During Sony’s press conference last night, a number of expected announcements were made, including the PS4 launch date in Japan (Feb 2014), and a multi-colored “slim” model of the PS Vita. One announcement, however, was definitely unexpected, and in some cases, confusing: The PS Vita TV.
This small device is designed to play Vita games on a TV set. In addition to a PS Vita card slot and a memory card slot (which allows the option to play downloaded PSOne and PSP games), the device will also be able to eventually Remote Play PS4 titles (which is admittedly cool, but not worth the price for a single feature). Other features include support for web browsing, email, and chat. Media streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus will be supported as well.
While the tech specs and playable options may look great on paper, is a device like this a good bet for Sony? I’m not entirely convinced that it is.
The ability to play handheld games on TV is not a new idea (Nintendo GameBoy Player for GameCube, Sega Nomad, etc…), but given the power built into the PS Vita, an eventual add-on to the handheld would have seemed to be the best route, not designing an entirely separate system.
Re-designing a handheld system into a console will inevitably face some drawbacks. Since the system is controlled via a DualShock 3 controller (up to two can be connected for limited ad-hoc multiplayer), games that use the PS Vita’s touch controls will not be playable.
Another issue will be the screen variations. The graphics for Vita games were designed around the handheld screen’s fixed resolution. Transitioning to a format where the screen size, resolution, aspect ratio, and even players’ proximity to the screen varies, some games may end up with heavy artifacting or illegible text, even when upscaled. One solution would be for the developers to offer a patch for their games, but this would mean spending time and money to provide an update that only a small percentage of PS Vita owners would actually utilize.
I look at the PS Vita TV, and all I see is yet another media-streaming device clamoring for a spot in my already-crowded home theater setup. It offers nothing that couldn’t be offset by an update to the PlayStation Network store. While I personally would enjoy having the ability to play PSP/Vita games on my PS3, it is highly unlikely that Sony would ever offer this option, most likely as an attempt to boost PS Vita’s less-than-stellar sales numbers.
All in all, the PS Vita TV is a failed attempt at bringing handheld and console gaming into the same space, and that’s a good thing. Handheld gaming can offer a different gaming experience than a console, which is something I truly enjoy. In a market that’s being overtaken by cookie-cutter touch games for smartphones and tablets, dedicated handheld gaming systems like the Nintendo 3DS and Sony’s PS Vita have the opportunity to provide something truly unique and enjoyable.
The PS Vita TV will be available in Japan starting November 14th for 9,954yen (US$100). Sony will also offer a bundle that includes a DualShock 3 controller and an 8GB memory card for 14,994yen (US$150).
There is currently no announced plans to offer either the PS Vita Slim or the PS Vita TV outside of Japan.
What are your thoughts on Sony’s PS Vita TV? Would you consider buying the device over a standard PS Vita, or do you just prefer the console experience over handhelds? Let us know in the comments below!