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.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.