PlayStation Vita press conference report

Calling it “ultimate portable entertainment,” Sony focused on its upcoming new handheld, the PlayStation Vita, at its pre-Tokyo Game Show press conference. Among the key announcements we covered were the official Japanese release date of December 17, confirmation of the launch titles, and news that remakes of Metal Gear Solid, Zone of Enders, and Final Fantasy X are headed to the system. Sony Computer Entertainment Japan president Hiroshi Kawano said that all told, some 100 games would be available in the Vita launch window, though he failed to specify how long after the release date would be considered to still fall within that definition.

Peeling the screen to close apps

A large part of the presentation became something of an unboxing of the hardware, with walkthroughs of the setup menus, and an extended look at the data connectivity of the 3G version of the hardware. Though fairly straightforward, we got to see a couple of the finishing touches for the system. One is the “peel” touch interface for closing applications. As it sounds, this replicates peeling a piece of paper off the screen with a tab at the top right corner that is then “peeled” off by touching and dragging it across the screen. Another was the “welcome pack,” a set of mini games designed to teach new users how to handle the machine. The two games shown were a simple tapping game to illustrate touch control and a picture puzzle for using the camera and sliding tiles on the screen.

Vita's welcome pack picture tile game

Kawano also went to some length in discussing how the video game world has changed with the advent of casual and social games. He said that Vita would cater to all users, and to be sure, the presentation emphasized the diverse capabilities of the system. In addition to showing the video, music, and picture players, Sony announced that there will be dedicated Vita clients for Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Skype. The system will also be completely tied into the PlayStation Network allowing users to see their friends on PS3, along with their trophies.

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 for Vita

The conference closed with prominent figures from the Japanese development community on stage to share their plans for the Vita. Capcom’s Yoshinori Ono revealed that Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 will be a Vita launch title, complete with everything in the PlayStation 3 version and support for online multiplayer, all running at 60fps. Konami’s Hideo Kojima discussed their concept of “transfarring,” the idea that players can be playing a game on their PS3 and smoothly continue on their handheld. For what he called stage 3 of the system, his studio is working on a whole new game engine, called Fox Engine. He also revealed plans to launch that engine with a brand new game, but gave no indication about what it might be.

Fox Engine for Vita and PS3

Though it lacked sizzle, Sony’s press conference made clear that it expects the broad capabilities of the Vita to be an important part of its overall success. Repeated emphasis on connectivity, and how the system can multitask, left me feeling like I was watching a presentation for a consumer electronics device, not a game machine. While I appreciate those features, Vita’s strengths are its gorgeous screen and the games that can be played on it that other portable formats simply can’t touch. That’s what gets me thinking about importing one come this December, not the need for another way to tweet.