Sony Unveils Vita Gaming Device at E3; Will Launch This Year for $249

It has been a rough couple of months for Sony and the PlayStation, with the PlayStation Network targeted by several successful hacks.

But the company went a long way toward repairing its reputation tonight by generating excitement around several new products, including the new PlayStation Portable device it’s calling “Vita.”

Sony’s President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Jack Tretton apologized briefly for the inconvenience that the hacks caused to customers, retailers and publishers, before turning the focus of the presentation to the PlayStation’s future.

In front of 6,000 people at Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena on the the eve of E3, Tretton said this year’s line-up includes tons of 3-D games and new titles for its motion-controlled accessory called the Sony Move.

And most importantly, it announced the Vita–previously known as the NGP or PlayStation Portable, which will be released in time for the holidays. The Wi-Fi only version will cost $249, while the AT&T-connected 3G version will cost $299 (not including data plans).

5:15 pm: Get ready. Here we go. They’ve asked the audience to put on their 3-D glasses and turn off their cellphones.

They started off by buttering us up with a plethora of food trucks outside and beer. Not a bad option. But little do they know that we’d all prefer outlets.

BTW, blogging and 3-D glasses don’t mix!

5:19 pm: We are kicking off the show with a montage of 3-D games. But surely, not all of these will end up in 3-D, right?

If Sony’s banking on a 3-D gaming strategy, a lot of people are going to have to buy new TVs. Well, I guess they can hope….

Jack Tretton, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment comes on stage, remarking that there are so many people in the crowd. He says it’s 6,000 people here!

This isn’t the first time I came on stage with an elephant in the room, he says. Yes, he’s referring to the hack.

He says this is the first time he can address it directly. “To our third-party publishing partners, you have been with us for years, and I know that it’s been costly for you. We wouldn’t be where we are today.

You gave us shelf space when there was no PlayStation brand, and now we see it exceeding last year’s numbers. Last week’s sales numbers are up 27 percent year over year.

To our consumers: Without you there is no Playstation. I’d like to apologize for any anxiety we’ve caused you….It is you that causes us to be humbled and amazed by the commitment you have to the brand. Network connectivity is at 90 percent compared to before the outage.

For those of you who left, or never joined, the next 90 minutes will hopefully convince you otherwise.”

5:25 pm: Tretton says they are going to work extra hard to make the PlayStation Network as valuable as possible.

As part of that, it will be adding Cinema Now to give access to the latest TV shows and movies.

5:27 pm: Tretton leaves the stage so we can start the party. First game to be shown off is Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.

Right about now, I’m realizing this is the fourth press conference I’ve been to today, and the umpteenth game preview. How many more can stand out, or impress? This is totally every videogame consumer’s E3 dilemma.

This is another first-person shooter, where you are walking around hallways and down the deck of a big ship.

And, a fight scene just ended in a grenade blast. The ship has sprung a leak, and water is pouring in. But the fight continues.

He’s now underwater trying frantically to find a way out before his oxygen is all gone.

You’ll have to buy the game to find out what happens next!

The game will be out June 28, and there’s a tie-in with Subway. With your next sandwich, you’ll get a free early sneak peek.

What’s this? Another version of Uncharted 3 will be available in 3-D. Not sure if it’s the same version, or a special copy. This isn’t a live demo, just a video, so it’s hard to tell how it will look once it’s released.

It’s coming much later in November.

5:37 pm: Insomniac Games is now on stage to show off Resistance 3, which is about a bleak existence.

Put on your glasses, this one is also in 3-D! (Have I mentioned that blogging is difficult with glasses on?)

With 3-D, you have three layers of depth perception. First, you notice rain drops are hitting your camera lens, then you notice how your gun protrudes out in front of you, and finally, you see the target you are shooting.

The game is gritty and grimy. Not a lot of light filters in through the gloomy clouds. It’s not pretty, but it’s realistic.

5:41 pm: Tretton is back on stage to say that their commitment to 3-D is unwavering, and that they believe that gamers can spur broader adoption of the technology.

Lots of good prices and games coming to the console, he says.

Content is a barrier, but so is price.

“We are making the entrance into 3-D more affordable for everyone,” he says.

They are launching two new hardware products, including a PlayStation-branded 24-inch display. It’s perfect for bedrooms and dorm rooms, he says. What’s really amazing is that two people will be able to play the game at once, by seeing two different screens, rather than a split screen.

This is really cool, but it’s completely unclear how this works.

The monitor will come with a pair of 3-D glasses and a six-foot hdmi core and Resistance 3. The bundle will cost $499.

A pair of standalone 3-D glasses will cost $69.99.

5:47 pm: Kobe Bryant comes on stage to show off 2K Sport’s new Sony Move game.

He takes the controller away to show the demonstrator how it’s done.

The ball is stripped from him, and then he fouls the Heat. Kobe says: “Man, this game is a little too realistic.”

He shoots, he scores!

He gives the game some serious props, saying it’s “frighteningly” accurate. He says that you can play the triangle offense better in the game than the Lakers did all year.

5:52 pm: Kobe leaves the stage. Now here’s another new Sony Move title called Medieval Moves.

