10 Things You Need to Know About PlayStation Vita’s Launch

The western launch of the PlayStation Vita is here  – so here’s ten things you must absolutely know about Sony’s hot new portable.

PlayStation Vita System Image

Sony might not be doing much (yet) to advertise their now launched PlayStation Vita, but I’m about to do them – and you dear reader – a nice solid by nailing down the finer points to the western release. Namely, all you pretty much need to know before putting down your hard earned cash for the ultimate portable gaming machine that might – or might not – be “doomed.” Let’s get started, shall we.

1. PlayStation Vita Pricing & Launch Bundles

PlayStation Vita 3G/WiFi Launch Bundle

I always say options are good, and with the PlayStation Vita you’ve got several of them when it comes to purchasing. Let’s talk about the two base units first, both available on February 22 – $249.99 for the Wi-Fi only model, and $299.99 for the 3G/Wi-Fi version. The latter, for those wondering, has the benefits of real-time connection, with instant news feeds, geo-location based interaction with other Vita users, and multiplayer gaming sessions.

Furthering the buying choices are two Vita bundles, exhibit a: the PlayStation Vita First Edition Bundle, which for $349.99, is available right now since the 15th, and comes packed with one 3G/Wi-Fi system, a 4GB memory card, a limited edition case, and a copy Little Deviants.

Sounds reasonably good, huh? Well don’t hit the buy button, yet, until you learn about the PlayStation Vita 3G/Wi-Fi Launch Bundle (pictured above.) For fifty bucks less, $299.99, the bundle comes with the same 3G/Wi-Fi unit, a 8GB memory card, a free month of “DataConnect” 3G access (a $15 value), and a free PSN game as part of signing up for the AT&T 3G Data service. If grabbing your Vita before anyone else – like some disturbed YouTube commenter – isn’t on the top of your demands, I fully recommend this bundle as a wise buy that can’t be passed up.

2. PlayStation Vita Memory Cards

Vita Memory Cards Image

Every PlayStation Vita title will require Sony’s new proprietary memory card – lets just get that factoid out of the way. Alright, maybe not all of them, but in the likely case one should, at least then you’ll be prepared. Because if you don’t, then you won’t be able to start-up said game in question – oh Sony, why you do hurt the ones who you love most? More troubling, is the fact that neither base model of the Vita offers a memory card out the box – so please – don’t forget to pick one up.

Here are the prices: $19.99 for a 4GB card, $29.99 for 8GB, $59.99 for 16GB, and $99.99 for 32GB. (No 32GB cards will be available for Europe until further notice. I feel your pain my PAL brothers and sisters – come here and give your friend Bernie a hug.)

3. PlayStation Vita Games

Wipeout 2048 Image

Below you will find the massive list of launch titles for the PlayStation Vita – some available digitally and physically. In fact, surprisingly – and to the delight of wallets everywhere – a handful of Vita games cost about ten percent less on the PlayStation Store, compared to their in-store counterparts.

  • Army Corps of Hell – $39.99
  • Asphalt: Injection – $29.99
  • Ben 10: Galactic Racing* – $29.99
  • BlazBlue: Continuum Shift EXTEND – $39.99
  • Dungeon Hunter: Alliance – $39.99 via retail, $35.99 on PSN
  • Dynasty Warriors NEXT – $39.99
  • EA SPORTS FIFA Soccer – $39.99
  • Escape Plan (PSN Only) – $14.99
  • F1 2011 – $39.99
  • Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational – $39.99 (right now Amazon has it at $29.99) via retail, $35.99 on PSN
  • Hustle Kings (PSN Only) – $9.99
  • Little Deviants – $29.99 via retail, $26.99 on PSN
  • Lumines: Electronic Symphony – $39.99
  • Michael Jackson: The Experience HD – $39.99 via retail, $35.99 on PSN
  • ModNation Racers: Roadtrip – $29.99 via retail, $26.99 on PSN
  • Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus – $39.99
  • Plants vs. Zombies* (PSN Only) – $14.99
  • Rayman Origins – $39.99 via retail, $35.99 on PSN
  • Super Stardust Delta (PSN Only) – $9.99
  • Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen – $39.99
  • Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack* (PSN Only) – $7.99
  • Touch My Katamari – $29.99
  • Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 – $39.99
  • Uncharted: Golden Abyss – $49.99 via retail, $44.99 on PSN
  • Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition – $39.99
  • Wipeout 2048 – $39.99 via retail, $35.99 on PSN

*Available in North America only.

