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Sony launches the PlayStation Vita in U.S., Europe

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Showtime, Sony.

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The company newest video game handheld, the PlayStation Vita, officially launched in North America, Europe and Latin America on Wednesday. Sony hopes the powerful device will strike a chord with portable gamers who want a more robust experience than what they're currently getting from rivals Nintendo and Apple.

"PlayStation Vita is the most powerful and connected portable gaming system ever created," said Sony Computer Entertainment America president and CEO, Jack Tretton. "For the first time ever, consumers will find compelling PS3 console-like gameplay experiences on-the-go from the most popular PlayStation franchises as well as titles unique to PS Vita, while staying connected with their favorite entertainment and social networking applications through 3G and Wi-Fi support."

It hasn't been an easy road to U.S. shores. The system, which boasts a bright 5" OLED screen, dual thumbsticks, front and rear touch pads and impressive under-the-hood-specs, enjoyed strong sales during its Japan launch period, only to watch those numbers nosedive in the weeks thereafter.

[Related: Review of the PlayStation Vita]

The U.S. is a different beast, however. Critical reception thus far has been overwhelmingly positive, receiving glowing praise from the likes of CNET, Time, and Venturebeat, who call it "the best portable ever conceived."

Whether or not consumers will agree is another matter, but Sony is doing what it can to ensure people are at least aware of the Vita. A $50 million marketing blitz -- the most Sony's ever spent on a game system — should keep the new handheld top of mind. They've even announced a somewhat unusual launch day game sale to help move units out of the gate.

The trick, of course, isn't just getting the Vita into the hands of Sony fans, but finding a way to break through the wall of iPads and iPhones already cluttering up pockets of less gadget-greedy consumers.

"For us, success is defined by mass market penetration, meaning not just the core gamer but young, old, male, female, casual and core, and being relevant on a worldwide basis, not being incredibly strong in one market but non-existent in another," Tretton told IGN.

That's a tall order. The standard Vita costs $250, while the 3G-enabled version runs $299 -- plus extra monthly costs for a data plan.

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