Sony PlayStation Vita Launches Today

Sony's latest entry into the handheld market, the PlayStation Vita, launched today in the United States and Europe.

The Vita features a 5-inch, 960x544 touch screen, a dual analog interface, 3G/Wi-Fi compatibility, and most notably, a rear touch-sensitive panel to allow players to control games with all 10 fingers while still holding the device.

Sony's new handheld also features an online store to allow gamers to download new titles rather than buying them in-store. The downloads will still require proprietary blank media cards, however, and Sony will still sell physical copies of the games for consumers who prefer them.

At $249 for the Wi-Fi model or $299 for the 3G/Wi-Fi version, plus another $39.99 for each game, the Vita's steep price has caused some industry professionals to question how successful Sony's latest offering can be in a new era of cheap, casual gaming.

With the rise of smartphones, much of the gaming industry has turned away from the "pay once for the console, pay again for the game" model of portable gaming. Instead, many companies are choosing to offer cheap or free-to-play games that are supported by either advertising or micro-transaction purchases.

The Vita first launched in Japan back in December, where it received largely positive reviews and sold 325,000 units in the first few days. However, sales had dropped 78 percent within a week, falling below 14,000 units by February and severely underperforming compared to Nintendo's 3DS.

Still, Sony Computer Entertainment America CEO and President Jack Tretton insists that the United States and U.K. launches have been "very, very positive." In an interview with IGN, Tretton said that "Memory cards have been going out the door quite aggressively… software appears to be selling quite well top to bottom."

Tretton says that the bestselling launch title in the U.S. is the adventure game Uncharted: Golden Abyss, by a very large margin. In the U.K., it's a much closer race between Uncharted and futuristic racer WipEout 2048.

Other popular launch titles include Dungeon Hunter: Alliance, Rayman Origins, Lumines: Electric Symphony, and Touch My Katamari.