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Uncompromised: PlayStation Vita launches in the UK

Wednesday, 22nd February 2012 03:34 GMT By Alex Donaldson

Alex Donaldson wasn’t the first man in the UK to buy a Vita, but he did talk to him. Get all the buzz and photos of the high street launch without the queueing and the cold.

Vita UK Launch: February 22, 2012

WiFi only model: £229

3G-enabled model: £279 – includes Wipeout 2048

Games priced at around £40, although some downloadable titles are significantly cheaper.

Backed by Sony UK’s largest advertising campaign to date.

Midnight launch host GAME has not stocked Ubisoft or Tecmo Koei titles.

“No sleep,” Zohaib Ali, a 21-year-old student from Uxbridge enthuses as he waits outside in the biting February cold, bouncing on his toes. “I’ve stayed awake all last night – I’ve been here since Sunday!”

He looks like he should be dead on his feet, but he isn’t – he’s got two massive things to look forward to that are making him incredibly excited. “Tonight I’m just going to play Vita all night,” he swears – and he’s doubly happy because Sony have kindly guaranteed him all first party games free for the rest of the year – not a bad deal for waiting in the cold for a bit.

“I’ve already played it – it’s good, it’s really good!” he continues, so excited that I barely need to ask anything. “I love games, I love technology – I just want my Vita!”

He’s just one of many waiting outside GAME Oxford Street, one of a handful of stores opening at midnight to celebrate the launch of Sony’s new handheld – and the air both inside and outside the store is one of excitement from company reps and gamers who can’t wait to get their hands on the machine. “Not long to go!” one man shouts down the queue, cheering up the others in the cold.

I, thankfully, got to go inside to speak to some of the folks behind the launch.

“The strongest launch line-up”

Almost as excited as Zohaib was Michael Denny, the Senior Vice President of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios Europe – quite the title. “Personally I think in terms of launches it’s possibly the strongest launch line-up we’ve had.”

“Not just in terms of quantity – we have announced 50 titles which is fantastic in itself – but in terms of quality and the mix of the big franchises that have almost been reinvented for Vita mixed with innovative, new, exciting IPs as well. I think we’ve really something for everybody – it’s really strong, really exciting.”

Something for everybody is part of Vita’s big marketing push, including ‘Vita Rooms,’ a store space that allows the public to go hands-on with the device from hardcore offerings like Uncharted to as-yet unreleased titles like LittleBigPlanet – and folks who’d picked up their Vita could head to the space for a drink and relax after midnight if they fancied.

Everyone isn’t the core demographic for Vita at launch, though, as Denny was keen to explain.

“The PlayStation DNA at its core is that we’re all about games. PlayStation Vita has games at its heart – people that love games will want a PlayStation Vita. We are going for a core demographic at launch and we have the games to appeal to them.”

“The PlayStation DNA at its core is that we’re all about games,” he told me “PlayStation Vita has games at its heart – people that love games will want a PlayStation Vita. We are going for a core demographic at launch and we have the games to appeal to them.”

“People who love the experience of Uncharted already will absolutely love the experience of Uncharted on a portable. The reason for that is that it is an uncompromised gaming device – it has a beautiful 5-inch OLED screen, it has uncompromised controls – it has addition controls to the TV version as well.”

“There’s no question for me that if you love the experience of Uncharted on your TV you’ll absolutely love it on your portable as well.”

That’s something with which SCEE PR Manager Hugo Bustillos was also keen to point out. “We’re offering your triple-A games, your home console experiences – Uncharted, WipEout,” he said. “We’re essentially giving you a PlayStation 3 in your pocket.”

“The third parties have done an amazing job too; I think FIFA’s incredible – I’ve been playing that a lot – Marvel vs. Capcom looks stunning, and I think for the first time is a way to play an actual beat-em-up on a portable console and it’s very similar to what you get at home.”

Beyond that there’s also a plan for Vita’s portfolio to expand past the hardcore with roots in the machine that stretch down channels that lead to social experiences and casual games. Boasting features like downloadable social media apps and a better ability to handle bite-sized downloadable games, there’s a hope that at launch and beyond more casual gamers will find something in the Vita.

“Titles like Escape Plan, Reality Fighters, Motorstorm RC help us to appeal to a broader range of people even if we are hardcore-focused at launch,” Bustillos explained.

Denny went deeper on that, elaborating in a basic way on the company’s intentions for the future. “Vita is a very connected device, a very socially connected device. With its multiple interfaces such as front and rear touch, there’s no question that we can expand that market to be broader.”

“What we’ve seen with the proliferation of gaming on the go as it were with more casual devices is that alongside our core games we believe we can ‘graduate’ or ‘upgrade’ some of the more casual users that have entered the gaming market up to PlayStation Vita.”

“You look at the catalogue we have and there are some titles that are broader-based that can appeal to more casual gamers even at launch. There’s lots of unannounced games to come, and we’re happy with the launch line up in terms of how broad it is, but yes, we’ll be adding to that catalogue and I’m sure the demographic will be broadening very quickly.”

21 year old Zohaib Ali queued for hours
to be the first to own a Vita.

Even with Ubisoft and Tecmo Koei titles absent from the store due to GAME’s recent money woes the Vita launch line-up was still notably plentiful in the store, with customers rushing in on a first-come-first-served basis to grab limited items like cases and memory cards.

