Playstation Vita: Back in the mix!

I first saw Sony’s new Playstation Vita at E3 2011, and it was amazing. I thought for sure Sony would take advantage of the US holiday shopping season which could have reaped huge dividends for the company, but alas, only Japan saw the Vita prior to Christmas. Slated for release on February 22nd, 2012, the Playstation looks to get back into the handheld gaming market that may or may not be losing steam.

Nintendo has always been a powerhouse in the gaming world. especially in the handheld market. I’m sure everyone and their mom has played with a Game Boy before, and Nintendo continued to make strides in the portable market with the Nintendo DS. However, with the release of the 3DS to a price point of $250 and an unimpressive launch title, it seemed that the gaming juggernaut’s days of dominance were slowly coming to a halt. In fact, just months after the launch, Nintendo’s president offered a sincere apology after slashing the price from $250 to $169.99. Read the letter and a cool article here. What that did was open the door for Sony to regain some ground after the PSP had all but disappeared.

Cue Playstation Vita. CNet’s Editor’s Review says:
The PlayStation Vita delivers amazing visuals on its 5-inch OLED touch screen that look almost as good as PS3 graphics. The system’s launch lineup is very impressive and allows for downloading of some games (including all first-party titles) over the PlayStation Network. The Vita’s operating system is smartly designed, easy to use, and ultraresponsive. The unit feels great to hold and has excellent standby battery life.

That’s the good news. OLED is the next generation in screens (just wait for OLED televisions which were all the rage at this years Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, NV) and are poised to become standard within the upcoming years. Network connectivity is of course a given, given this day and age and how easily it is to stream games. Naturally, with the iPad being hyped as simple and ultra-responsive, having a touchscreen is just a no-brainer. Ok battery life, two cameras and a street Pass feature are also included.

The bad news is that Sony went the proprietary route again. No surprise there, Apple does the same thing and Sony has been doing it for a while. Having to upgrade the memory is one thing, but to have the device not ship with a standard memory card? And with an undisclosed amount of internal memory to boot, that doesn’t look good. And although battery life is just OK, there’s no way to upgrade it by the user. No video out and some of the anti-piracy implementations can be a bit awkward to deal with. What does this mean to the end user? More money. Sure, the playstation will cost $250, but having to purchase an extra memory card to store downloaded games will add to the cost.

Overall, Sony has really outdone itself this time. Unlike the PS3, which was extremely advanced for its time, but perhaps a little too before its time, the Vita is coming at a welcome time. Sure, there are some little nuances here and there, but overall, this is gonna be one epic handheld. If Nintendo can continue to come out with really awesome releases and find a way to make 3D the standard in handheld gaming, it will make for a formidable opponent. I’d also like to see these two companies go after the casual gamer. Handheld gaming may be dying because Apple and Android devices offer apps and little games that are simple yet entertaining. Most folks can find hardcore handheld gaming a bit too involved and would rather do Paper Toss for half and hour while waiting on the train. If Nintendo and Sony can find a way to capture a segment of that market, perhaps we’ll see a rebirth in portable gaming.

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