It has been roughly six years since Sony attempted to take a chunk of the handheld gaming market away from Nintendo with the PlayStation Portable. The PSP was fairly successful, too, selling approximately 71.3 million units across the globe. Tomorrow, Sony releases its next generation handheld gaming device: the PlayStation Vita.
The Vita looks practically identical to its predecessor, but its 5-inch OLED screen bolsters touch functionality necessary to stay competitive in the 21st century. It also features built in GPS, both 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity through AT&T (for an extra $50), front and rear facing cameras, and a six-axis motion sensing system. With an A9 quad-core processor, there is no doubt that the Vita is powerful, but is it simply “too little, too late?” Today, consumers are used to having a singular centralized device capable of doing… well… everything (gaming included), are people actually willing to cart around another bulky machine that mimics their smartphone?
Sony seems to think so, anyway. Senior Vice President of Brand Marketing, Guy Langworth, projects the company will support the Vita for five to ten years.
“We see this as a five-to-ten year platform, so we’ll judge the success of this in twelve, twenty-four, to thirty-six months. We expect to have a great launch, but it’s really in twelve to twenty-four months we’ll know how successful it has been.”
Smartphones are quad-core these days and that means they are fully capable of handling your gaming needs. They also surf the web, support video calling, take video in 1080p, effortlessly upload content, and arguably the most revolutionary feature is the support of downloadable applications (apps). Around this time last year, they released the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY: a smartphone for gamers with a slide out gamepad and running on Google’s Android 2.3.4 (aka- “Gingerbread”). If Sony thought handheld gaming consoles were dead, they would have put all of their time and effort into the Xperia.
Perhaps they are following Nintendo’s lead, but let’s face it, Nintendo is the king of beating an idea to death. Starting with the GameBoy in 1989, their latest handheld console called the Nintendo 3DS launched with underwhelming performance. Since the console’s release last year (and one price cut-appology later), the 3DS has sold around 15.03 million units worldwide. Not too bad, but this is the first time a DS-off shoot has overcome first-year sales of the original Nintendo DS in 2004.
Alas, Nintendo unveiled no-glasses-needed 3D technology which likely supported sales figures. Sony is going to need something big in order to keep the Vita afloat. An app store, online gaming, and a touch screen just simply aren’t enough. Luckily, there are not one, but two features I believe will be Sony’s ace in the hole: the rear touchpad and cross-platform playability.
The rear touchpad is exactly that which enables players to navigate menus, control in-game actions, or perform tasks comfortably without leaving finger prints all over the main screen. This is a really innovative way to use touch-tech while not forcing the player to momentarily blind themselves with their own fingers.
Cross-platform is also pretty self explanatory and is something we saw with the Nintendo Wii U. This means you can be playing a game on your PlayStation 3 at home and continue playing on your PS Vita on your commute to work. In the words of Sony, “Never stop playing” except I don’t recommend playing when you get to work or class, for that matter.
The Sony PlayStation Vita is to be released February 22, 2012.