GIMMICKS! No back touch panel or head-spinning 3D effects, please (Marcos Rants #2)

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Since you guys seem to have liked my previous rant about the Vita’s battery life (you can check out the piece here), I wanted to talk to you guys about another thing that really bugged me about the last generation of portables: the gimmicks. The Vita’s back touch panel and the Nintendo 3DS’ 3D effect added substantial cost to hardware production, and saw very little use from developers (in the case of the Vita) and end users (in the case of the 3DS’ 3D effect). Nintendo was smart enough to drop the 3D effect from in their 2DS line, but where would we be today if Sony had released a Vita without a back touch panel?

Well, we’d still have the problem of storage, which I also ranted about a few weeks ago (read about how the proprietary storage card for the Vita helped killed the handheld here). There’s just no getting around the fact that you have to pay literally hundreds of dollars for decent storage (64GB) when it would have been much, much cheaper to use MicroSD (or even getting third-party manufacturers involved in making officially-licensed Vita memory cards).

But if, at the height of Vita’s popularity in 2014, Sony had released the Vita 2000 with LED, more internal storage AND no back touch panel, they could have dropped the cost to around US$140 / £120. Even with their idiotic memory card pricing scheme, that would have given players a huge incentive to invest in the system, making the entry barrier much lower for new players. After all, how many games made good use of the back touch panel? Nothing that couldn’t have been either fixed in a patch, surely. Or just play the other trillion titles that don’t use the feature. Most games don’t.

The same thing happened with the 3DS: it was a huge selling point to have a portable console that displayed real 3D without the need for glasses. But it inherited Virtual Boy levels of headache-inducing powers, and as a result, the vast majority of players (myself included), left that slider all the way down in the off position. Heck, all the 3DS Pokemon games don’t even allow the 3D effect outside of battle because the hardware isn’t powerful enough to handle it. But Nintendo realized they could release a version of this thing without the 3D effect, basically slashing a huge percentage of production costs. And that’s how the 2DS line was born, breathing new life into a handheld that was basically a dying ecosystem in terms of sales.

I’m glad the Switch did away with the gimmicks and concentrated on something we actually wanted: to play with each other. The portability and single joy-con functionality were, to be frank, genius decisions. There’s no way around that. And we don’t have anything on the Switch that adds unnecessary cost. Having a touch screen is about the same price as having a screen without touch functionality, and it helps when navigating the menus. Win-win. MicroSD cards for storage? Hell, yes.

I’m sorry that Sony aren’t thinking about making a new portable (though they were definitely less certain about that after seeing how well the Switch is doing in terms of sales). But they shot themselves in the foot so many times, with unnecessary gimmicks and a ridiculous pricing scheme for proprietary storage, that I feel like even if they gave it another shot, they’d still muck it up. 

I cannot wait to be proven wrong, though. Can you imagine a world where you can play PS4 titles on the go? Ah, I love me some Persona 5 Golden. One can hope, eh?

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