Playstation Vita TV – A Brilliant Idea, or the Last Nail?

The other day, Sony announced at a pre-Tokyo Game Show event, that they would be bringing a new type of hardware to the market. Dubbing it ‘the Playstation Vita TV,’ this tiny little box connects with you television and allows you to play Vita games, PSP games, PS1 classics, and stream various services such as Hulu or Netflix. This is a bit of a shock for me, personally, as Sony tied this announcement with a cheaper redesign of their premium handheld, which removes the amazing OLED screen, replacing it with a regular LCD one. From what I can tell, there is a slot in the side of the box, which accepts Vita games, or Vita memory cards. You will then be able to access essentially all of the content you have available on the Playstation Vita. Most interestingly, this system comes in at the yen equivalent of $100, meaning it is significantly cheaper than the Vita itself. The real question, which we’re going to be looking at briefly today is whether this device is a smart more, a waste of money, or, more troubling, a terrible omen for Sony’s flagging handheld.

I will admit, having R2 and L2 sure as hell beats that horrible back touch screen.

Firstly, I’m old enough to remember the Super Gameboy. This wonderful device allowed you to plug your Gameboy cartridges into the Super Nintendo and play them on the big screen. There was also a version of this for the Gameboy Advance that you could use on your Game Cube. Basically, the idea of playing your handheld games on the large screen isn’t new or innovating, and the only reason Nintendo probably haven’t done it since the Gameboy Advance is due to the requirement of two screens for DS and 3DS games (Although, the Wii U should fix this limitation). The Super Gameboy and its successor were undoubtably fun, especially due to the fact that Gameboys and the original run of GBAs were rather cumbersome, neither of which being backlit, which meant finding a proper light source in order to play. It also allowed you to pretend that Pokemon was a console game, which was enough of a selling point for many people.

Nobody is going to declare this a pretty machine, but it worked and it worked well.

Cutting to the chase, the big problem I see with the PVTV is that it removes the necessity to actually own a Vita. Of course, if you want to play portably you’ll still need a machine, but if you’re simply interested in several of the games, you now have a much cheaper alternative to buying the system itself. I see this as a fairly dangerous gamble considering that the Vita has a huge attach rate, but rather low sales of the hardware itself. Both the Super Gameboy and the Gameboy Player came out years after the release of the original handheld, which allowed that handheld to establish themselves quite effectively. The Vita still has a long way to go in order to convince the gaming populace as a whole that it’s relevant, and this seems like it could prove the exact opposite.

Of course, if you’re interested in Uncharted, just buy the ones on the PS3.

The reason I’m worried about this is due to the general ideology that has come with developing for the Playstation Vita. Unlike the 3DS, which touts purely handheld games, the Vita has always marketed itself as being a portable gaming console. I point to this marketing as the primary failure of Sony’s machine. Most games developed for the Vita feel like watered down ports of games that are done better on consoles. Despite the fact that it is a success to have such an experience portable, it makes it harder to justify a machine for a game you already own in some capacity. As more unique games come into the Vita, this will be less of a concern, but, as it is now, the Vita is hard to justify over a Playstation 3 for many people and handheld gaming systems don’t sell simply on the virtue of being portable. Games are what entice gamers. Having a new piece of hardware that puts Vita games on the television only furthers the image that the Vita is simply a poor man’s PS3, which is exactly the opposite Sony wants to go considering that they are currently running the premium handheld against the far more economical and kid-friendly 3DS.

Nope, this never disappointed anyone…

Of course, to the consumer, this is a wholly beneficial development. Now Vita owners have the opportunity to play any Vita game in a completely new environment, albeit at a lower resolution. And PSP games that should have been made for consoles to begin with (Valkyria Chronicles 2) finally have a chance to be on the big screen. And non-Vita owners now don’t have to shell out over two-hundred dollars in order to play Persona 4: The Golden. The consumer wins here, but Sony might lose, which is bad for the consumer in the long term. If the Vita’s sales don’t pick up (And Sony is trying their hardest to push the little machine) then fewer games will be developed for it. And, more frightening, if the PVTV outsells the Vita, then what we’re left with is completely failed handheld and an almost mimicry of the Ouya.

Personally, I don’t care how you buy this game, just do it.

It’s unclear at this point exactly what effect the PVTV will have on the market. Worries such as mine could be completely unfounded, and this may only continue to push the Vita as a brand name. Truthfully, along with its significant PS4 integration, the Vita could become very popular very fast. At the same time, I can’t help but feel that Sony might be obsoleting their machine, creating a primary hardware instead of a complementary one. The last thing I think Sony wants is for people to be buying a Vita so they can play PVTV games portably. That being said, everything I’ve read for the PVTV has been mostly positive, unlike Nintendo’s 2DS, which has been getting a huge backlash, so maybe I’m just reading in problems where none exist.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer


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