Blown opportunity?

To say that Nintendo has pretty much dominated the portable gaming market for the better part of two decades would be a bit of an understatement. Its Game Boy line of systems sold millions upon millions of units, and Nintendo DS became the best-selling portable console of all time. So it would be easy to assume that the follow-up to the DS would be a shoe-in to continue this grip on the portable market, right?

While the hype and anticipation for 3DS was rampant, especially after its initial unveiling at E3 2010, early sales of the unit haven't reached expectations and forced Nintendo to institute a rather drastic $80 price drop less than six months after launch. And not only has this caused many third-party publishers to delay, and in some cases even cancel 3DS development projects, it's also caused quite a bit of unrest within Nintendo itself and left 3DS looking vulnerable, something not normally associated with a Nintendo handheld.

Enter PlayStation Vita, just recently shown off at this year's E3 show to rave reviews and insanely long waits in line for an opportunity to take it for a spin. While Sony was able to have impressive success against Nintendo in the portable market with PSP, it's the Vita that many industry insiders believe gives Sony its first real chance at knocking Nintendo off its handheld market throne, especially given the initially slow sales of the 3DS.

Will 3DS sales finally pick up?

It was easy to see that Sony wanted to make its new portable competitive from the start when it stunned gamers across the globe with the announcement that the low-end Playstation Vita would be priced at $250, the very same price of Nintendo's 3DS. In order to add a little more fuel to the fire, it also showed off a rather dynamic group of launch titles for the system, many of which made full use of its wide array of control functions and PlayStation 3-quality visuals. And while no exact release date was announced, most people assumed that kicking off a global launch in 2011 meant that the electronics giant was getting set to go toe-to-toe with Nintendo's 3DS during the upcoming Christmas season.

So why, with the door to the portable gaming market finally left open for the first time since the original Game Boy back in 1989, would Sony choose to push PlayStation Vita to 2012 in North America and Europe? Does Sony have a master plan that we're just not seeing, and will it be enough to make up for missing what many people within the gaming industry are viewing as a missed opportunity?

For one thing, Sony will be missing out on sales to consumers who depend on Christmas to get more expensive gifts; non-essential items like game consoles, for example. If there's no PlayStation Vita available, many will end up settling on Nintendo 3DS when they otherwise might not. You're also asking consumers to purchase your system soon after many of them have just finished spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars during the holiday shopping season. Sure, die-hard PlayStation fans will still scoop it up as soon as it launches, but Sony would still likely lose many of those who were on the fence or ended up being too impatient to wait for the 2012 Vita launch.

Sleek and sexy!

It's difficult to understand the thinking behind Sony's decision to forgo such a golden opportunity to come at Nintendo while 3DS is struggling a bit at retail, even with the rationale that it will give developers more time to get a stronger line-up of launch titles together. There's even been speculation that Sony might be using the delay to push the PlayStation Vita closer to the Wii U launch in order to push the Vita's capabilities in performing many of the same functions as that of the Wii U controller, something we discussed in our Talking Point: Why Push PlayStation Vita to 2012? It seems like a significantly risky move to miss a holiday launch just for an effort to convince consumers that the machine isn't just a portable game system, but rather a PlayStation 3 accessory, not to mention giving 3DS a chance to garner some much-needed sales in the coming months.

We know many of you have your own ideas and opinions on Sony's decision to push the North American and European launch of PlayStation Vita into 2012 and we'd like to hear your thoughts on the matter. Do you think Sony has made a crucial mistake in allowing 3DS free reign during the upcoming holiday shopping season, or do you think it's a smart move to allow time for a better lineup of launch titles? Let us know your thoughts on the subject.