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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Sony's first new handheld gaming device in seven years, came out yesterday: the PlayStation Vita. Vita is the Latin word for life. And after suffering a series of tough blows - including the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and a significant hacking attack on Sony - the Vita is just what Sony needs: some new life.

NPR's Nina Gregory has more.

(SOUNDBITE OF VITA COMMERCIAL)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I'm here, there, everywhere, and the world is in play.

NINA GREGORY, BYLINE: The PlayStation Vita went on sale at a Best Buy here in Los Angeles yesterday morning, and despite the company's $50 million marketing campaign, only about a dozen gamers were on hand.

Among those ambling in, 38-year-old Tyler Hinkle.

TYLER HINKLE: Well, it comes down to I'm a nerd and I pretty much have to have one.

GREGORY: Though Hinkle had never played one, he knew all about it. The Vita's got some of the most cutting-edge technology: touch screens on the front and the back, so you can use all your fingers to navigate through a game. It also has front and back cameras that enable gamers to incorporate the world around them around them into a game.

Still, the Vita is up against some serious competition. Here's industry analyst Jack Plunkett.

JACK PLUNKETT: Well, the product is absolutely cool, but it has to be absolutely cool because the competition from other platforms is so daunting.

GREGORY: The competition is not just other handheld gaming devices, but consoles and mobile phones.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Jack Tretton is the CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America. Naturally, he says playing on the Vita is better than playing games on a phone.

JACK TRETTON: I think the first thing you're going to notice when you hold the Vita in your hand is that this is a device that was built for gaming. When you hold a smartphone in your hand you say, oh, in addition to dialing the phone, I can take advantage of some minor gaming expertise with this.

GREGORY: Analyst Jack Plunkett says the Vita is aimed squarely at a certain group of consumers.

TRETTON: It's a pure game machine aimed at absolutely avid gamers who want to spend some real money on it. And that's going to be interesting to see what happens.

GREGORY: Sony desperately needs the PlayStation Vita to be a hit, because the company has been losing money for years.

Again, Jack Plunkett.

PLUNKETT: It's potentially a real redeemer for the company, and based on everything I've seen, they have a really good chance with it.

GREGORY: But success will be tall order. Analyst Plunkett says Sony needs to sell at least 50 million of the devices and at least a half a billion games over the next five years.

Nina Gregory, NPR News.

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