E3 2011: PlayStation Vita – Why You Should Care
Sony’s E3 conference might not have been packed with secrets and surprises but in detailing its new handheld, the Japanese giant has served up the highlight of the show so far…
At the firm’s E3 press conference in LA yesterday, the shiny new handheld led the charge and while there were a handful of interesting new announcements elsewhere in the briefing, the new hardware stole the show. Details included the announcement that there were already more than 80 games in development for the system as well as some suitably vague references to release dates (which, if nothing else, made it clear that at least one territory would see Vita before the end of the year), though the really interesting parts were elsewhere in the handheld’s formal introduction.
For one thing, Sony’s decision to follow an Apple-esque model and roll out two different SKUs will help it to both rival and potentially exceed Nintendo’s ingenious StreetPass technology. The basic model’s Wi-Fi support will see a host of similar features to those found on 3DS supported in seeing who else is getting their Vita on nearby (and subsequently communicating in both voluntary and automatic ways) but with 3G support on the high-spec model, that potential is taken to a whole new level. But the improvements brought by wireless communication with both close and distant friends doesn’t end with interaction.
Through all its pre-loaded familiarity, newly announced action-RPG Ruin did bring with it news of one extremely encouraging feature in the form of cross-platform save support. Being able to use cloud saves to continue your game from the Vita version on PlayStation 3 when you get home or take your save from the big screen version on the road with you is enticing indeed, if perhaps more so when applied to other games in Sony’s catalogue. Recently announced upscaled versions of games like MGS: Peace Walker and Monster Hunter would benefit incredibly from such cross-compatible saves, though it will be important for Sony to realise that most players will be unwilling to fork out for the same game multiple times if this feature is to really catch on – multi-format bundles akin to the Triple Play Blu-Ray packages would surely be the ideal way to ensure players could enjoy the same game wherever they find themselves without feeling ripped off.
And then there’s the price. While no UK price has been announced, the Wi-Fi model comes in at $249 with the 3G version rocking in at a slightly meatier $299 (presumably with some kind of data plan on top of that) and those prices translate directly to the same figures in Euros. That puts the lower end version in direct competition with 3DS, though we wouldn’t be surprised to see Sony try to undercut Nintendo – even if only slightly – in an attempt to wrestle a little more control of the handheld market away from the long-term dominant force. Bringing in Vita at a sub-£200 RRP could be the first step in doing exactly that.
Couple these revelations with what we already knew about – the gorgeous 5-inch OLED touch screen, the processing muscle, the twin sticks, rear touch panel and the bevy of strong launch titles (including the simply stunning Uncharted: Golden Abyss) – and you’ve got an exciting proposition indeed and one that, if Sony plays its hand well, could be poised to have a serious and permanent impact on the handheld gaming scene. In a market dominated by 59p games and avian rage, Sony’s decision to target home quality gaming experiences, meaningful cross-platform connectivity and social interaction is as brave as it necessary. And while we might not have much love for that curious name, hey… at least Vita’s focus on core gaming values means it doesn’t have to masquerade as a phone.