The PlayStation Vita is coming! Following a Japanese launch performance described by Sony as “terrific” (emphasis on the bunny ears) the new handheld will officially find its way to the rest of the world in February. Tomorrow (Monday), I’m off to PS Vita Rooms in Glasgow to spend some time with some of the launch titles, but I can’t shake the feeling that this is the only time many people will have with the Vita for a long, long while. The biggest barrier to purchasing one? The smartphone on your desk, in your hand or in your pocket.
The shift in attitudes to portable gaming has changed wildly since the introduction of that obvious catalyst, the iOS App Store. Gone are the days of buying a dedicated device for gaming now that we can get fully realised and deep time-sinks with 3D graphics for what is essentially spare change. These days, asking for £40 or $60 for a game designed to be played on the bus is seen as too much – handheld games, essentially, are seen as a cheaper, quicker-to-thrill alternative to full-blown home console titles, and cheap, easy-access titles available on mobile devices are the cause.
Nintendo are all-too-familiar with this situation, having seen the 3DS suffer heavily from its early 2011 launch until the price was dramatically slashed closer to the Christmas period, and some stronger titles were introduced to the console’s lineup. The Vita shouldn’t struggle when it comes to software strength, with titles such as WipEout 2048 and stellar adventurer Uncharted: Golden Abyss all set for launch day, but the changing attitude of consumers may well have a say in how well the device performs.
To call the PlayStation Vita a “portable” is to probably do it a disservice, since carrying a case of several game cartridges isn’t exactly as mobile as carrying a phone – nor is, as it happens, bringing a bag with you wherever you go since the device is too big to fit in your pocket without fear of snapping it in two. The Vita is a handheld console in every sense of the word, delivering PS3-level thrills and spills in a smaller, palm-friendly format down to the dual analogue sticks and ability to play Killzone using a remote internet connection.
It’s a true little brother to the PS3 and, I would say, most likely to find success with those who don’t own a full-blown console at home. If I were to own a Vita, it would probably get played indoors most of all, with commuting being time reserved for Kairosoft’s latest management sim and a spot of Cut The Rope.
The Vita is a wonderful device, with some excellent, pretty games on offer complimenting the staggering array of razor-edge technogubbins lodged inside the unit. The problem is that the Vita is designed for an audience that is rapidly shrinking, as evidenced by the 3DS’ initially dismal performance pre-price cut. With no signs on the horizon of an intention to cut the price and this could prove to be a hazardous, if not fatal, misjudgment. The Vita will sell, without a doubt, but it will not sell well – not when Infinity Blade does the rounds for the cost of a decent pint.