Mercenary and Tearaway, along with a handful of other Western-developed ports such as FIFA 13 and Rayman Legends.