My name is Jared Whittaker, one of the hosts and Audio Chewbacca of the Super-Fly Podcast and PCW! Welcome to Game Changer, a weekly burning missive about all aspects of video gaming with a little bit of opinion thrown in for fun. Proceed with caution and tread lightly, gentle gamers. It’s going to be good time. Like the first time you saw Super Mario 3 good time.
As of the writing of this article, Sony will be releasing their latest console, a new, multi-featured handheld gaming machine called the Playstation Vita. The Vita has been well received ever since it was first publicly shown at E3 last year. Every aspect of the system seemed to have learned from the missteps of the prior Sony console releases. Price, launch games, console features, two analog sticks, touch screens, social networking, apps. The works. But with the Vita under performing in Japan, how will the new PSP hold up here in the states? This week, I’ll be going through how the Vita could finally break Sony out of it new console launch rut.
The biggest hurtle Sony cleared was the price. Sony has been pretty notorious about getting pricing wrong with their consoles. But with the Vita, they hit the nail on the head as far as price. The Vita is priced competitively with the 3DS, which is exactly what Sony needed to happen in the US. Head to head, the Vita has more features than the 3DS. And the new Sony handheld really needed to jump out out off the blocks fast and get into people’s hands. And at $249 for a Wifi setup and $299 for a 3G/Wifi version, it’s a very inviting price. Thank god.
The next major issue that every gamer seemed to have with the PSP was the ongoing meme that the system simply didn’t have any games of interest to garner support and sales. While this wasn’t true in the least, perception is sometimes a very difficult thing to shake off. The continued assertion that there was nothing to play on the PSP ended up killing any momentum the handheld could have had. With the Vita, from the jump, there are not only many cartridge based games, but the PSP games available on the Playstation Store as well and the Minis and the PS1 classics to choose from. That’s an amazing amount of games to play with. Anyone saying that there isn’t anything to play on the Vita is not looking at all.
The next biggest issue with the PSP was prircy. Throughout the PSPs entire lifespan, the ability to crack the system, and use custom firmware to allow playing downloaded games from a lot of differnt systems, including PSP games. While it’s virtually impossbile to be able to tell how many people have been using custom firmware and pirating games, but it was enough to drive away developers left and right. It ended up sinking sales of every game coming out on the PSP. With the Vita, Sony is imploying a proprietary memory card for storeage on the Vita instead of a standard Memory Stick Duo card. The thinking behind this is that with the Memory Stick Duo cards, hackers could transport hacking tools via a computer and open up the system. With the Vita, the proprietary memory card, while very expencive in some cases, with stop pirates from cracking the system by the same means. That said, Sony saying that the Vita is “virtually pirate proof” is just begging for hackers to find a way into the Vita. For the time being, the Vita is a bank safe.
Another perceived hurdle were the controls. The long panned “analog nub” was a pain in the neck to play on. While it wasn’t game-breaking in most cases, it wasn’t a comfortable feel in most cases. I remember being very frustrated playing Metal Gear: Portable Ops. The analog controlls in the game made it very difficult to shoot and accurately move at some points in the game. Developers tried as best as they could to use the nub and some games succeded at it. Both God of War games on the PSP used the analog controls well, but that was part of a handful of games that truely felt comfortable playing. Sony listened to the overwhelming displeasure with the controll setup and added two full on analog sticks. While I personally haven’t played with the Vita yet, many reviews and early looks have praised the new control layout and the way that the new games feel with the new controls. Super Stardust Delta looks like a blast to play just like the PS3 version. Seems like this is an issue that has been solved for gamers.
And the all the new features like the touch screens and apps are pushing the Vita into very different areas than a handheld gaming console is usually known for. Touch screens are pretty commonplace at this point in the game and I’ll be the first person to wonder out loud about the decision to add a touch screen to the Vita. But it seems like the touch controls have been used very well so far. The inclusion of apps and connection to the Playstation Network is a very smart move. Adding apps like Twitter, Facebook, Netflix and other social media sites is smart as well. It makes the Vita more interesting and open to people that use these services on other devices to maybe read about the system and give it a try. Billing it as a jack of all trades device is a great idea and it will give the Vita legs.
While it’s too early to tell if the Vita will work out for Sony. Check back in 6 months to see if the system is still in high standard with the gaming public. But it won’t fail because the system was under-featured or was poorly put together. Sony really pulled out all the stops for their latest foray into handheld gaming and it’s good to see for once. I hope to pick one up at some point soon. (My birthday is coming up soon. March 4th BTW)
What do you think of the new Playstation Vita? Do you want one? Do you have on? Let us know.
Jared Whittaker plays a lot of games. Not as much as he’d like, but as much as time and money will allow. If you want to play some games with Jared, you can find him on Playstation 3; PSN tag: JFX. He is also on Steam and Battle.net as JFX316 and while he doesn’t have an Xbox 360, he has the coolest Gamertag in the world: Obiwan Jaborni. Feel free to add him as a friend or email him at JWhittaker@PanelsonPages.com. and on Twitter as JFX316