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Sony sells 1.2 million PlayStation Vitas

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The PlayStation Vita seems to be off to a good start.

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Sony announced Tuesday that it has sold over 1.2 million units of the handheld gaming system worldwide so far, though it didn't break out how many of those were sold in the U.S.

The Vita hit stores in Japan late last year, but Sony waited a couple of months before rolling it out in America and Europe. Still, the company says the numbers are stronger than it was expecting.

More importantly, Sony clarified that the sales numbers were actual sell-through to consumers, rather than just how many units it had shipped to stores (a commonly used practice which sometimes makes sales appear stronger than they really are).

"We couldn't be more thrilled with the reaction we're seeing from consumers and the pace at which PS Vita is selling," said Andrew House, president and group CEO for Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. "The market has responded and there is clear demand for a mobile device capable of providing a revolutionary combination of rich gaming and social connectivity within a real world context."

Software sales have been equally strong. Sony says that between retail and the PlayStation Network, it has sold more than 2 million games. It also vowed to maintain a strong software lineup for the system, saying it was working closely with third-party publishers to keep the game pipeline full.

The sales success is a victory for Sony, which faced a lot of skepticism about the Vita due to the strength of Apple's iPhone and the lessened demand for dedicated handheld gaming systems.

The trick at this point is maintaining momentum. Nintendo's 3DS came out of the gate strong, but quickly fell off, necessitating a price cut. Ultimately, though, the 3DS had first year sales that outpaced the DS.

"We believe Vita will serve as key litmus test as to whether consumers still want a dedicated handheld in a world increasingly dominated by smartphones and tablets," says Edward Williams of BMO Capital Markets.

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