Everyone who bought a Vita left with a bag replete with Vita swag including items like a t-shirt, LittleBigPlanet mug and Nathan Drake Sackboy, whilst members of the WipEout 2048 development team were on hand to sign copies of the game and the Vita to give midnight buyers a collectable edge.

I grabbed GAME Group Marketing Director Anna-Marie Mason to see how she felt the launch – vital for the struggling company – was proceeding. “We’re partners in this launch with Sony – we’ve been behind this product all the way,” she told me amidst the throngs of customers.

“This is an important launch for the industry, and we’ve got really healthy pre-orders and deposits for this product. Judging by tonight’s turn-out I think we’re set to have a really great week.”

One thing is significantly different at this launch, though – the number of stores open at midnight. The 3DS Launch had some 482 GAME Group stores open at midnight whilst even Gran Turismo 5 got 93 – the Vita, meanwhile, had just two stores open last night. Mason explained that she sees it as a matter of picking the correct approach, though.

“It’s not about less – it’s more about doing the right thing,” she clarified. “This is absolutely the right platform for Vita – we’ve also got our Gamestation store in New Street open this evening – it’s a brilliant store, and they’ll have a great turn-out just like we have here. We’re also opening our stores early tomorrow – from 8 o’clock – so we know customers will be in early and pick up their machines.”

All parties involved – Sony, GAME and the third parties – will obviously be hoping that Vita has a bumper launch. Past all the marketing speak and grandstanding the stand-out from last night was just how excited Zohaib, first in line, was. Based on his reaction it’s quite clear that – ignoring sales for a moment – Sony have done something very right.

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14 Comments

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  1. Dragon246

    I wish vita the best but its success depends on games, sony should keep pumping AAA titles for vita to keep it alive.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Len

    Mines en route, will turn up tom afternoon. V excited… :)

    #2 2 years ago
  3. FeaturePreacher

    You brits are lucky. We would never be allowed to have a pair of tits like that in our American retail stores.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Patrick Garratt

    I am honestly excited by Vita. Strongest console concept for ages. I feels genuinely new, and the games are brilliant. Thank fuck, quite frankly. I just hope people buy it.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Mike

    I don’t do handhelds, but Vita really does look like a decent machine. It makes me want although I’d never play on it.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Patrick Garratt

    Good piece! That kid is the queue is the most excited person of all time. Good luck to you, sir.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Patrick Garratt

    @5 – It’s different. Console quality. I’ve never been this interested in a “handheld” before. Completely different experience to something like a phone or 3DS.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Dragon246

    @7 ,exactly, people say handheld dont need console games but I am a student who just does not have much time to start playing on ps3 but I certainly do want to play uncharted . This is where vita fills the bill perfectly and that is why I have preordered it.I hope others understand it too and vita has phenomenal sales.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Johnny Cullen

    With Pat on this one. Vita’s probably the first handheld I’ve been genuinely excited for. I got a 3DS mainly to “follow the herd” and I don’t think I’ve touched it more than 30 times (and even that might not be the right number). Where as Vita, the games literally actually excite me from day one already. Uncharted and Wipeout, obviously, but also stuff like Gravity Rush, Motorstorm RC and Resistance (and this is before a yet to be officially announced Killzone game).

    So yeah, Vita will do well, I reckon.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Da Man

    So yeah, completely identical experience to Psp, but even more of a pocket console.

    I might get the 3ds for that Vagrant Story – like game and the Resi if it gets a couple more of games like those, but I just don’t have any use for handhelds.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. silkvg247

    I really, really don’t see what the hype is about. :/

    For one thing I feel handhelds have pretty much had their day anyway – I rarely get out my DS or my PSP. For another, I can’t think of one groundbreaking or exciting thing the Vita actually does, to warrant it’s price tag.

    I mean yay, current gen graphics (which are over 5 years old, sigh) in the palm of my hand. But hold on a sec.. I spend all of my time at work, asleep or at home in my living room. If I’m in my room.. I have a 47″ tv. Why would I use a handheld.

    I guess their sole market is the long journey train/tube commuter then, can’t think why else you’d want one. I wonder if the “exclusive launch titles” will be released on the ps3 at some point? I wonder how long until you basically get vita ports of PS3 games and original content runs dry as it’s too costly to dev for one platform? By which time you’ld be sat on your couch playing a Vita agame thinking.. hang on, why didn’t I just get it on the PS3.. why did I buy this thing?

    And as moaned about previously, I’ll be damned if I’ll pay more to get less! No UDM pass, but larger RRP, stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. Why can’t people boycott blatant and unfair rip-offs like this so we can actually get things changed?

    #11 2 years ago
  12. absolutezero

    “I spend all of my time at work, asleep or at home in my living room.”

    :(

    #12 2 years ago
  13. silkvg247

    @12 It wasn’t supposed to sound depressing, I’m a dedicated gamer, happy to spend most of my “free” time gaming. I don’t do the social thing, I’ve never been happier since I stopped drinking either. Though I do have mates around for.. you guesed it.. gaming nights (with optional films and tabletop RPGs)!

    #13 2 years ago
  14. KAP

    @13

    What I got from your comments is that the Vita isn’t catered for you.

    Ok?!

    Hmmm, tabletop RPGs.. each there own right?

    #14 2 years ago