Sony spends $50m to prove PS Vita is relevant

Sony has pumped $50m into its US launch campaign for the PS Vita, targeting hardcore gamers and internet addicts who "Never Stop Playing" as the company attempts to challenge the rise of smartphone gameplay. The promo spend is "the largest platform launch in terms of marketing investment we've ever had" senior director for PlayStation handhelds John Koller told the NYTimes, with some of the cash going on getting the PS Vita into gamers' hands for a test play.

Other elements of the campaign include sponsored Twitter messages, online and real-world adverts and radio ads on the Howard Stern show, along with a commercial filmed in Buenos Aires. One theme Sony is particularly keen to push is the relatively seamless integration of gameplay between the PS Vita and the PS3, with the advert storyline showing how one gamer picks up the same title on the portable that he began playing on the home console.

The challenge, though, will be avoiding the same fate that befell the Vita in Japan. Despite having initially sold out in preorders, sales subsequently dived and retailers cut pricing in response. The decline was blamed in part on a shortage of solid early titles, something Sony had even said it would avoid being an issue back in December.

Even before the PS Vita arrives on the US market, set for February 22, some are already predicting that it will be the last of Sony's dedicated portables. Even Sony might have quietly come to the same conclusion; the PS Vita OS itself is tipped to show up on future Sony smartphones as the company pulls together its future mobile strategy.