Sony is pouring a lot of money into hyping the PlayStation Vita handheld's launch in the United States. Sony says that the marketing campaign for the Vita is the biggest they've ever done.

According to the New York Times, the campaign includes billboards, web ads, television commercials and social media efforts. They've also partnered up with other companies for special promotions, such as the "Unlock the Box" giveaway at Taco Bell.

The total cost of the campaign is around $50 million. Sony's senior director of hardware marketing John Koller said that this is "the largest platform launch in terms of marketing investment we’ve ever had."

The Vita is the successor to the PSP. It features an OLED multi-touch screen, dual analog sticks, and rear/front touchpads and cameras. While it's a multimedia device, capable of playing both music and videos, Sony is promoting it as a dedicated gaming platform. They've said previously that they confused gamers by marketing the PSP as a media player.

As the Times article notes, the Vita has its work cut out for it. Since the PSP's launch, mobile phones have become a hugely popular platform for gaming. Apple has sold over 37 million iPhones since 2007 and in doing so provided many consumers with a means of getting cheap (if not free) games. Sony is betting that there's still a market for larger, more expensive games in the handheld market.

Stores throughout North America will start selling the Vita on February 22nd. Gamers who pre-ordered the First Edition bundle will get their hands on it on Wednesday, though. Two versions will be available: a $249 Wi-Fi model and a $299 version with both Wi-Fi and 3G capability. If you're considering a purchase, you can try the handheld out at GameStop.

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