Playstation Vita will launch in early 2012 in U.S. and Europe

PlayStation VitaRumors have been circulating for a while now about the expected release date for the Playstation Vita, Sony’s next generation of handheld gaming platform, but now it looks like we finally have an official timeline — and if you live in the U.S. or Europe, you probably won’t be happy about it.

Sony Corp. Executive Vice President Kazuo Hirai announced today that the PlayStation Vita will go on sale by the end of 2011 in Japan, but it won’t hit shelves in U.S. and Europe until early next year.

According to the Associated Press, Hirai didn’t characterize the later-than-expected release as a “delay,” and instead said the company wants to ensure the system has a library of solid game offerings when it launches.

While that’s all well and good, the new timeline means that the much-anticipated system will miss the important holiday season in the American and European markets. Hirai didn’t offer any specifics as to when the device will begin its rollout in either of those two markets, and there’s a chance that it could miss out on the holiday in Japan, too.

What the announcement doesn’t mean, however, is that there are any plans to mimic the recent price-slashing of its chief rival, the Nintendo 3DS.

“We packed so much into the device and made it very affordable,” Hirai told reporters. “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.”

The PlayStation Vita, which features a unique touch-interface and motion-sensitive controls, will still cost $249 in the U.S. for its Wi-Fi-only model, and $299 for the version that will also feature 3G service.