PlayStation Vita

Since it became very apparent the 3DS wouldn’t immediately turn into the hit Nintendo expected it to be, the company has been urging investors to allow the system to reach its first holiday shopping season before passing judgment on it. After all, that’s the best time of the year to be selling gaming hardware. Sony, on the other hand, decided not to rush Vita out so it could benefit from the last quarter of 2011; for much of the world, the new handheld will be out in early 2012, a launch window Sony says it’s fine with.

In an interview with All Things Digital, Sony hardware marketing director John Koller called pre-orders for Vita “substantial and” indicated the wait until 2012 is due to a desire to meet demand.

“We’ve increased production materially since E3,” he explained. “We learned our lesson to make sure you have enough product.”

It’s not a guarantee that having a hardware shortage is actually a bad thing from a sales perspective. It was incredibly difficult to find a Wii for a long period of time after launch, yet it continued to sell well despite that. PS3 wasn’t quite so hard to find even though Sony tried to make it seem like it was.

Vita will launch in Japan on December 17. Three months later, on February 22, it’ll be out in North America and Europe — unless you decide to pre-order a First Edition bundle, in which case you’ll be able to get it a week early.

Koller points to the launch of the PlayStation Portable’s North American launch in March 2005, when the system sold one million units in its first week, as evidence that a launch during that part of the year isn’t a major disadvantage.

Of course, the world was much different in 2005 both in terms of the economy and the state of handheld gaming. Many would say smartphones and tablets have taken a permanent chunk out of the handheld gaming market, and it’s partially due to this that the 3DS has struggled in its first year. Koller, as you’d expect, doesn’t think it’s a problem because Vita offers something more.

“This is a larger game experience. We think we are insulated from the competition,” Koller claimed. “We love mobile games. Mobile and tablets games are additive.”

We’ll see if Koller is right once the system launches next year at $249.99 (for the Wi-Fi-only model) and $299.99 (for the 3G model).

By Chris Pereira