PlayStation Vita Memory Card Guide

So you’ve just bought a PS Vita or PlayStation TV but the chances are one of the key things you’re missing is a memory card. With such a high dependence on digital downloads for the PS Vita’s software catalogue and even more so for the PSTV, we wanted to make sure that all of you could get the most out of your console and get the most out of whatever memory card options you choose. Even if you’re a hardened Vita owner, we hope that there’s something here that you’ll find useful…

PlayStation Vita Memory Card Guide – Updated 22nd May 2015

The Consoles

The original 1000 series PS Vita came with no on-board storage so unless games stored all their save game data on the game card and you rely on a 100% physical game collection with no need for game patches or DLC then you’re fine… but with most games having patches at one stage or another or using memory cards you’re left with little choice but to get at least one card at some point.

Both the slim PS Vita (2000 series) and PlayStation TV were upgraded to feature 1Gb of internal storage. While this may have seemed like a positive step forward giving gamers an initial starting point negating the need for the purchase of a memory card from the offset, this does have a few drawbacks. Firstly, with the size of patches and DLC for many retail games as well as games from the PSN Store (not to mention PlayStation Plus) this is woefully inadequate. Those who have purchased a PlayStation TV will find that almost all of this is taken up with the free games that are bundled with the system right from the off.

More frustratingly is a simple design fault that – considering the fact that this is something that Sony’s mobile phone division have incorporated for years in their handsets – the consoles do not allow this memory to be combined with additional memory cards so if you insert a memory card into the PS Vita or PSTV then the internal storage can not be accessed. What sounds like a good idea for gamers at first quickly becomes a redundant feature and you are left with 1Gb of storage you can’t use.

Memory Card Sizes

At the moment there are five sizes available – 4Gb, 8Gb, 16Gb, 32Gb and 64Gb although the 64Gb cards are only available officially in Japan. However, just like physical games, memory cards are not locked to a specific region so it is safe to import 64Gb cards and use them on EU and US consoles. One thing that you need to bear in mind is that the sizes stated is their unformatted capacity. Once prepared for use, you lose approximately 10% of this. This is something that applies to all storage media and not just with PlayStation systems whether its memory cards, hard drives or even back in the 8-bit and 16-bit era with floppy disks. The actual capacity of the cards are:-

  • 4Gb – 3.7Gb
  • 8Gb – 7.4Gb
  • 16Gb – 14Gb
  • 32Gb – 29Gb
  • 64Gb – 59Gb

Please note that the listed capacities can vary from card to card and in some cases you may get slightly more or less space than listed above but this is a good approximation.

Pricing And Availiability

Prices vary wildly with memory cards right now so it is advisable to shop around although the best deals appear to be found through eBay or Amazon. Retail in the UK seems to be quite strange right now with many stores having very limited stocks of the larger cards with most of their supplies being focused on 8Gb and 16Gb cards. Infact, the current focus in terms of distribution seems to be on the Mega Packs and although these do represent fabulous value for money offering a good selection of games alongside the memory cards, the inclusion of the games does render the use of the card redundant.

The cost of cards is of concern for most PS Vita owners – and those who are considering purchasing the console and is has been a deciding factor for many – but the dedicated format has been adopted by Sony both to counter piracy and, as with the PSP before it, has also allowed the PS Vita to offer lower priced digital downloadable titles in comparison to other portable platforms. The memory card prices do subsidise the PSN Store to a limited degree which benefits the entire PS Vita community.

At present there are no plans for third-party memory cards which appeared later in the PSPs lifespan.

What Size Card Should I Buy?

The simple answer would be to buy the largest memory card that you can afford but the answer isn’t really as straightforward as that. Ultimately it depends on how you use your PS Vita and the games that you play. If you are a PlayStation Plus subscriber then you can expect to need 1Gb – 2Gb of storage per month just to download titles from the Instant Games Collection before you even consider regular purchases, DLC or patches. However, you do need to think about your approach to portable gaming first…

If you are the type of gamer who plays games from start to finish and then is rarely likely to return to them afterwards then the size of the card isn’t as important. The chances are that you’ll be quite happy deleting games once you’ve finished with them, happy in the knowledge you can download them again whenever you want to (or use Content Manager but I’ll come onto that in a moment).

