PSP fans in Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong have an awesome reason to smile come the end of this year – the release of the next generation of the handheld, PSP Vita, in their region. North Americans and the Europeans, will have to wait a little bit longer – “early next year” to be (not so) exact. According to Sony executive Kaz Hirai, the much awaited launch of the PS Vita will happen early next year in the US but this launch won’t come soon enough. If you’ve seen the demo videos of facial recognition/avatar systems for the PS Vita you’d be impatient too.

According to Hirai this timing is not a delay but a way to make sure the game is solidly supported by a nice game repertoire when it launches. Having observed the release of the 3DS with relatively thin title support, we can definitely understand this concern. There is nothing more frustrating than having a new console or handheld with tons of graphics and functionality potential and very little titles to run on the hardware.

Hirai was quite clear on a key topic though – Sony will not match Nintendo’s price cut for the 3DS. Will this put the PS Vita in a competitive disadvantage? I’m not sure. While they are obviously both handhelds, their functionality and market segmentation may stack up differently. Indeed, as Hirai said “We packed so much into the device and made it very affordable. There is no need to lower the price just because somebody else that happens to be in the video game business decided that they were going to lower their price.” Different people have different expectations for each device. PS Vita’s appeal is that it tries to pack as much console features into such a little space.