It seems Sony has an answer for critics and analysts who fear the PlayStation Vita might be headed for a doomed launch thanks to competition from smartphones and a price tag that's starting to seem too high.
On Tuesday during a press conference at the Gamescom video game trade show, Sony did not announce a price cut for the machine as some have suggested they should. Instead, they unveiled a growing line-up of deep, rich, console-style games designed to appeal to those who think smartphone games are just too shallow.
Sony also revealed a couple of new social applications that can be downloaded onto the machine — applications meant to help it compete with those uppity smartphones. Vita owners will be able to download a Skype application to so they can make calls. A Foursquare application also will be available in the PlayStation Store for free, along with Twitter and Facebook apps.
Sony is trying to give consumers plenty of reasons to drop $250 or even $300 (for the 3G-enabled model) on their forthcoming gaming handheld when it launches early next year — something that may be a difficult sell now that seemingly everyone is already packing smartphones that do phone calls, social networking and gaming in one fell swoop.
Nintendo was recently forced to slash the price of its new 3DS handheld game machine from $250 to $170 after it failed to meet sales expectations. And so Sony finds itself under extra scrutiny as it sets out to give consumers a reason to pay for and carry around another device.
One big reason they're giving consumers is the games the Vita will play. Sony has built a powerful portable game machine with a sprawling screen, two thumb sticks and both front and back touch controls — all designed especially for those who want to play games with more oomph and depth than smartphone games offer.
Sony has already announced that console-style games such as "Uncharted: Golden Abyss" as well as a "BioShock" game — designed to appeal to serious players — will be arriving for the Vita. And on Tuesday the company added to that list.
Sony announced a new game in the best-selling "Resistance" sci-fi shooting franchise. "Resistance: Burning Skies" will be specially made for the Vita and will use the device's touch screen and dual analog sticks. The first-person shooter will feature an all new story, star a brand new hero and is set just before the events of "Resistance II." Here's a look at the Gamescom demo:
Sony also unveiled a forthcoming adventure game called "Escape Plan," in which players use the device's touch controls to guide two characters named Lil and Laarg through a labyrinth of puzzles and traps.
Meanwhile third-party publisher Ubisoft came out strong behind Vita at Gamescom, announcing they have six games in development for the machine — chief among them a brand-new "Assassin's Creed" title. They didn't reveal details about how the critically acclaimed action/adventure franchise will play out on Vita, but they did announce that it will arrive sometime in 2012.
Ubisoft said they're also making a new "Lumines" game for Vita and that "Asphalt," "Dungeon Hunter Alliance," "Michael Jackson the Experience" and "Rayman Origins" will also land on the device.
In another bit of news, Sony revealed that all games made for Vita will be downloadable (you know, kind of like smartphone and tablet games). However, games will also be available in stores on a special Vita memory card.
It's still unclear which games, apps and services will be available immediately upon Vita's arrival. But after watching Nintendo struggle to meet sales expectations with the 3DS — a struggle caused in part by the lack of games and online features available at launch — surely Sony plans to come out swinging.
For more game news, check out:
- Sony cuts price of PS3, announces new low-cost PSP
- Will PlayStation Vita be a 'car wreck'?
- Seven things to love about PlayStation Vita
- 'Mass Effect 3' breaks out the guns for Gamescom
- Valve goes heroic with first 'DOTA 2' trailer
- Down but not out: Nintendo shoots for 3DS comeback
Winda Benedetti writes about games for msnbc.com. You can follow her tweets about games and other things here on Twitter or join her in the stream here on Google+ . And be sure to check out the In-Game Facebook page here.