Sony plays up Vita and blockbuster videogames

Sony is hoping to shake off its financial woes as it plays up its Vita handheld gaming device and new heart-pounding titles for its PlayStation 3 videogame consoles.

"This is the Super Bowl for those of us who live and die in the videogame industry," Sony Computer Entertainment America president Jack Tretton said Monday on the eve of the E3 extravaganza in Los Angeles.

The Japanese entertainment titan focused heavily on its Vita, demonstrating how games were being adapted to let players switch between the handheld devices and PS3 consoles without losing continuity.

Sony also showed off coming blockbuster videogames, including "The Last of Us," by the Naughty Dog studio behind the winning "Uncharted" franchise, a riveting new installment of which was also featured at the event.

The dazzling array of new gadgets and games belied the company's ongoing financial struggles. In April, Sony said it would cut some 10,000 jobs and spend nearly $1 billion on an "urgent" overhaul.

Sony shares tumbled below 1,000 yen Monday for the first time since 1980 and the era of the Walkman, sending the value of the company crashing to less than a tenth of what it was just over a decade ago.

But the company has vowed it will swing back into the black as it embarks on the restructuring plan.

On Monday, Tretton focused on the Vita, which can be used as a second-screen for PS3 games, saying: "It gives each player their own in-game controls and perspectives."

Similar features are offered by Microsoft, which synchronizes tablets with Xbox 360 consoles, and Nintendo, which has made tablet controllers the centerpiece of its new-generation Wii U GamePad consoles.

French videogame powerhouse Ubisoft has tailored a version of its winning "Assassin's Creed" line-up for the Vita, introducing the first female main character in the franchise and tapping into the handheld devices capabilities.

Sony will release a special "Assassin's Creed: Liberation" bundle, packaging a first-ever white Vita with the videogame when it is released in October.

The beloved "Call of Duty" military shooter franchise is also heading to Vita, according to Tretton.

Sony also broke down a platform wall by letting players using Vita or PS3 play against one another in the same game.

An "All-Stars Battle Royale" videogame will let players using Vita devices brawl with opponents on PS3 consoles through Kratos characters from popular Sony videogames.

"We wanted to take the best of our characters and full cross-play between PS Vita and PS3," Tretton said, of the game to be released later this year.

"You can play with friends on different devices."

Cross-content play will also be a feature in downloadable content for "Little Big Planet 2," according to Sony, which has promised a flood of new titles for Vita.

The first wave of Android-powered smartphones and tablets will synch with PlayStation games as the result of an alliance with Taiwan-based HTC Corporation, according to Tretton.

Sony touted its PlayStation Network online service for games, movies and music and made free games available for PlayStation Plus members.

Online video services HuluPlus and Crackle Television are being added to growing array of content providers on Vita, according to Tretton.

The press event opened with a glimpse at PS3 supernatural action title "Beyond: Two Souls," from the Quantic Dream studio that made "Heavy Rain."

"Beyond" tells the mysterious and troubling story of a girl who is linked to a ghostly entity, according to Quantic Dream founder David Cage.

"Death is the biggest mystery of mankind," Cage said while providing a look at the new game.

"If you make the right decisions (in the game), maybe you will discover what lies beyond."

Actress Ellen Page, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in the film "Juno," provided the voice for the game's protagonist.

Sony Computer Entertainment chief Andrew House meanwhile revealed a collaboration with author J.K. Rowling on the first title in what will be a vast library of interactive "Wonderbooks."

"This takes you on a journey of learning magic, like a student at Hogwarts," he said, referring to the fictional school of sorcery from Harry Potter books.

"Welcome to the re-invention of the storybook."

Players used PlayStation Move motion-sensing controllers as wands as they flipped through pages of the book and learned spells.

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