What if your main interest is buying retail games then all you really need is space for DLC and patches so again a smaller card would suffice. The same would apply for those of you more interested in indie games or retro titles – PS One Classics and PSP games – which take up far less space than major PS Vita titles. And for those of you who have a fondness for Minis and PlayStation Mobile… this is where even the smaller 4Gb and 8Gb cards still have their uses.

How Many Cards Should I Buy?

Ideally, owning multiple cards is the best option if you can afford to. The PS Vita and PlayStation TV can support multiple memory cards and while the consoles don’t support hot-swapping (being able to change cards while the system is switched on), changing cards is simple enough. Doing so once the console is off only takes a moment and all the Vita / PSTV needs to do once a new card is inserted is rebuild its database to ensure that the correct icons are displayed on-screen. This doesn’t affect the card or anything on it and there’s no limit to the number of times that can be done.

There are numerous advantages to operating with multiple cards, the obvious one is increased capacity without the need to continually delete and reinstall titles as and when needed. Of greater benefit is the ability to “theme” each of your cards to make finding games easier. Smaller, cheaper cards become viable purchases if you do own Minis, PlayStation Mobile or PS One games – a 4Gb card can store over 100 Minis and it’s possible to fit around 300 PlayStation Mobile titles on a 16Gb card so organising your cards in this way not only makes the best use of the space you have but also a lot easier finding what you want to play if you have a large digital collection.

The Icon Limit

Originally the PS Vita operated with a limit of displaying a maximum of 100 icons on its home page, spread across 10 screens. Over time this was changed in two system updates, the first added folders (each capable of containing ten icons) and then a major system update allowing the Vita to display a maximum of 500 icons. This total still has some restrictions – you can only have 10 screens on your home page so you need to make use of folders and retail games and system files automatically take up some of this icon allocation so this is something that you need to take into consideration when managing your memory card(s). As I just mentioned though, this is where smaller cards certainly have their uses.

PlayStation Plus

With over 10 million subscribers, the chances are that many of you reading this already have access to PlayStation Plus but this can also throw a spanner in the works for many PS Vita and PlayStation TV owners. While the Instant Games Collection aspect of the service can be fantastic, giving gamers access to a constant library of games that they can play for the duration of their membership, these need to be downloaded and stored somewhere. With three PS Vita games each month, the space that you will need soon mounts up. Even with PlayStation Plus offering some of the hottest indie titles around, it’s not unusual to need in excess of 1Gb of space or more per month and as larger games are given away as well it’s quite possible that you could go through a 32Gb card in a year!

Using The PSN Store

There are several ways to buy games for the PS Vita, but if memory card space is tight, then you really need to be a smart shopper when it comes to buying games digitally. While buying games on the PS Vita or PlayStation TV is easy enough there are two things that you need to bear in mind. First, with the PlayStation TV its store simply doesn’t offer a comprehensive list of all of the games that are available for the console, missing many key titles meaning that most need to be found by a manual search.

More importantly, and this applies to the PS Vita as well, is that neither version of the store – with the exception of PlayStation Mobile – give any indication as to the amount of space required on your memory card. So how can you tell whether you have the space for them? The only way to do it is to buy your games through the PS3 or the web-based version of the PSN Store and then access your purchases using the Download Manager. Unfortunately, the PS3 version of the store is sadly lacking when it comes to its listings so most games will need to be searched for manually, especially when it comes to PSP, PS One and Minis, but at least you’ll have ample information at your fingertips.

Something that we would like to stress here is that in addition to the sizes being listed for PS Vita, PS One, Minis and PSP titles it is indicated clearly which older games are Vita compatible so you can’t buy games by mistake (this is important for PSP and PS One games as the back catalogue from EA isn’t accessible to all territories right now). Also, we do want to stress that when it comes to the PlayStation TV, please do not rely on information presented in the PSN Store regarding compatibility as some of this is out of date or inaccurate.

