Hardware Review: PlayStation Vita Console

The Full Monty?

The Vita is a full package, more so than any other hand held games console ever produced. In fact compared with almost any other handheld device even outside of gaming it has a near-unassailable feature set. However it isn’t the full package it should be, at least not yet. The missing apps and basic functionality you would expect from certain apps, the music player especially, stop it from usurping other devices you may carry with you. You make this capable of doing everything that an iPod or third party portable media player can do, and it would be able to replace them, and offer more. The inability to play all sorts of video files and not make playlists of music or videos and it’s a little bit of a white elephant.

The underlying OS is a missed opportunity of gargantuan proportions. Why is there not an Android sandbox on the machine, being as there is the PSM Runtime layer? This would allow any product to be downloaded from the Google Play Store while being “supervised” by the Vita’s specific software layer to stop it causing damage to other software, or opening up a back door for hackers. This would instantly give the Vita all the abilities of any Android tablet, but in a more pocketable form. Would I run my bank app, retailers apps, an alternative web browser etc. etc. on my Vita rather than my android phone? You’re damn right I would. That screen alone makes it a more pleasurable experience for YouTube and those other supported functions than an Android phone. This would also sell machines hand over fist and open up a horde of what would have been tablet purchasers into potential buyers of Vita games and other content from PlayStation Store.

It’s so close to being everything that it could be, and everything a true 21st century Walkman should be it hurts, but those little niggles just trip it up. The problem is, that trip up might be leading to a fatality.

The Future?

Does the future look bright? No. Seriously, with the way the Vita is being regarded by the industry, the market, and the general public, you might be forgiven for thinking it’s been discontinued already. The thing is, it’s all pretty much down to Sony. Between them pitching the machine badly to the public and, as usual (PS3’s Play TV anyone?), being distinctly unable to convey to the populace quite what this machine IS capable of added to their closed-minded over protection of all things intellectual property, they have stifled the poor thing since birth.

In store POS needs to shout about all the downloadable content and games. It doesn’t. How many people realise they can download films from the PlayStation Store for the machine before they buy one? Almost none. This needs sorting, let alone getting the PS One/PSP/Mini/PlayStation Mobile marketing sorted.

The machine must be allowed to run Android apps somehow, or at least Sony needs to encourage Android app makers to  convert the apps to PS Vita, though to get say the Lloyds, Barclays, Virgin Money, Natwest, Halifax, etc. apps all converted is plainly daft when a sandbox would allow all the current ones to run. Once that’s done… In store POS needs to shout about it.

The games releases are drying up fast, and this needs reversing. Sony’s original PlayStation plan of making sure there were plenty of in-house developers producing software is in reverse. A U-turn is needed before Vita, and PS4, for that matter end up being the last of their kind. Sony really needs to be supporting 3rd party softcos too in offering cross play and cross buy on their games. For instance, FIFA 14 PS3 (and PS4?) needs to have the Vita game on the Blu-ray too, ready to install to the Vita from the PS3, with on-line codes for both versions in the box, and as long as EA have enabled the ability for PS3/4 players to play against Vita players, only take one licensing fee. See, it’s really not rocket science. Do that with the next Call of Duty and so on… and you’re laughing. In store POS then needs to shout about that too. Did you know that PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale was Cross Buy as well as Cross Play? No? That’s because the dummy/display boxes in most retailers didn’t have it mentioned on the front cover as the real ones did. That’s a schoolboy error that Sony need to be ashamed of and sort out, especially when places like Asda had the PS3 version at £28 and the Vita version (one of 4 games they had for the format, I’ll add) at £35. Also… a download code? When there is gigabytes of unused space on the Blu-ray? Really?

There is also another way Sony could allow this machine to fly and bring in a lot of attention and affection. Open it up. Get a software development kit out there that Bedroom coders can download and use with the Vita linked to their PC using the USB cable. Use a supervisor mode or something, but allow them some space to create, be they games or apps. Encourage them to submit them back to Sony Computer Entertainment for release at a decent price on the PlayStation Store, with a cut being taken by SCE to fund the quality programme for such submissions and the development cost of the SDK. I want to see the next generation of Deluxe Paint, ProTracker, Worms, and so on coming to the public, in a way we haven’t seen since the fall of the home computers. This machine as the most powerful handheld ever released offers the potential to shatter perceptions. Do it and make both Apple and Nintendo look a little silly, while offering the broadest range of content ever seen on such a machine.

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