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Struggling against mobile devices, Sony's PS Vita sees price cut in Japan

Ahead of the unveiling of its next-generation PlayStation game console, Sony on Monday announced that it would be slashing the price in Japan of its PS Vita portable game console, which has seen disappointing sales as devices such as Apple's iPad have grabbed the attention of gamers.

Despite impressive specs and titles, Sony's PS Vita has struggled in sales.

Beginning Feb. 28, the PS Vita's Wi-Fi and 3G versions will sell for ¥19,980, or approximately $215. That's a drop of about 20 percent from the Wi-Fi model's launch price, and a drop of 34 percent from the 3G/Wi-Fi model's launch price.

The price drop will coincide with the release of a new major title Phantasy Star Online 2 for Sony's portable console. February 28 will also see a PS Plus promotion for Japan, with users in the country able to activate a one-week subscription to the online service, which brings free games, discounts, and other in-game content.

The price drop news also comes ahead of a February 20 event wherein Sony is expected to unveil its next-generation console offering, the so-called "PlayStation 4." The console will likely debut at a Sony event in Manhattan on Wednesday, and it is expected to feature significantly improved internal graphics capabilities, as well as the ability to stream PlayStation 3 games from the Internet.

The price reduction and next PlayStation's introduction come as both portable and home consoles from the traditional video game giants have begun to struggle. The PlayStation Vita, which has seen sales troubles since its launch, has come under increasing pressure with the growing popularity of Apple's iPhone, Samsung's Android-powered offerings, and other mobile computing devices.

Launched in December of 2011, the PlayStation Vita was meant to take on portable devices from both Apple and portable console leader Nintendo. Sony packed considerable specs into the handheld device, including a high-resolution touchscreen, a rear touchpad, front and back cameras, and cellular connectivity. It also had a launch library of 25 titles, including established franchises such as Ninja Gaiden, Rayman, and Uncharted.

The Vita received solid reviews thanks to its hardware design and internal specs, which put it almost on par with Sony's PlayStation 3 home console. Its expensive launch price, though, made it hard to justify as a standalone device, especially considering the greater capabilities of devices such as Apple's iPod Touch.

The general trend toward convergence in the consumer electronics sector — wherein one device can handle multiple functions — is playing havoc with the traditional gaming sector. Whereas years past saw gamers buying dedicated devices and later spending $40 to $60 per game, free and cheap games in the mobile sector —combined with an overall soft economy — have blown a hole in that business model. Sony is not alone in its struggles with the PS Vita. The past month has also seen gaming giant Nintendo lowering sales estimates for its Wii U home console, and its 3DS mobile device only began to see increased sales once Nintendo dropped its retail price.