Content Manager

If you are limited to the number of cards you are able to own, but aren’t too comfortable with the idea of deleting and re-downloading games constantly from the PSN Store, then you’ll need to make use of Content Manager. One of the best pre-installed features of the PS Vita, as well as allowing you to copy music, images and videos between your PC/Mac/PS3 and Vita it also acts as a back-up and transfer tool for games and save game data and works for PS Vita, PSP, Minis, PS One and PlayStation Mobile titles.

Assuming you’ve already downloaded the software for your computer if you have chosen that route, using Content Manager is simplicity itself. As well as providing a breakdown of how your memory cards are being used you can copy files individually or multiple files at once both to and from your computer or PS3 allowing to manage your memory cards quickly and easily. For PS Vita, PSP, PS One and Minis, you can purchase titles on the PSN Store on your PS3 and download them on there and transfer them to your Vita (ideal if you are using a faster wired connection for the console rather than the Vita’s wi-fi) and if you simply need more storage and want to delete games you no longer play, just remove them from your cards and keep them elsewhere until you want them again.

Why copy them rather than re-install games though? The key thing is save game data. For older games, save game data is stored as separate files on your memory cards so you can delete the games knowing that your save files are safe. However, when it comes to native PS Vita and PlayStation Mobile titles, the save data is embedded in the game itself (apart from PS Vita games that store save data on the physical retail cards). This means that once you delete a game from your Vita, it takes the save data with it. At present, the only way to keep your save data is using PlayStation Plus’ cloud storage (and hope that the game in question supports it), use Cross Save for multiformat titles, or copy the entire game using Content Manager.

This certainly isn’t an idea approach but for now these are only choices that PS Vita owners have. However, one thing I must stress here is that despite its usefulness, Content Manager isn’t completely stable and has been prone to crashes. If you are copying a large number of files it has been known to freeze and the only way to recover from this is to power off your PS Vita and restart it so I would strongly advise copying files in small batches and keeping notes nearby of what you are copying.

Save Game Data

One thing that is important to understand is how the PS Vita handles save game data. Each type of game manages this differently and when using multiple memory cards or transferring content between them, understanding save game data is essential. For native digital PS Vita titles and PlayStation Mobile games / apps, all save data is embedded in the game files themselves. Copying or deleting the game or app will result in deleting the save file.

Physical game cards work in one of two ways. While most store save data to the cards, some will install data to the PS Vita memory card and will use this for it’s game save data. It’s important, therefore, to check when copying data with Content Manager to check if any game files exist for your physical games. While much of this will be patches or updates, some of this will be important game data.

PS One and PSP games differ as these save files are stored separately on the Vita and will need to be transferred individually using Content Manager but we would strongly advise copying PS One save files using a PC rather than a PS3. These are unusual because the PS Vita creates virtual memory cards for the PS One. On a PC you can transfer these “memory cards” as a whole to and from the PC, but using a PS3 you need to open these virtual cards and copy individual save files making backing up data more complicated.

Leftover Space

An important thing to bear in mind with whatever memory cards you use is to make sure that there is always some space left on it. Games will always require patches and updates and without some available space on your cards you won’t be able to download these, or any DLC that you may require. While some patches may end up reducing the size of existing patches or even games that you have installed (the patches for Killzone: Mercenary for example) you still need the space to download the files in the first place. As a rule I’d recommend leaving at least 1Gb free on your card at all times to avoid the need to use Content Manager.

Conclusion

So the main thing you have to decide with memory cards is how you make use of your Vita / PlayStation TV. If you’re the type of gamer who prefers physical cards and has little interest in PlayStation Plus then you should be able to cope perfectly well with a single 32Gb card. If indies are more your thing and you have an active PS+ subscription then you really must look at larger / multiple cards. However, if you do tend to focus on a few games at a time and only have a few core games that see repeated play, then a 32Gb or 64Gb may be sufficient for all of your long-term needs in collaboration with Content Manager. Otherwise, then swapping cards and having a carrycase with the capacity to store memory cards along with games may just be the best option to get the most out of your console.

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