With PlayStation Vita Sony is targeting men in their 20s who play video games eight hours a week or more and own a PlayStation 3.

In the US Sony is spending $50 million on marketing the handheld to this target audience, according to a report in the New York Times.

John Koller, director of hardware marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment America, told the paper Vita "is the largest platform launch in terms of marketing investment we've ever had".

Vita would allow users "to feel engaged and still feel like they're playing on a console" he said.

In the US the theme of the advertising campaign is "Never Stop Playing". Sony has hired marketing company Deutsch to create ads for the device and push Vita's presence on social media, such as Twitter. The hashtag #gamechanger will be used on telly ads, billboards and digital banner ads in an attempt to funnel online discussion of the device into one place and get Vita trending in the run up to its 22nd February launch.

Deutsch said the audience is "very socially plugged in, mobile, out and about, both physically and on the internet".

Sony will buy promoted Twitter posts that direct consumers to the official Vita website. The Facebook PlayStation page has a Vita tab and how-to videos.

US TV spots are designed to show how Vita "affects you socially" and how you're able to continue your home console gaming while out and about. They air during The Simpsons, South Park and basketball games.

Sony Computer Entertainment Europe is also gearing up for a big Vita push, with a major marketing effort expected in the UK.

Vitas are already playable in all GAME and Gamestation stores across the nation via dedicated Interactive Display Units, and Sony has taken the handheld on tour with its PlayStation Vita Rooms initiative, which lets consumers go hands on with demos.

But despite Sony's heavy investment in the hardcore gaming device, some analysts have expressed concern over its long-term success, pointing to tough competition from cheap gaming on mobile phones and tablet devices.

The Wi-Fi only version of Vita costs £230. The Wi-Fi and 3G version costs £280. Games cost as much as £40.

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Wesley Yin-Poole

Wesley Yin-Poole

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