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Sony PlayStation Vita release date delayed to early 2012

Despite rumors that the PlayStation Vita is coming out on October 28, Sony still maintains that the portable will come out in Japan later this year, and to the US and Europe in early 2012. Expectations had been high the machine would be ready worldwide for the year-end holiday shopping season. Sony earlier promised a “phased global rollout” starting late this year.Sony PlayStation Vita release date delayed to early 2012The product will initially launch in Japan before the end of December, followed by introductions in the U.S. and Europe early next year, Kazuo Hirai, Chairman Howard Stringer’s top lieutenant, told reporters in Tokyo today. The company had previously said it planned a phased global rollout of the Vita from the end of this year, without providing specifics. At first glance, the news looks all bad. Sony has been in steady third-place in the console race between the PlayStation 3, the Nintendo (NTYDO) and Microsoft (MSFT) XBox 360. It also has had a series of flops with the latest PlayStation Portables.

Koki Shiraishi, electronics analyst for Daiwa Securities Capital Markets in Tokyo, said missing Christmas was a serious setback, especially overseas. “That’s when you do half your year’s sales,” he said. “This is going to prove painful for Sony.”

Hirai did not characterize the timing as a delay, but said Sony wants to be prepared with solid game software  offerings timed with the hardware launches.

The biggest mobile competition is the Nintendo 3DS. From the GameBoy to the DS, Nintendo’s handhelds have traditionally trounced Sony’s mobile consoles. Its new 3D console came out in the spring – and gave Nintendo its biggest bomb since the Virtual Boy. Along with saying that its profits are down fifty percent, Nintendo announced last week that it is slashing the 3DS price and giving free software to current owners.

The PlayStation Vita will cost $249 in the U.S., and 24,980 yen in Japan for its Wi-Fi -only version, and $299 in the U.S., and 29,980 yen in Japan for the version that will also have a cell phone service. Under its latest price cut, the 3DS will cost 15,000 yen in Japan starting Aug. 11, down from 25,000 yen. In the U.S., the price drops to $169.99 from $249.99 on Aug. 12.

Both Sony and Nintendo are also facing increasing competition from Cupertino, California-based Apple Inc. (AAPL), whose iPhones and iPads are gaining popularity as gaming devices, as well as from games such as Zynga Inc.’s “FarmVille” on Facebook Inc.’s social-networking site. The Vita, equipped with a 5-inch display and touch pads at the back, will be offered from $249 in the U.S., Sony said in June. That’s $80 more than Nintendo’s 3-D portable player after the price cut.

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