Editorial: Sony bring Vita-lity to the Eighth Generation

Can PS Vita challenge Nintendo 3DS?

If any of you lovely people have been following gaming news recently, you’ll have seen that the PlaysStation Vita launched in Japan, to a somewhat lackluster reception. At time of writing, it’s sold around 500,000 units, and is set for a February 22nd launch in the US and Europe. Last week I spoke about the Wii U, so in this short article, I’ll be talking about the future of Vita, and whether it can really compete against the Nintendo 3DS.

PS Vita is a system unlike any other on the market. It’s more like a small tablet than anything else, with its 5 inch OLED screen (pricey but very lush and colourful) and multi-touch input on both front and back. Internally, it’s powered by a quad-core ARM CPU and carries 768MB of RAM – 256MB more than even the PlayStation 3. We can definitely expect to see some very impressive titles coming out, but the big question remains – can it sell?

Unlike the 3DS, Vita is launching at two price points – the WiFi only version for £229, or the 3G-enabled version (through Vodafone in the UK) for £279. This immediately puts it at a disadvantage when held against the 3DS, which costs around £129 and is just starting to get some must-have games such as Mario Kart. While Vita is certainly far, far more powerful (compare a PS3 to a Gamecube to see the comparison), power will only get you so far if all the low-tech people on the street see is a £100 price difference. They need to show off some feature for the console that just can’t be done on Nintendo’s system.

The connectivity with the PlayStation 3 is certainly a good idea, since it jumps the Wii U’s gun a few months early and shows us what can be done with the hardware, but once more the problem is price. A similar attachment to the Wii U’s main feature would be perfect for showing off the power of Vita. If Vita could transmit the image, a small decoder with attached HDMI cable could be placed next to the TV and made to output the image from the players’ hands. The general public would like it, Sony!

The major battleground amongst existing gamers is going to be the software available for the two systems, and here Sony faces an uphill fight. They’re definitely bringing strong titles to the table early on, with Uncharted and LittleBigPlanet making waves with new instalments, but it just might not be enough against the unstoppable sales wrecking ball that is Mario Kart 7. Sony will have to explore new intellectual property in order to break out of the niche the PSP carved for itself; then they might be in with a good chance. Might I suggest wrangling a deal with Activision to make the next uninspired-and-stagnating-but-still-bewilderingly-popular Call of Duty game be not a portable version, but a shrunken-down port of the PS3 game? I can see Team Deathmatch on the bus being very popular.

However, where they might pull back some ground is their new format for games. The thing that lost PSP a lot of support in the industry was the insistence on using the frankly very weird UMD as its method of delivery. They were oddly shaped, bulky and easily damaged, not to mention holding a relatively small range of game sizes (900MB or 1.8GB) compared to the DS which could offer at difference prices whatever the developer needed (8MB to 512MB). While the DS cards were smaller, the games were often less space intensive and graphics could be less detailed, meaning that per-dollar, more games could be released. The move to a solid-state card for Vita is a good idea, since it means games are easier to keep, harder to damage and cheaper to produce. Well done all round on that one, I suppose.

Although it’s early in the competition, I don’t foresee Vita either dominating or flopping. I see it languishing. With a six million unit head start and a very strong line up and release schedule, Nintendo looks set to be the driving force in handheld gaming, at least this year. But keep trying Sony! After all, though you lost last time, 66 million isn’t a bad feat against the unconquerable DS, is it?

– Robin ‘The Underdog’ Wilde!

On one last note, we at Cubed Gamers are working on a very special video project… more updates to follow! (end mysterious tone.)

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Robin Wilde

Co-Editor of Cubed Gamers, meaning I send out, take in, edit and upload content. I'm also in charge of doing much of the graphics and design stuff for the site.

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