GameStop and Amazon both list the Vita’s release date as Dec. 31. (KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS)

Both GameStop and Amazon are listing the release date as Dec. 31, which is close, but is not exactly in line with what Sony has indicated about its U.S. launch in the past. At E3, the company said the device would be available in time for Christmas, but in subsequent media reports it’s become clear that that’s likely true only for Japanese customers.

Sony’s computer entertainment head Kazuo Hirai told Bloomberg in August that the company would begin its worldwide rollout after the end of this year, leading many people to expect the Vita in early 2012.

Maybe it will be an 11:59 p.m. launch?

Sony will need to hit it big with the Vita. With its console losing out to the XBox and the handheld market losing ground to mobile devices, the company needs to grab its chance and pounce while Nintendo is still struggling with its 3DS sales.

The new handheld sports a 5-inch multitouch screen, a rear touch pad and two analog sticks, in addition to the normal PlayStation controls. The Vita will use proprietary memory cards that start at $25 for 4GB and go up to about $100 for 32 GB.

In the United States, the device will retail for $249 for the WiFi version and $299 for the 3G version. Sony and AT&T announced that they will partner for 3G coverage in the United States.

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