Sony’s E3 Press Conference has just come to a close. After offering a brief, dignified apology for the PSN debacle, Sony got right to it, rolling out game after game. But of course, Sony isn’t just in the games business, they’re in the hardware business — and they’ve got a new console on the way. That console finally has a name, and as expected, it is the PlayStation Vita.

Introduced by none other than Sony’s Kazuo Hirai, the Vita is very much to Sony’s E3 2011 as Kinect is to Microsoft’s E3 2011 — everyone is making games for it, and it is central to the company’s future plans.

Harai promised that the Vita would launch “this year,” though he conspicuously failed to use the word “worldwide” in his description of Vita’s planned release. The system will indeed be available in two configurations, one that is restricted to wi-fi, and another that supports 3G. Whether or not further technology differences exist between the variants was not addressed.

The system’s price, however, is another matter. The wi-fi only Vita comes in at $249.99, taking direct aim at Nintendo’s 3DS. The 3G enabled Vita is only slightly more expensive, setting gamers back $299.99. AT&T has been announced as the exclusive carrier for the 3G Vita, though attendees at Sony’s Press Conference seemed less than thrilled by the news.

A huge number of Vita games made appearances at the show. Of course, Uncharted: Golden Abyss had a predictably impressive demo, but a number of other titles for the system looked extremely promising, including LittleBig Planet, a brand new version of ModNation Racers, and social gaming/dungeon crawler hybrid called Ruin that will be playable on both Vita and PS3. Look for more news on those games, and other Vita titles, as E3 2011 continues.

PlayStation Vita made a strong impression during Sony’s event, both due to the games shown and the undeniably gorgeous OLED screen on the system itself. Developers appear to be making great use of Vita’s many features, particularly the touch vs. button control options, which make designing a track in ModNation Racers, for instance, easier than ever.

Whether or not it ultimately comes out on top in the handheld war with Nintendo’s 3DS, there can be no question that PlayStation Vita is a seriously exciting piece of technology. With a number of immediately attractive games and a reasonable sticker price, Vita just might be that rarest of prospects: a system that lives up to its hype.

Will you buy a PlayStation Vita this Fall? What games are you most interested in?

The PlayStation Vita will release sometime “this year.”

Stay tuned to Game Rant for more news and updates as E3 2011 continues through the week.

Follow me on Twitter @HakenGaken

tags: E3 2011, Sony, Vita