4. PlayStation Vita Accessories

Vita Acessories Image

You’ve got your system, your memory card, and a couple of games – woah now, big spender coming through ladies and gents – but you can’t just walk about town with your PlayStation Vita all buck naked accessories wise. Have you no decency, sir! Obviously, Sony has your solution with the PlayStation Vita Starter Kit ($39.99) that has with it a 4GB Memory Card, a nice Pocket Pouch, a Protective Film to cover that lovely 5-inch OLED multi-touch capacitive touchscreen, a Game Card Case, a pair Headphones, and a Cleaning Cloth.

The Starter Kit is certainly not a requirement to get, and it’s probably better for you to pick and choose your accessories to fit your needs and budget. And for that purpose, I’ve also listed every single accessory for the Vita along with its price. I should also note that these are first-party accessories, but I’m sure if you seek out Amazon or GameStop, you’ll find a laundry load of third-party made items – likely better in value and quality – too.

First-Party Products From Sony

Starter Kit – $39.99
In-Ear Headset – $19.99
Carrying Case – $19.99
Travel Pouch – $19.99
Protective Film (2 pack) – $9.99
Card Case – $5.99
Cradle – $19.99
AC Adaptor – $14.99
Car Adaptor – $14.99
USB Cable – $14.99
Portable Charger (Not available till Spring) – $49.99

5. PlayStation Vita Apps

Vita Apps Image

Out of the gate when you boot up your PlayStation Vita, the first thing you should see is the OS – called LiveArea – that houses all of the different applications, games, and settings on the system. There’s typical things like Twitter, Facebook, and soon enough Netflix to fling though, but for PS Vita centric apps, things like Welcome Park, “near,” and “Party” should keep plenty busy.

Welcome Park is basically the introductory guided tour for the many ways that you can control your Vita – using five mini-games designed around the touchscreen (both front & rear), the microphone, the camera, and the gyroscope/accelerometer to get the job done.

“near” is the Vita’s integrated social networking app that works with either Vita, 3G or Wi-Fi only (surely, if you have the former, you’ll get updates anywhere you go.) There, Vita-denizens can locate and connect with other gamers under the PlayStation Nation umbrella, plus near-by Vita users for ad-hoc communication and multiplayer bouts. You can even check-in at certain destinations and leave virtual gifts (in-game costumes, treasures, etc. ) for anyone else who visits the same spot with their Vita.

Meanwhile, “Party” is the cross-game chat/text app that helps Vita users get in touch with their friends and coordinate online gatherings. The app even works when your playing different games or using other applications like the Internet Browser. Wow, something like that would sound awesome for the PlayStation 3… (I’m shaking my head so hard right now that it might fall off.)

6. PlayStation Portable Backwards Compatibility & PSone Classics

Vita Backwards Compat Image

Okie-dokie. Time to put on the bad-news pants – slimming on my waste as they may be. Unfortunately, due to the lack of a UMD drive (I do hope you’re not just finding about it right now) there will be no way to play your UMD-based PlayStation Portable games on the Vita, and there won’t be an exchange program like the one Sony introduced in Japan either.

At this point I give you full permission to go ahead and get the nerd-rage out of your system – take a leisurely walk, shout swearwords into a hug pillow, or heck, make a voodoo doll of  Kaz Hirai if need be – then come back when you’re all chilled-out. Don’t worry your little head, I’ll be hear when you get back.

Now, the same PSP games might be found though the PlayStation Store, but certainly not for free or significantly discounted (unless you’re a PlayStation Plus subscriber.) And even still, there might be the additional problem of incompatibility with the PS Vita that has cropped up in some titles. It’s an issue that being currently fixed by Sony, who has posted a list of the PSP games that don’t currently work here  (you’ll find their step-by-step directions for getting PSP games on your Vita through that same link as well.)

