As I’m sure you’re all aware next Wednesday sees Sony finally unveiling their next-generation PlayStation (if you weren’t aware of it then congratulations, you’re now fully aware of it) so as my blog next Thursday will focus on that I decided to devote my attention this week to its portable sibling, the PS Vita.
The little Vita launched to relatively strong fanfare. The 3DS was struggling and the price was the same as Nintendo’s underpowered and underperforming portable. The launch lineup was also stellar, especially when compared with the flaccid launch lineup of its rival. We saw Uncharted, Wipeout, Rayman, Marvel vs Capcom 3 and a host of downloadable exclusives such as the amazing Super Stardust Delta. The big upset of the launch wasn’t sales or the games but the ridiculous price of the memory cards. When the PSP launched with its weird Memory Stick Duos at least Sony gave one away with the console itself. With the Vita however you were out of luck, you had to buy one separately. And let me tell you, these things aren’t cheap (4GB is £14.99). The reason the price of these is so high is that they’re a proprietary format and only Sony can make them, meaning no competition. I of course did the smart thing and got my Vita in a bundle that included a 8GB card for free.
So a great launch lineup and the console is priced well against its competitor, what could go wrong? As you’ll probably know the 3DS received a massive price cut (about 1/3 off its original price) meaning that despite its better hardware specs, such as the OLED capacitive touch screen and PS3 quality graphics, the Vita started to look a little expensive. This was then followed but with… nothing. I mean seriously, what games have been released for the console since launch? Ok there have been a few but there haven’t been anywhere near as many as for the 3DS. The 3DS was also fully backwards compatible with DS games whereas the Vita can only play PSP games bought from the PSN. Because of things like this the Vita is struggling, to say the least, when it comes to sales. Sony have said that sales are at the lower end of expectations and that they will try harder to promote the device in the future, so expect to see more adverts for the device. I also don’t think Sony are currently worry too much about the Vita sales as I have a suspicion that the Vita will have some magical connection with the PS4 (like it’ll be able to be used as a Wii U-like controller and stream games to it over Wi-Fi), If once the PS4 comes out and sales still don’t improve then Sony will likely cut the price.
So if the device is a bit overpriced and has very few games then why do I love it so much? Well to put it bluntly it’s my perfect handheld. Simple things like the curved edges and the materials used make it a joy to hold compared to its sharp and angular rival. I love fully integrated it is with the PSN as the account on my PS3 is the same one as on my Vita. So if I redeem a voucher the credit appears on both PSN stores, if I unlock a trophy its viewable on both devices and if I buy a PS1 game I can download it at no extra cost on both devices (whereas on the 3DS and Wii U if you buy a classic game you can’t transfer it to the other device, meaning you have to pay for it twice!). PS+ has also found its way onto the Vita, meaning that if you’re a subscriber you can discounts and even games (like Mortal Kombat and Jet Set Radio) for free each month without having to upgrade or alter your subscription. Note to other service providers; this is how you do a gaming subscription service right.
Now when it comes to games, yes there aren’t that many. But the ones that are available are genuinely amazing. Uncharted Golden Abyss feels like a PS3 Uncharted game, Wipeout 2084 is as fast and as fluid as Wipeout HD and Gravity Rush, which is a must play, even started out life as a PS3 game in early development. This is console quality gaming on the go and it’s fantastic. One key test of how a console is doing is what the future holds for the device. Simply put there are more games that I’m looking forward to for the Vita (Killzone Mercenary, made by the developers of PS1 classic MediEvil, and Tearaway, made by LittleBigPlanet veterans Media Molecule, leading the pack) than the 3DS.
As the Vita comes up to its first anniversary sure the sales figures are disappointing (to put it mildly) and sure it doesn’t have the largest library of games but what is there is of the highest quality. The Vita is my favourite handheld and I can’t recommend it highly enough to you. I can’t wait to see how the console grows and develops during its life. I also can’t wait to see how it will be linked to the new PlayStation. Roll on Feb 20th is what i say!
I’m going to leave you with trailers of both Killzone Mercenary and Tearaway, just so you can see what the little Vita can do.
By Ian Dutton (@idutton91)