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PlayStation Vita: What You Need to Know

We've got the details you need for the launch of Sony's new PlayStation Vita handheld, including specs, prices and games.

Sony's gearing up to launch the PlayStation Vita in North America later this month and we've got all the details you need including specs, price, and a look at the Vita games that will be available at launch. See also PS4 release date, specs and rumour round-up.

What Is The Vita?

The Vita is Sony's newest handheld gaming system, and in many ways it represents Sony's answer to the Nintendo 3DS. Following on the heels of Sony's earlier PSP and PSP Go mobile gaming systems, the Vita was announced last year and actually came out in Japan last December.

Why Do I Want One?

It's shiny and new, isn't that enough? No? The Vita's biggest selling point is arguably the 5-inch 16:9 OLED multi-touch screen. That may not sound large, but for a portable device it's positively huge. The screen's packing some impressive specs as well, with a 960-by-544 pixel resolution that displays up to 16 million colors. I went hands-on with the Vita earlier this week and the screen looks bright, clear, and fantastic for video.

However, videos aren't the only thing that will look great on the Vita. The system's graphics are powered by an ARM Cortex A9 processor, a powerful quad-core CPU capable of rendering some truly impressive graphics on a mobile platform. Sony's taken to comparing the Vita's graphics with their PlayStation 3 console, and while the graphics aren't quite at PS3 levels, the Vita certainly shows off some of the most impressive graphical effects I've ever seen on a mobile device.

Sony's also thrown in a lot of other new bells and whistles that open up a lot of exciting gaming possibilities. The Vita has front and rear facing cameras, a GPS sensor to make it location aware, Wi-Fi capabilities (along with 3G on the more expensive models) and an accelerometer for motion control. With all these options the Vita is potentially capable of supporting nearly any gameplay mechanic game developers are currently using, including tablet-style touch-based games and Nintendo Wii-style motion controls. The obvious exception is the lack of a 3D display, but, given the literal and figurative headaches the Nintendo 3DS' screen has caused some players, it may have been a smart decision to leave that feature out.

What Don't People Like About It?

PlayStation Vita games are stored on a proprietary flash-based cart format (much like Nintendo's DS line), and most games will allow you to save data directly to their cart. But downloadable titles and the like will always need to be stored on a memory card, which is sold separately from the base hardware.

Sony's last generation of hand-held consoles required proprietary memory sticks for the hardware, and the Vita's complete lack of internal storage means it's no different. If you don't pick up a bundle when the system launches, you'll likely have to pony up for at least one memory card. The smallest is a 4GB card, which costs $20. Sony also sells 8GB ($30), 16GB ($60) and 32GB ($100) cards. Many of the titles available for purchase on the PlayStation Network (PSN) are rather small --many clocking in at under 200MB -- so you should be able to pack quite a few onto even a 4GB memory card. You'll also be able to back up your games to a PC or PS3 so you won't need to store your entire library on your Vita memory card at all times.

Sony also ruffled some feathers earlier this week when they announced that they would not be bringing the Vita's UMD Passport program to North America. The Passport program let Japanese gamers who had bought physical copies of PSP games in the UMD format enter in codes on the game disc to buy a digital version for the Vita at a heavy discount.

Without access to the Passport program, North American users looking to play their old PSP games on their new device will have to re-buy them on the PlayStation store at full price. Obviously, long-time PSP owners aren't exactly pleased about the extra expense. Of course, if this will be your first Sony handheld (or you can deal with playing your old games on your old console) the change won't affect you at all.

Just Tell Me About The Games Already

The Vita will launch on February 22 with 25 games available, with another 10 following close behind. A full list of the Vita's launch catalog includes *deep breath*:

18 third-party titles:

Army Corps of Hell

Square Enix, Inc.

Asphalt Injection

Ubisoft, Inc.

BEN10 GALACTIC RACING

D3 Publisher of America

Blazblue: Continuum Shift EXTEND

Aksys Games Localization, Inc.

Dungeon Hunter Alliance

Ubisoft, Inc.

Dynasty Warriors Next

Tecmo Koei America Corporation

F1 2011

Codemasters

EA SPORTS FIFA Soccer

Electronic Arts, Inc.

Lumines Electronic Symphony

Ubisoft, Inc.

Michael Jackson The Experience

Ubisoft, Inc.

Plants vs. Zombies (PSN Only)

Sony Online Entertainment LLC

Rayman Origins

Ubisoft, Inc.

Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen

Namco Bandai Games America Inc.

Tales of Space: Mutant Blobs (PSN Only)

Drinkbox Studios

Touch My Katamari

Namco Bandai Games America Inc.

Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3

Capcom Entertainment, Inc.

Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition

Sega of America

Along with 7 first-party games:

Escape Plan (PSN Only)

Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational

Hustle Kings (PSN Only)

Little Deviants

ModNation Racers: Road Trip

Super StarDust Delta (PSN only)

UNCHARTED: Golden Abyss

wipEout 2048

That's A Lot Of Games! Narrow It Down For Me

Of those, the big headliner is probably Uncharted: Golden Abyss, a portable entry in the popular Uncharted action-adventure series that will tie in with the PS3 Uncharted games. Other big titles in the launch catalog include racing game Wipeout 2048 and Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, but don't miss out on cool downloadable games like Super StarDust Delta.

When Can I Get it And What Does It Cost?

The Vita launches in North America on February 22nd and the entry-level model (Wi-Fi only) will set you back $250. Sony's also selling a 3G model that will cost you $300, with the optional AT&T data plan costing you another $15 a month for 250MB of data, or $30 a month for 3GB -- identical to the iPad 3G data plans. The Playstation Vita should be available at most game stores and large retailers, though you may want to pre-order a Vita if you want to guarantee you'll be playing yours on launch day.

For more on the PlayStation Vita launch, including our official review, be sure to check back with Game On and PCWorld next week!

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