The PS Vita got a lot right – it looked beautiful, there are loads of games to play (and still more coming) and it earned its stripes as an indie darling despite the closed ecosystem of the PlayStation Store – but, six years on from its initial release date and a few months after Sony officially ended development on the console, it’s probably fair to say that some features – like live streaming – have passed it by.
Live from PlayStation
The PS Vita has an awkward relationship with streaming services. Having no capture capability, it lacks an association with phenomena like eSports and Twitch and didn’t support the latter’s video app until the middle of last year; in fact, even the PlayStation TV (which is also now discontinued) shared the same fate despite what the name implied having little more. With the removal of YouTube as a native playback service and restrictions on services such as Netflix, Vita owners quite rightly felt left out. But when it came to participating in contributing to the world of streaming gaming content it’s a crying shame, as the Vita has enough exclusives – like OlliOlli 2 – to warrant an audience.
As of 2014, Sony’s Vita is also privy to the Live from PlayStation app, a Twitch-style streaming service that lets users watch gameplay from a local PS4 or tune into the streams of other PlayStation gamers. Again, though, it’s a one-way street, and nobody is sitting down to watch streamed games from their neighbour’s Vita. It’s not something that’s likely to be overcome in the future, either, as the Vita simply lacks the hardware for outbound streaming.
Here’s the thing – streaming services are now a pretty basic, essential feature. Both Android and iOS support capture apps, meaning that just about everybody in the West can live stream their laundry 24 hours a day, and live eSports now occupy the same niche as soap operas as far as interest from advertisers are concerned. It’s all very prosaic. However, streaming still presents an opportunity to improve and diversify a product.
For instance, casino brands like William Hill now place live human dealers on webcam to improve immersion in their games and increase the opportunities for social interaction. Playing live blackjack with the real dealers at William Hill also means that players no longer have to contend with computer odds and can watch the croupier spin wheels or throw dice instead. It’s a minor quality of life change that birthed a whole new way of playing.
With the above in mind, Sony could do a lot worse than a PS Vita-style console created around live streaming. As evidenced by Samsung’s Gear 360 device, a camera that can stream 360-degree videos, the ability to produce live video is a concept that sells all on its own. It’d also serve as a unique competitor for Microsoft’s Project Scorpio, a new console designed with 4K streaming and capture at its core.
It doesn’t even have to be gaming that it streams. With a camera on board, our hypothetical Vita could take advantage of Twitch’s array of broadcasting categories, which include creative endeavours like painting, coding, and even glassblowing. By taking a general approach to live video, our device becomes a social accessory or even a tool for streaming tutorials to students in addition to a gaming device. That approach would bring it into competition with Sony’s Xperia range of phones though.
While it may never come to fruition, a device in the mould of the Vita still has a great deal of potential in the market.