This December, Sony is launching two PS Vitas. One model is the cheaper 3G model. The other is a 3G version.
Japanese carrier Docomo is handling the Vita's 3G services. Paid online services are nothing new to Sony or the PlayStation platform. The Vita's 3G services are a departure.
Do be aware that these are the 3G services for Japan. Western carriers are likely to offer different plans and different prices.
According to Sony's official release, there will be two plans offered in Japan: a Prepaid Data Plan 20 Hours and a Prepaid Data Plan 100 hours.
For ¥980 (US$13), the 20 hour plan offers 20 hours of gaming. Those twenty hours must be used within a 30 day window.
For ¥4,980 ($65), the 100 hour plan will offer 103 hours of gaming that must be used over the course of 180 days.
If your hours are not used during the set time period, they will become invalid.
After that set time period is up, PS Vita users have 14 days to decide if they want to continue buying more hours. When you initially sign up, you must pay ¥2,100 (US$27). If you decide not to continue after this 14 day window, you must pay that ¥2,100 again if you decide to buy hours in the future.
The hours are sold by credit card, and it currently seems like there will not be the option to pay cash for hours at retailers.
Many Japanese gamers seem to be reluctant to buy virtual points with their credit cards. Sony even released a smart card reader USB peripheral in Japan so individuals could add money to their PSN accounts without using their credit cards.
The plan being offered is similar to phone plans, sure, by buying blocks of hours, having to use them during a certain time period, and then needing to buy more hours could hinder the 3G model in Japan. The contract looks to be a sizable commitment.
During the press conference, Docomo said that it would offer a service that children could use safely. I have no doubt this is true. As safe as it is, is it affordable—not for just kids, but adults?
I imagine that American and European gamers will get different plans. Those plans might be better. They might be worse.
If today's press conference did anything, it convinced me that, as someone living here in Japan, there's only one way to go: WiFi.