Not that I’m rubbing it in, but I’ve played on the new PlayStation portable wonder-machine. Jealous? You can say ‘yes’ here.
The PS Vita, the successor to the questionably popular PSP, will be released here in the UK on 22nd February, next year. It’s a big deal because it’s the first new games console in a while, in a time where, due to the massive cost of making games, releasing a new console is a perilous and expensive venture.
Portable consoles are usually a safer bet for your top-flight manufacturers; it’s cheaper to produce, to make games for and to sell to the public. Plus, gadgets are cool.
There’s no mistaking the fact that the PS Vita is cool. Damn cool. It’s a powerful little beast, plastered in touch screens on the front and back, regular buttons and sticks and stuffed with multi-processors, tilt sensors, microphones, cameras, 3G (optional) and a headphones jack. Obviously. It also supports PS3 co-op play but, for some reason, doesn’t come with a TV connection.
Take Reality Fighters – a simple PS Vita fighting game where you can use the camera to make the fighter look like you. Eerie, but fun. The camera will also happily use where ever you’re standing as the background. Fancy kicking seven shades out of Jeremy Clarkson in front of Big Ben? It can happen.
It’s this kind of reality augmentation the PS Vita will languish in, eventually. Like the PSP before it, the PS Vita will also have its own versions of the PS3’s top games, even though it isn’t as powerful – but you’ll be forgiven for thinking it is a pocket PS3 with your untrained eye.
Uncharted, Little Big Planet, Ridge Racer, some pool game or something, Wipeout and Resistance will be available around launch. Whether you enjoy playing fully immersive TV console games on the move is up to you and your ability to pull yourself away from an absorbing game mid-commute. Personally, I prefer Mario Kart to Ridge Racer on the way to work. It’s quicker.
Still, you’ll look dapper playing your PS Vita surrounded by folks on their iPhones. Stupid iPhone gamers, right? Yeah!
The PS Vita will come ready to upload everything you do and play onto Facebook, Twitter, take your pick. Sony has aimed squarely at the times we live in, where the consumer is the king in a land created by the manufacturer.
We want convenience; they want to sell us convenience. It works. Only, there’s a problem. How we, the lovely public, use our tech is a private thing we don’t really talk about. Companies like Sony want to sell us something we’ll use but without the proper feedback they just aim at what they think we like and hope for the best.
Apple aimed for the bullseye and ended up obliterating the target entirely. A new target was built. Nintendo had a go at this new target missing the centre with the 3DS so now it’s Sony’s turn with the PS Vita. I’m dubious it’s going to hit the middle – if, indeed, Sony is aiming that way.
We’re living in strange time indeed when the PS Vita’s biggest rival is a phone. But that’s how it is. The iPhone can do everything the PS Vita can do. And if it can’t, it’s not worth writing about, even though it’ll be a matter of months before it can.
What of the Vita’s ‘rival’ the Nintendo 3DS? Well, let’s put it this way; judging by Nintendo’s continually weak European support, the fact it’s basically a slightly more powerful DS with a screen gimmick and that every key title is a re-hash, the 3DS is barely a spot on this new generation of handheld gaming.
In an optimistic world, the PS Vita will sit in a place comfortably behind the iPhone. The Vita is a gamer’s gaming machine, just as the underwhelming PSP was, the die-hard fans will get one and a whole bunch of children will too but that doesn’t mean it’ll succeed.
The simplicity of the Vita’s new menu system, the many useful functions, the download-only software platform and, most probably, a very funky advertising blitz will be lost on the iPhone-casual masses. Good luck, Vita.