With the announcement of Sony’s (NYSE:SNE) next-generation video game console widely expected to come Wednesday at a New York press event, the company has slashed the price of its handheld PS Vita console in Japan.
Starting Feb. 28, the handheld console will retail in Japan for 19,980 yen ($214), down from an original price point of 24,980 yen for the Wi-Fi-only model. This puts the PS Vita on par with Nintendo’s (PINK:NTDOY) popular handheld console, the 3DS XL.
The company announced the decision in a live-streamed conference from Japan on Monday night, IGN reports. It has not announced any similar price cuts for the U.S. or Europe, though any announcements applying to those markets will most likely come during Wednesday’s event.
Sony has been resistant to cutting the price of its handheld console ever since it released it in December 2011, despite its expense being a common complaint among reviewers and gamers alike. Sony revealed to Eurogamer last August that it was working on a “cost reduction” plan, but putting anything into effect by the end of 2012 was “too early.”
Coming right at the end of the time frame originally given to Eurogamer for that story, the Vita price drop could be motivated by the device’s lackluster commercial performance so far. Sony itself has admitted that PS Vita sales have been at the “low end” of its expectations.
The timing of Sony’s announcement is all the more suspicious given Sony’s invitation to come see “the future of PlayStation” this Wednesday at a press conference that the Wall Street Journal first reported would unveil the Playstation 3’s successor, rumored to be named either the PlayStation “Orbis” or simply the PlayStation 4. The PS Vita already overlaps with some of the PlayStation 3’s features -- letting players use the Vita as a controller for the console or access their gaming content on either device -- but only for a small number of specific games produced in-house by Sony or its close game development partners. Cloud gaming, meanwhile, has been one of the most hotly rumored features in the next PlayStation, with everyone from the Wall Street Journal to large gaming websites like Kotaku suggesting that the struggling Japanese hardware company is hoping to capitalize on its $380 million acquisition of the cloud computing company Gaikai to make a more flexible and cross-platform experience for its users come the next generation.
Sony might then be inching down the price of the Vita to encourage hesitant or price-conscious gamers of the mobile device’s benefits just in time for the next console release. Any details will have to await the press conference, however.