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Plugged In

Rejuvenated Sony shows off games lineup, prices “PS Vita” under $250

Plugged In

Gaps Solitaire

You've really got to hand it to Sony. Undaunted by its recent rough ride at the hands of hackers, media, and gamers alike, the video games giant took the stage at its E3 2011 press conference this evening in Los Angeles and came out swinging.  Sony offered up new tech, new games, and a price point for its upcoming high-tech portable system that was as low as anyone had dared hope.

The handheld formerly known as the Sony NGP? It's now called the "Playstation Vita" (pronounced 'vee-tah') and is due out this holiday. In a decision that was widely applauded around the industry, it'll go on sale for $249.99 with WiFi only, or $299.99 for a 3G-capable model. That's a price that matches Nintendo's new 3DS, but with vastly superior hardware capabilities. It's an aggressive move, and given Sony's past history of high launch prices (the Playstation 3 debuted at $499 and $599) one that comes as a pleasant surprise to many observers.

How's that for consumer-friendly?

Its tech specs are certainly impressive: the Vita sports a high-res OLED screen, Sixaxis motion sensing controls, two analog sticks, touch-sensitive areas on the front and back of the device, and, in what Sony
Computer Entertainment CEO Kazuo Hirai called "my favorite feature," dual
cameras. Social networking (via a new "Near" app) will be a big focus, and the Vita will beat the PlayStation 3 to become the first Sony platform to implement cross-game voice chat.

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Uncharted: Golden Abyss - Sony/Naughty Dog

Sony demonstrated a number of games for the Vita, none more stunning than spin-off Uncharted:
Golden Abyss. Using the Vita's dual analog sticks and face buttons in much the same way as the regular game uses the PS3
controller, the game adds optional touch controls "in places where it makes sense" -- like, say, using a fingertip to trace a route across multiple ledges for the game's protagonist to negotiate.

The Vita wasn't item one on Sony's agenda, however. Instead, Sony of America boss Jack Tretton would begin his presentation with a lengthy mea culpa, apologising to publishers, retailers, consumers, and just about everyone else for the company's security breach, data disclosures, and subsequent outage.

After finishing up with a promise to keep adding "industry-defining entertainment experiences" to the Playstation Network offerings, starting with support for CinemaNow's range of streaming movie rentals, he segued from the metaphorical shipwreck of Sony's network issues to a literal shipwreck -- courtesy of this year's eagerly anticipated Uncharted 3.

Many of the games shown to conference attendees were in 3D, and Tretton left the audience in no doubt that the new tech -- which consumers have been comparatively slow to adopt -- remains a big focus for his company. This year, Tretton, said, Sony will  be making the entrance into 3D "more affordable for everyone."

What does that mean? It means the company will launch a Playstation-branded 24" 3D display, boasting a "truly unique" set of glasses that can give two players completely different views. It's split screen -- without the split -- and it'll cost a mere $499, bundled with an HDMI cable and a copy of fall blockbuster Resistance 3.

Unsurprisingly, Sony's "Move" motion controller also came in for some stage time. The company showed off a slew of games that would either be dedicated entirely to the Move or use it for enhanced or additional functionality -- including 2K Sports' NBA 2K12, demoed (somewhat inexpertly) by one Kobe Bryant. His verdict? "So realistic it's frightening." Ours? "Don't give up the day job, Kobe."

Sony also showed off the PS3 version of Bioshock: Infinite, which will feature as-yet unspecified Move support, announced plans for a September LittleBigPlanet 2 update that'll add broad motion control support to the game, and teased us all with a trailer for a new Sly Cooper game, Thieves in Time, due next year.

After a weak showing from Microsoft earlier today, Sony's back in the game -- and is clearly setting the Vita up to challenge Nintendo's 3DS over this year's crucial holiday season. How will they respond? We'll find out tomorrow morning, when it'll be Nintendo's turn to take the E3 stage.

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