New firmware primes PS3 for Vita

You may be asked to download a new firmware update the next time you try to take your PS3 online.

This update will offer a few enhancements for the system, including advanced video playback settings for Blu-ray Discs and a stronger system for filtering out Playstation Network friends and messages.

But the biggest update is one that won’t even be visible to US gamers until next February. That’s because PS3 firmware version 4.0’s main feature is the console’s ability to support connectivity with the Playstation Vita.

The Vita, which was supposed to come out for the 2011 holiday season but needed to be pushed back after this year’s disastrous weather near Sony’s Japanese manufacturing facilities, is the official successor to Sony’s PSP handheld and brings with it a wealth of connectivity options.

In addition to supporting full game downloads over Wi-Fi, there is a model with built-in 3G service (powered exclusively by AT&T). Through these connections, users will be able to play online games not only with other Vita owners but potentially select Android phone users as well. There’s also a Remote Play feature that will let gamers continue their PS3 games from their Internet-connected Vita.

The new firmware officially makes the PS3 recognize the Vita as a “content management device,” making it easy for users to transfer multimedia content like music and videos, as well as games, save files, and Playstation applications.

The US release date for the Playstation Vita is February 22.