This week, I hope to be an early adopter of yet another video game system. The Playstation Vita, or PS Vita for short, will be launching to 1st edition buyers today. The handheld system marks Sony’s first real 2nd generation handheld (Sorry, PSPGo, but you never really counted for anything).
What does this mean for the gaming industry? Probably not a whole lot.
You see, Sony has absolutely nailed this generation of handhelds. 3G, check. Touch screen, check. Gorgeous. spacious HD display, check. Console integration, check. Processing power capable of a long lifespan, check. The list goes on, and below I’m going to detail these things individually – but don’t get too excited because this handheld will fail.
The PSP Vita touts quite possibly the best launch features of any video game platform since the industry’s conception.
(For the record: I’ve had about 1-hour hands-on experience with the unit and a few of the demo titles)
Gorgeous, Spacious, HD Screen: The five inch OLED screen boasts 16 million bright colors in 16:9 format. The resolution, 960×544, is absolutely more than adequate for the size of the screen. More importantly, when you hold this thing it just screams beauty.
Processing Capability: With as fast as handheld technology is developing, this is crucial. Processing power in handhelds is doubling on a yearly basis (see iPad, iPad2 or any line of Android devices). This goes straight in the face of typical video game product cycles which last anywhere from four to ten years. Sony has their bases covered though, with a quad-core ARM Cortex A9 processor. Yes, it is likely this thing has a better processor than your netbook.
Sensors: What a bland header for all the stuff going on here, so let me double up on my use of bold text to emphasize everything included. Touchscreens, touchpads, gyroscopes, accelerometers, electronic compasses – the whole damn package. This thing will detect not only how you hold this device, but how you move it, where you touch it on BOTH sides (front & back) and, quite honestly, may be the absolute most active consumer-grade motion detection product on the market. The back screen touch pad seem silly? Don’t let it – remember how I had that hour hands on? Well, it works just fine. It feels natural. It’s even good. What will all these sensors be used for? Everything, literally there are, almost, no limits.
Wireless Connectivity: We’ve got 3G through AT&T’s network, we’ve got Wi-Fi, we’ve got Bluetooth 2.1, and the wireless even supports ad-hoc networking for local network gaming on the go. Oh yea, it has GPS too.
Cross-Play: This simply means that on your Vita you will, in some games, be able to play directly against PS3 opponents. That’s right, the Vita is so powerful that you will game, side-by-side, with PS3 gamers which leads to…
PlayStation Network: From day one this system will have full blown access to the PlayStation Store, and if you already have a login via your PS3 you’ll get to use the same login on your PS Vita. You’ll have access to all the music, movie and – most importantly – game downloads including parts of your PSP, PSX and Arcade library. In many ways, it’s the first of its kind to pull off the handheld extension of its console counter-part…
PS3 Remote Play: Building off the PS3 Network points made above, this handheld, will actually allow you to play PS3 games from the other room (say, bed?) by connecting to your local wireless network. Play, pause, save, resume on your handheld – eat your heart out Wii U.
PS3 Multiplayer Controller: Speaking of the Wii U, remember when they demoed their awesome tablet multiplayer features where one player has an entirely different view because of the tablet in their hands? Yea, Sony is doing that and they’re doing it better than the Wii U. Why? Because unlike the Wii U, which will be tied to the Wii, this thing does everything that tablet will do and it doubles as a vastly superior handheld gaming system.
Cameras: Why the hell not? Front and back cameras that will be used for everything from mirror pictures to gaming applications.
Applications: Facebook? Twitter? Web browsing? Netflix? They’re all there from day one.
One last, but very notable feature, dual analog sticks. Finally.
What does this all mean?
The PS Vita is, hands down, the most powerful, capable, and well developed handheld gaming system to ever land on the U.S. market (or any market for that matter). This is the best that gamers could ask for when asking for a mobile gaming solution.
So, why then are sales in Japan, Sony’s home turf, struggling so much?
The same reason Sony always struggles. A combination of price, poor marketing, late-to-the-game release schedule, and lackluster developer support.
Does anyone else remember the abysmal PS3 launch? Not only was the system $600, but there were no killer games at launch to really drive sales. The PS Vita suffers much the same illness. While the system starts at only $249, that’s a lot for a handheld – especially when the majority of mobile gamers are playing games like Angry Birds.
The problem lies in the fact that this piece of technology is so damn sophisticated that even Steve Jobs might be trying to dig himself out of his grave to get one – but nobody is going to have one. What happens when nobody has one? Game developers don’t make games for it. What happens then? The system fails, just like the PSP did.
The PSP promised a lot of the same features that the PS Vita actually delivers on; from that vantage point people should be ecstatic. But, it is that same failure, and the same lack of demand for these features that the PS Vita will fail. Let’s take a look at the notable launch titles.
- Uncharted: The Golden Abyss
- Wipeout 2048
- Little Deviants
- Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus
- Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
Of those, the most notable launch titles, Little Deviants is more of a product showcase than a full game. Ninja Gaiden and MvC3 are ports from already existing console titles. That leaves us with Uncharted and Wipeout 2048. Of course, there is a still undated Final Fantasy X remake (please, if there is a God let this come true). But, at the end of the day, there is just a lack of killer games to push this system out of the gate.
This will mean less than stellar launch sales, which will give developers cold feet. If developers have cold feet, they will not commit the manpower to making AAA titles that utilize all of the sweet features of the PS Vita. The motion controls, the touchscreens, the processing power – it will all go to waste. Instead, we will get gifted with a slew of console ports, DS ports, and half baked half financed B-list games.
This week marks the re-launch of the adored Twisted Metal franchise, as well as the Vita launch. Where is that game in our game lineup? Little Big Planet isn’t due out until the end of March. Bioshock, soon to be released for consoles, is still untitled and undated on the PS Vita. Assassin’s Creed? Undated. Killzone, no date there either. Don’t worry though – we have an “untitled Hideo Kojima game” (maker of the Metal Gear Solid franchise and game developing demi-God).
These are all bound to be awesome games. And there are a ton more like Street Fighter x Tekken that I didn’t mention. But the problem is they are all absent at launch.
God of War? Motorstorm? Daxter? Ratchet and Clank? Gran Turismo? Infamous? SOCOM? Where are all these exclusives? Not only are they missing from the launch titles, but they don’t even have a date.
The problem is, launches always take off slow (just look at the XB360’s launch titles after Call of Duty 2). But, Sony, you don’t have that luxury this time around. People don’t trust you because of the PSP, and they are skeptical of the PS Vita. This was your chance to wow the crowd, and I’m terrified you’re going to kill it instead.
Who are the biggest consumers of handhelds? Kids whose parents want them quiet on the car ride to Grandma’s. And you know what? All of those kid’s parents just got them the Nintendo 3DS for Christmas, and the 3DS is still losing Nintendo huge amounts of cash money.
Look, Sony, I’m rooting for you I really am. After all, I’m gonna hop on board and I really want my $349 1st edition investment to pay off. But, in reality, it’s like getting back together with your ex-girlfriend. Everyone knows it’s going to happen, both of us know it isn’t going to be the same, our friends are going to scoff at us behind our backs and it’s all going to end in another violent break-up where we swear not to make the same mistake again.
Please don’t disappoint me, but I know you will.