Your eyes do not deceive you; it is time for yet another Chris’ Controversial Corner. Today I would like to take some time to talk about the upcoming PlayStation Vita Launch in North America. Much has been said about the relevance of handhelds in the current gaming market. I myself had a few words on this very subject in a previous editorial. At that time, I stated that handhelds would still be relevant, even in a world consumed with mobile phone gaming. This point has been brought into question by the recent launch of the Vita in Japan and its subsequently low sales. Well in this editor’s humble opinion, Sony and the Vita have nothing to worry about.
People don’t look at handhelds like they did a few years ago. Back when the Nintendo DS and the PSP were in their prime no one would have thought that anything could topple their reign on the mobile gaming empire. At the time phone games were almost nonexistence and phones dedicated to gaming such as the N-Gage failed miserably. Now with the release of the iPhone and Android devices, mobile gaming has exploded with new experiences and even a few compelling exclusives such as Infinity Blade or even full MMO’s such as Order and Chaos. As a result everyone is willing to write off both the 3DS and the PS Vita as failed attempts to recapture their former glory.
You can’t exactly blame them, I mean just look at the 3DS, it had struggled, but since its price drop things have begun to improve as more games hit the platform and sales increase. The Vita, however, has yet to release here in North America and even now many are willing to call it a failure. Let me put it bluntly, the Vita will not fail. North America and Europe are where the Vita will likely find the vast majority of its success. The reason? The vita is designed to appeal to the core gamers found in those regions.
This isn’t to say that the Vita will fail in Japan either. There just happen to be some key differences in what a Japanese gamer looks for in a platform than a North American or European gamer. For example, the PSP was widely successful in Japan because most Japanese gamers play together in one place, be that an internet café or any other public area. The fact that most games only supported Ad Hoc play, or PSP to PSP for those unfamiliar, was not an issue. Meanwhile in North America both gamers and critics would rip titles a new one if they featured multiplayer and not online play. The Vita does not make those same mistakes. Almost all games featuring multiplayer will support online functionality, a huge plus for those looking to play with a friend across the state or across the country. It may take longer for it to pick up steam in Japan, but once this bad boy hits stores over here I’m sure that people will find the experience they are looking for in a mobile gaming device.
Many others will be sold on the fact that the games offered on the platform are visually stunning for a mobile device. The Vita is no slouch with a four core processor and 128MB of dedicated video memory. In layman’s terms, it is powerful, more powerful than most of the tablets and smartphones out there or coming out in the near future. Vita games will easily stand out in the increasingly crowded mobile gaming market and will make it a must have for those looking for only the best in mobile gaming.
The more important selling point is the lineup of games. The Vita has one of the most complete launch lineups of any platform. Launch titles include games like Uncharted Golden Abyss, Modnation Racers: Road Trip, Little Deviants and Wipeout 2048, all the way to PSN exclusive titles such as Super StarDust Delta, Escape Plan and Plants vs. Zombies. Launch will also include titles from publishers such as Ubisoft, Namco Bandai, Tecmo Koei, Sega, Capcom and Square Enix. In the first few weeks after launch players can anticipate Zipper Interactive’s Unit 13, as well as Disgaea 3, Ridge Racer and Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus just to name a few.
It is clear that Sony is taking the platform very seriously from more than just a first party perspective. They have made a platform that has already drawn a great deal of attention from some of the largest publishers in the world. Plus, it has already been confirmed that Activision is working on a Call of Duty game for the Vita The world’s largest publisher is backing the Vita with the industry’s biggest game, that speaks volumes whether you are a fan or not. If the Vita can have more third party success than the PSP did, from both a critical and sales perspective, then it will undoubtedly go on to be successful. Gamers go to where the best games are. If the Vita has the games to back it up, gamers will go to the Vita.
The Vita is also a much more complete device outside of gaming. Not only does it now support more PlayStation Network features such as trophies and friend list access, there will be a wide variety of apps available that can make it your go to social media device. Near is a unique app for PlayStation Vita that allows you to interact with other nearby Vita users. You can see who is playing what nearby and you can even leave gifts for others to use in their games whether they are friends or just passing by. Party offers PlayStation enthusiasts their most requested feature, cross game party chat. You can now chat with your friends on your PlayStation Vita no matter what you are doing. Add to those apps for Facebook, Twitter and Skype and you have yourself a complete social media experience.
Just as the PSP before it, the Vita is a powerful multimedia device supporting movies and music including Sony’s own unlimited services. There is even word that Netflix may be ready for the device as early as its February 22nd launch date. The Vita succeeds at being an all in one device, much more so that the PSP did, which will also serve as a driving force for the device going forward. For the bold out there, you can even invest in a 3G compatible model for even more on the go entertainment. This will require a pay as you go AT&T (I know, but it is, if only barely, better than nothing) data plan costing $15 for 200MB of data and $25 for 2GB.
Now I will be honest with you guys, not everything is perfect. The Vita has its flaws. The lack of any internal memory is the biggest culprit. Sony requires users to buy their own proprietary media card, ranging in price and size from $19.99 for 4GB all the way to a whopping $99.99 for 32GB. Sony has made the argument that this is to ensure the security of their device and to prevent the rampant piracy that plagued the PSP, and to ensure that all users had the same read and write speeds to guarantee equivalent performance. That’s all well and good, but there are few out there that would consider those prices reasonable when there are so many viable alternatives that are less expensive.
Then we get to the battery which is said to last anywhere from three to 5 hours depending on use. Needless to say you won’t be relying on this for entertainment of you are stranded on a desert island, or you know, anywhere that you can access an outlet for extended periods of time. Sony will be offering an extended battery that can as much as double the life of your Vita for a somewhat reasonable $49.99, but again, you expect more from a company trying to take their throne back from the increasingly lively cell phones.
Obviously the Vita is not for everyone. It has its problems, but there is enough on offer to make you want to look past those shortcomings. If you are on the edge, take a chance, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised. Sony has a real shot at bringing dedicated gaming devices back to the forefront, and the only way that will happen is with the success of the Vita. As mentioned before, North American and European gamers to look forward to a February 22nd launch date for both the Wi-Fi and 3G versions of the Vita, priced at $249.99 and $299.99 respectively. There is also a First Edition Bundle which includes a 3G PlayStation Vita (Wi-Fi in Canada), a 4GB memory card, exclusive case and Little Deviants for $349.99 ($299.99 Canada) available on February 15th exclusively in North America.
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