6:06 pm: Sorry about that folks, but I lost Internet access for a little bit. Now I’m back.

I’m afraid I missed a few titles, including Little Big Planet, Sly Cooper and Infamous 2.

Now we are getting a peak at Dust 514, a space galaxy title.

Dust 514 is an exclusive to the PlayStation platform.

6:10 pm: Up next is Bioshock, a fantasy-looking game with a first-person shooter.

The creator of Bioshock is now on stage, telling a story about how he said some unfavorable things about Sony’s Move to the press because he makes core games–not family-friendly casual titles.

Sony called him to change his mind and make him a believer.

And, it worked. He says there will eventually be a Bioshock title using the Sony Move.

In the meantime, he says they are even more interested in the NGP, the new Sony PlayStation portable.

6:14 pm: Tretton is back on stage to announce a new partnership with THQ, which includes exclusive content from Saints Row coming out November 15.

Another exclusive is with Star Trek, which will be a Move title. A special Star Trek Move controller will also be released with the controller to replicate the phaser.

6:16 pm: We are now 75 minutes into the 90-minute press conference. I’ll expect more talk of the NGP any second.

We’re waiting to hear about its release date and price and whether it will make it out in time for the holidays. Previously, it was rumored to be delayed because of the devastating earthquake in Japan.

Tretton interjects that three more exclusives are coming from EA: SSX, the snowboarding title; Need for Speed: The Run; and Battlefield 3, which will include extra exclusive content that can only fit on the blueray disc.

6:19 pm: And, here we go, what we were waiting for: more information on the NGP.

Kazuo Hirai, president and CEO of Sony’s consumer products and services group, takes the stage to tell us all about it.

The original PlayStation portable came out in 2004. The question is, how do we deliver a PlayStation experience to a wider audience?

The answer is something he’s calling PlayStation Suite, which will allow non-PlayStation devices to play PlayStation content, including a ton of certified Android phones and tablets.

The NGP provides the next generation of portable gaming that allows you to play games with a number of new methods, like dual cameras and touchpads.

What it’s officially being called is Vita.

The device has a five-inch screen, front and rear touch pads, and front and rear cameras, allowing for augmented reality. The device will have both Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi-plus-3G models for on-the-go gaming.

“Of course, having such a set of features requires the nation’s fastest mobile broadband network. We are partnering with AT&T.”

The AT&T announcement garners serious laughs from the crowd.

A social network will come with the PlayStation Vita called Near, which will allow you to connect with friends and post game scores.

6:28 pm: Now time for a demo of the NGP–I mean Vita!

They are running through a short section of Uncharted 2, a game we saw demo’d earlier for the PlayStation. The device’s touchscreen allows you to punch the enemy. It can also be tilted so that the player can drop across the screen. However, where it makes sense, players can continue to use the same Sony PlayStation buttons they are used to from the console.

The game allows a player to swipe and tap the screen, where they’d normally have to memorize and execute a lot of quick button taps on a controller.

It’s an interesting combination of what you see on the iPhone and the typical PlayStation game pad.

Not sure how many titles there will be to begin with, or how much the Vita will cost or when it will be released.

More demos are occurring for now. The latest is Ruin, which is only a working title at this point.

6:36 pm: An interesting aspect of Ruin is that people will be able to put down their Vita, and pick up their game play exactly where they left off on the PlayStation 3.

The game play is stored in the cloud, and the exact same game will be available on both the Vita and PlayStation 3.

6:40 pm: Another game from ModNation Racers allows users to build their own track using the touchscreen to drop trees and houses where you want them.

Additionally, Vita players will have access to all the user-generated tracks created from day one.

6:43 pm: A few more details on Vita, which still sounds far off. An exec is saying that many of the PlayStation Vita titles will be tied to the PlayStation 3 through three methods: Cloud saves, online competition and content sharing.

6:47 pm: One more title is StreetFighter from Capcom, which was announced last year. Today, they are announcing that they are also going to have a StreetFighter X Tekken version for Vita.

They have a real-life demo of the game, which really has the crowd excited.

6:52 pm: One thing that’s very noticeable even from the audience is the size of the Vita, which looks a little awkward to hold with just one hand. It’s a serious piece of machinery. You almost wonder why they didn’t skip directly to making a tablet form factor.

We’re watching a short video on all the content coming to the Vita. There are tennis games, street fighting, mazes and much more.

Now here’s the real fine print:

The device will be available starting by the holiday season.

The Wi-Fi-only model will cost $249, and the 3G plus Wi-Fi model will cost $299. (No details on AT&T 3G pricing plans).

The PlayStation Vita will be on display tonight for everyone to play for themselves.

Tretton comes back on stage to wrap things up: “As you can see, the depth and breadth of content like never before…By adding 3-D, PlayStation Move and Vita, we offer the best entertainment around. We hope you are as excited as we are about what’s to come.”

Next up lots of demos and unnamed musical guests.

Now the stage is lifting up in the background to reveal a bunch of drummers and a DJ.

I guess the party has just begun.

That’s it for the live blog. Thanks for sticking around!

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus