I’ll admit it: I’ve always had a soft spot for the PlayStation Vita.
Well, actually I have a weakness for pretty much any handheld console, so the Vita isn’t the only tiny system that I’m fond of. It is, however, the most powerful handheld on the market, which, at the moment, means that it’s full of wasted potential. But this morning while America was sleeping, the folks at Sony announced something that could turn Vita sales around very quickly: Vita TV.
Essentially, Vita TV is a simple set-top box, very much like an Apple TV, but when you start to think about it in the context of Sony’s entire product line, it becomes much more interesting. In fact, in a lot of ways, Vita TV has the potential to be a bigger part of Sony’s arsenal than the PlayStation 4. Let me explain.
1. It’s Incredibly Cheap.
The Vita TV’s $100 price point makes it cheaper than almost any console on the market, aside from Android-based competitors like the Ouya and GameStick. Plus, the little console can reportedly handle most of the handheld’s current library. And even though the Vita doesn’t exactly have an extensive catalog, there are definitely a few gems in there, which instantly makes it more appealing than most of the garbage on the Ouya.
2. It’s an Apple TV, but better.
These days, I think every gamer pretty much expects their console to have some kind of media center functionality. So, this isn’t much of a surprise for those of us that are used to watching Netflix on a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. However, Vita TV will land at the same price point as an Apple TV, but the Vita TV is also a video game console.
So, marketing the Vita TV as a set-top box is a good move on Sony’s part. It’ll give them the chance to steal a few casual gamers from Apple’s client base, which means that more triple-A publishers might take an interest in the Vita as a gaming platform. But we’ll get to that later.
3. It makes your PS4 cooler
Yup. If you’re planning to pick up a PlayStation 4, the Vita TV will allow you to play your precious PS4 titles on a different TV when mom is watching her stories.
4. Its more Ouya than the Ouya.
Like I said, there are already a handful of great little titles on the PlayStation Vita — LittleBigPlanet Vita, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, and Gravity Rush immediately come to mind. But if Sony’s newfound love of independent developers extends to the Vita, we might start to see a wave of indie games hitting the Vita TV, which is part of what made the Ouya interesting in the first place.
5. It’s a PlayStation Vita without all of that touch-based nonsense.
One of the things that has always irritated me about the Vita was its obsession with novel controls. Most of the Vita’s launch titles shoehorned far too many swiping and camera-based actions into the games, which only made those sequences feel out of place. Uncharted: Golden Abyss‘s final boss fight was one of these sequences, and I still haven’t forgiven Nathan Drake.
Vita TV, however, obviously doesn’t include a touch-screen or a camera, which means that developers can finally concentrate on good game design.
6. It has the potential to attract triple-A developers
Most major developers got skittish when Vita sales didn’t exactly meet expectations. But this doesn’t mean that publishers couldn’t be convinced to reexamine the little system. And considering how much success the PlayStation 3 has had in it’s twilight years, I think it’s safe to assume that gamers aren’t obsessive about impressive graphics and hardware. So, if Sony’s Vita TV starts to rack up some sales, we might see companies like Ubisoft and EA jump back into the boat.
After all, publishing a Vita title will be like releasing a game on two separate consoles simultaneously. And no extra development will be needed.
Now, just to be clear, I’m not trying to say that the Vita TV is Sony’s flagship console. It’s not, and it shouldn’t be. It is, however, a really brilliant piece of hardware that will appeal to casual and hardcore gamers. So, in that sense, it has the potential to outshine the PS4 in a lot of ways.
Or it could just be another colossal disappointment. We’ll find out soon enough.