The latest gaming sensation, PlayStation Vita, already launched in Japan in December of 2011, is now going to be released in the rest of the world. The successor to Sony Computer Entertainment’s PlayStation Portable (PSP), this version is one powerful, albeit flawed, piece of mobile gaming hardware.
Coming in editions that feature 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity, this device is expected to hit shops in Pakistan soon, with a price for the Wi-Fi model expected at Rs26,000 initially.
Powered by a 4-core ARM processor, and 512MB of RAM, the Vita is capable of producing visuals that rival even those produced by its console cousin, the PlayStation 3 —an awesome feat for a hand held device. It displays these visuals on an absolutely gorgeous, 5-inch OLED multi-touch capacitive touch screen, which sports a resolution of 960×540, trumping any hand-held gaming device in comparison, and even standing tall against the latest smart phones from Apple and Samsung.
For input, aside from the fairly responsive touchscreen, the device also carries a rear touchpad, motion sensing, electronic compass, a D-pad and twelve buttons. The device also holds rear and front-end cameras, though the output of these is merely serviceable, and more suited to internet chat applications.
The launch titles with the Vita include new iterations of old favourites, like Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Rayman Origins, Fifa Soccer, and Hot Shots Golf. While the reviews for these games are not stellar, with major software developers having committed to this new handheld platform, buyers of the Vita can safely expect countless more quality titles to be in the pipeline. Furthermore, with the device being fully backwards compatible with digitally released PSP titles, the Vita has a decent library of games to choose from at the launch.
In short, in terms of hardware and games, this new handheld is a monster — a beast for your hands. Yet, sales figures have been disappointing in Japan. While reviewers have been blown away by its core aspects, they remain cautious about the device’s sales potential.
Analysts suggest that part of the reason that the Vita sold slowly in Japan was because it had launched not long after its competitor from Nintendo, the 3DS. But, the fact is that the 3DS itself sold disappointingly, until it readdressed its price point. In actuality, the market of the mobile gaming landscape has also changed considerably.
Smartphones, which act as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ device like the Samsung Galaxy, and the iPhone, allow busy techies to perform a variety of functions with a single device, including taking pictures and playing games. Granted that games offered on such devices pale in comparison to dedicated gaming handhelds like the 3DS and the PlayStation Vita, but it is the question of performance versus convenience. And it is simply inconvenient to carry a handheld game console along with a mobile phone, when functions for the hand held can be serviceably performed on a mobile phone. This is especially true when the particular gaming device in question is priced as expensively as it is.
If Sony wants the Vita to truly become a competitor, then it needs to get a grip on reality. Not only is the cost of the Vita system high, but its games are expensive as well, with premium titles being sold at $50. Furthermore, the device isn’t compatible with regular memory cards, requiring purchase of proprietary ones, with the 32GB card selling at $100. Where the device is also disappointing, is on the software end.
With the mobile gaming market having been cornered by tablets and smartphones featuring a multitude of applications, and silky smooth user interfaces, the Vita’s User Interface (UI) feels unintuitive and archaic by comparison. With long loading times, not only is the Vita UI frustratingly sluggish by modern standards, its library of apps comes across as fairly thin.
Expect price drops on the Vita system, games, and memory cards to come quickly, like they came with the 3DS, once Sony has sold as much as it can to early adopters. While the device does has plenty of potential to shine, our advice for those interested, is to adopt a wait-and-see approach.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2012.