Another issue that’s currently in the works is for PSone classics, which don’t work either. I would bet anything that this feature will come real soon – my over/under is about one month tops – through a future firmware update. Thankfully, there are a lot of interesting Vita games in the next few months to tie us over while we wait. Just don’t make us wait too long Sony, okay?

7. PlayStation Vita 3G Data Plans

PlayStation Vita 3G Data Plans Image

Planning on getting the 3G-enabled Vita? Then you’ll definitely want to know what specific plans will be available from AT&T – the prime 3G data carrier for Sony’s handheld. The AT&T Data Connect plans are month-by-month and are not contract based, and come with complimentary AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot access the United States. Here are the two 3G Data plan choices:

A – 250MB for $14.99, 30-day recurring opt out, which starts at the date and time of purchase.

B – 3GB for $30.00, 30-day recurring opt out, which starts at the date and time of purchase.

8. PlayStation Vita Battery Life

PlayStation Vita Battery Life Image

Officially put – Sony rates the PlayStation Vita’s battery as having 3 to 5 hours of gaming, 5 hours of video playback, and 9 hours of music playback. That’s honestly neither good or bad – just okay.  Like the feeling of finding a bologna sandwich in your school lunchbox type of okay. Of course, the best tips for a longer lasting battery is to select a lesser brightness setting for the screen, plug in headphones instead of using the Vita’s speakers (or turn off sound completely,) and turn off the Wi-Fi option.

Keep an eye out for that Portable Charger (see last accessory item in topic #4) that’s releasing in Spring though. That specific Sony accessory is a nifty mini-portable battery that can give the Vita a substantial boost in battery life – and extra battery life is always good, especially for our energy-hungry gadgets.

9. Customize Your PlayStation Vita

Vita Gravity Rush Wallpaper

Would you like the pretty image above – which is from the upcoming PlayStation Vita game Gravity Rush (oh me want sooo badly) -  as the background to your Sony portable? There are ton’s more like it thanks to users on the NeoGaf forums, who’ve made an excellent resource of all the current wallpapers available for the PS Vita found right here. Oh and here’s a real neat pro tip: by pressing start and the PS button simultaneously, you can take a screenshot of whatever is currently showing on your system and quickly upload it to Twitter.

If you want to go a bit more deeper with your Vita customization, then check out YouTube user handy-dandy video that goes through the numerous ways owners can change the look of their Lock Screen, the placement of Icons, and tons more.

10. PlayStation Vita’s Augmented Reality Suite

Like the Nintendo 3DS, the PlayStation Vita holds the same kind of augmented reality tech. If memory serves me, Sony demoed it at last year’s Game Developers Conference by using a giant AR card, which popped up a lumbering T-Rex that filled the aisle of tightly-packed meeting hall. And with six AR Play Cards packed in every box, users can point their system’s camera on these cards to play a selection of AR mini games available on-board and soon through PlayStation Store.

The video above shows off two such AR games that come free on the Vita and are apart of the Augmented Reality Suite, Fireworks and Cliff Diving. The first is pretty self-explanatory: Fireworks, a pretty, yet simple points-based puzzler, allows the player to perform their own fireworks display by touching the apex of the firework. Cliff Diving on the other hand, puts you in the control of Dave, a high-risk diver that must be steered safely into a body of water below.

Hopefully we will see Sony expand this amazing tech into core mechanics in other games that are so cool, it leaves me unable to think of the amazing possibilities!

There you have it folks, all that probably needs to be said about the PlayStation Vita’s Western Launch – I hope you’re as excited for the release of Sony’s next handheld as I am (nod with me. Thanks.) It’s gonna be good. Be sure to visit the PlayStation Blog if you’ve got any extensive questions that I may have not provided here, and please stay tuned to Walyou – where we’ve got the skinny on the XD Design Solar Window Charger and this cool Doctor Who’ Lego TARDIS display.