PS Vita launches December 17 in Japan, battery life and data plan pricing revealed

Sony has used the Tokyo Game Show 2011 (TGS) to reveal the final release date for the PS Vita in Japan. If you live in Sony’s home territory you can expect to pick one up on December 17. That’s if you can brave the expected queues and midnight launch, of course.

The price of the hardware has been set at around $390 for the 3G version and $325 for the WiFi-only model. Don’t expect those prices to be as high when the Vita launches in the U.S. though, I’d guess at $300/$350 if I was pushed for a prediction. Unfortunately, the only time frame we have for a U.S. and European launch is early 2012.

The cost of the Vita doesn’t end after that initial purchase if you choose the 3G option, and Sony has teamed up with network operator NTT DoCoMo to provide a 3G service. It seems this service will be offered in the form of  “prepaid data plans.”

Vita owners in Japan will have the option to purchase either a 20 or 100 hour allotment of time, which I believe translates into data time somehow. Now this is just my interpretation of the summary in the image below, but it seems the 20 hour plan gives access speeds of 128kbps down and 64kbps up. The 100 hour plan has two options based on speed. You can have 100 hours at 128kbps/64kbps as with the 20 hour plan, or you can take advantage of a faster 14Mbps/5.7Mbps connection, but are limited to just 3 hours. The cost? $13 for 20 hours or $64 for 100 hours. If you choose the super-fast 3 hour option that’s some seriously expensive data.

As an incentive for early adopters, Sony is bundling 100 hours free time with the first 500,000 PS Vita 3G sales. Hopefully a similar offer will be made in the U.S. and across Europe.

As for games, it looks like the Vita is going to have a pretty good selection of popular titles on offer with 28 available at launch. Stand out games include Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3Everybody’s Golf NextRidge RacerKatamari DamacyUncharted: Golden Abyss, and BlazBlue Continuum Shift Extend. You can view the full list of launch and upcoming titles in the Sony press release (link below).

With the launch confirmed, Sony has also released the final specs of the PS Vita, which basicallyconfirm what we already knew. The important hardware features include a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor, 512MB RAM, 128MB VRAM, and a PowerVR SGX543MP4+ GPU. Powering that hardware and 5-inch screen will be a 2200mA Lithium-ion rechargeable battery, which is expected to only give you 3-5 hours between charges for games and 5 hours for video playback. Still, that’s quite respectable considering the components and display, and charging from an empty battery takes 2 hours 40 minutes.

Finally, during the press conference detailing the launch, Sony revealed it has sold 71.4 million PSPs since it debuted back in 2004. The younger PS3 has achieved 51.8 million. Will the PS Vita ever reach such heights in the face of competition from smartphones as well as the, admittedly struggling 3DS?

More at Joystiq and the Sony press release

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