When Sony announced the price of the PlayStation Vita at E3 this year, there was an audible gasp followed by a round of vigorous applause. Sony's $250 asking price matched that of Nintendo's now admittedly overpriced 3DS ... but that was before Nintendo's aggressive price drop. It turns out you should also consider the cost of some unnecessary, but recommended, accessories.

A press release detailing much of Sony's initial Japanese PlayStation Vita offerings quantifies the portable's battery life: approximately "3~5 hours" for games, approximately "5 hours" for video, and approximately 9 hours for music "in stand-by mode." That's with Bluetooth turned off, headphones used instead of speakers, the "default setting" on screen brightness, and no "network" use in games, meaning ixnay on 3G or Wi-Fi. With some or all of those modifiers activated, it's anyone's guess how long the Vita will last. The Vita's built-in 2200mA Li-ion battery can charge "from zero battery power" in approximately "2 hours and 40 min." according to Sony. While three to five hours is more than enough for most people's daily portable gaming routine, it also means the console will need to be recharged regularly. This lines up with Nintendo's estimates of a similar three to five hours for 3DS games, a number which has been the subject of much disappointment for 3DS owners.

Nintendo combatted this known issue by bundling a charging dock, in an effort to simplify the process of keeping your 3DS fully charged. Come home, slide your 3DS out of your cargo shorts, check your StreetPasses, and slap that thing in the dock. While Sony offers a charging cradle for the Vita, it's not included. In Japan, the accessory will retail separately for ¥2,800 or approximately $36.
While the Vita wants for nothing in the input department -- spreading its options across both front and rear touchscreens, front and rear cameras, dual analog sticks, a plethora of buttons, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, a compass, GPS and more -- it's missing one key feature: internal storage. While "some software titles are capable of saving [saved data] on to the PS Vita card itself," other "PS Vita software titles may require the use of separately sold memory card." Those proprietary memory cards are sold separately in 4, 8, 16, and 32GB varieties with prices ranging from ¥2,200 (about $29) to ¥9,500 (about $124).

This cost is notably pronounced when considering storage of previously purchased PSN titles, or storage for digitally distributed Vita titles. By way of comparison, 32GB SD cards sell for under $50. Even the much maligned PSP Go featured 16GB of internal storage, with support for 32GB Memory Stick media, which can be found for less than $75. The 3DS features a token 200MB of internal storage, but notably supports the industry standard SD format and even includes a 2GB SD card in the package.

Nintendo isn't the only company facing increased and aggressive competition from Apple, Google, and the smartphone revolution. A $250 buy-in for a dedicated portable gaming device is already an increasingly tough sell in 2011 (not to mention 2012!), and that's before factoring in some of these "hidden" costs.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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