The Japanese consumer electronics maker released its next-generation portable seven years after the arrival of the PlayStation Portable. The device is set to roll out in other parts of Asia by the end of the year before launching in North America and Europe next February.
Thousands of early adopters lined up for the launch, according to the Associated Press. Bloomberg noted that a store in Tokyo drew in 100 fans before 7 a.m. on Saturday.
Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Andrew House said pre-orders of the device in Japan had sold out as customers lined up at retailers to make reservations.
Sony unveiled the Vita, then codenamed the NGP, in January, promising release by the end of the year. The device sports a 5-inch OLED touchscreen with a resolution of 960x544, dual analog sticks, front and rear touchpads, with support for Wi-Fi, BlueTooth, GPS and optional 3G. The Vita also features a quad-core version of the same SGX543 graphics processor found in Apple's A5 chip.
The Wi-Fi version of the Vita sells for 24,900 yen ($320), while 3G functionality will add an extra 5,080 ($65) yen to the price.The device will sell for $249.99 for the Wi-Fi only model and $299.99 for the 3G version when it arrives in the U.S.
The device's launch comes as Sony is fighting for dominance of the portable gaming market. After years of facing off against Nintendo as its chief competitor, Sony has found its once formidable market share eroded by the recent rise of smartphones and tablets, led by Apple and Google.
In just a few years, iOS and Android have taken over the majority of portable gaming profits in the U.S. from the incumbents. Mobile analytics firm Flurry revealed last month that the two platforms accounted for 58 percent of revenue in 2011.
"We see, for the first time, that smartphone revenue in the U.S. has leap-frogged portable game revenue," said Peter Farago, vice president of marketing with Flurry. "The disruption has been downright brutal."
Given that the PlayStation Vita did not make the U.S. market in time for the coveted holiday shopping season, Apple will likely continue to gain share this winter. Nielsen dubbed the season an "iHoliday" last month after a survey of kids and teens revealed that Apple's iPad, iPod touch and iPhone ranked at the top of their wish lists.
Smartphone uptake has had a material impact on Nintendo's profits. The company warned in October that weaker than expected sales of its handheld devices would result in losses for the 2012 fiscal year.