Sony Playstation Vita in North America on Feb. 22

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TOKYO (AP) — Sony's long-awaited PlayStation Vita portable game machine has hit stores in Japan as thousands of game enthusiasts lined up at shops from early in the morning.

The Playstation Vita will be available on this side of the world in late February.

Sony is predicting brisk sales, even though Saturday's launch may have missed some holiday shoppers. A successful debut would help the company offset the rest of its struggling business.

The device is a touch-interface and motion-sensitive handheld seen as a successor to the PlayStation Portable. Vita's launch will heat up competition with rival Nintendo Co.'s 3DS.

Many of the purchasers Saturday had made advance orders on the Internet so they can start playing immediately.

The PS Vita goes on sale in North America and Europe on Feb. 22.

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