Sony’s PlayStation Vita is set to hit store shelves in the US on Wednesday. Some shoppers, who ordered prelaunch bundles, already have the new gaming device in their hands.

Sony’s handheld gaming devices are facing growing competition from smart phones, tablets, and the low-cost games that go on them.

The PlayStation Vita will be priced from $249 for a Wi-Fi version, to a 3G version for $299. The 3G/Wi-Fi version would also need a subscription to an AT&T data plan, which is $15/month for a 250 MB allowance, and $30/month for a 3 GB allowance. A first edition bundle package which includes the 3G/Wi-Fi Vita,  a 4G memory card, and a limited edition case is available through the end of March for $350. Games can cost upwards of about $40.Sony-PlayStation-Vita

So here’s the question that shoppers are faced. Buy a $250+ Sony PlayStation Vita and be ready to fork over more cash for games… Or spend that money on a tablet or smart phone where gaming apps can be bought for as little as a dollar, and are often even free?

Sony will find an audience for the Vita. But it may be amongst hard-core gamers. They are not likely to have as wide of an audience with the Vita as they have with some of their previous gaming devices. Though much of the Vita’s success will be based on the quality and excitement of the games that come out for it. A really killer, exclusive, game would go a long way to boost sales.

Sony’s last big launch, for the Nintendo 3DS, was met with a lukewarm reception. It came under criticism for both the price and the lack of interesting games. Sales picked up after the launch of more games and a price drop. Shoppers who had purchased the 3DS prior to its price drop were offered free games as compensation.

The Vita is launching with about 40 games ready to go, and more are in the pipeline.

After the launch of the Vita, next up for Nintendo will be the launch of the Nintendo Wii U, which is expected sometime before the start of the 2012 holiday shopping season.