PlayStation Vita – Time For The 100 Icon Limit To End

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It’s no secret that PS Vita owners have been frustrated with Sony for some time. While we’ve seen plenty of advances for our favourite handheld console in terms of its software library,  marketing, the advent of Remote Play, the updates to the firmware and most recently the announcement of PlayStation Now, we’re still having to struggle on a daily basis with one of the PS Vita’s biggest hardware failings – the infamous 100 icon limit…

Ever since the console was released just over 2 years ago, we have had to cope with the fact that the PS Vita can only display a maximum of 100 icons on its home screen. While the useability of this was improved last year with the addition of folders allowing us to at least organise our games and apps better, that total limit still remained. With the Vita’s dependence on memory cards and digital distribution of software with many major games only receiving a digital release for the EU market, this enforced limit has become a constraint on gamers when it comes to what gamers can and cannot buy.

It could be argued that – as gamers – none of us are able to play our entire games collection at any one time and could easily make use of the supplied Content Manager software to transfer games readily between the PS Vita and a PS3 or PC to manage memory card space effectively, just keeping current games that we want to play at any one time. That may be fine in principle but for those of us who want to have access to our entire collection instantly or who enjoy playing a wide variety of games rather than concentrating on a few at a time, this can prove to be a cumbersome approach. From a storage point of view, granted, the one great thing about the PS Vita is that memory cards are interchangeable so potentially the use of Content Manager could be avoided completely so we could have access to an unlimited amount of storage for games and DLC from the PSN Store but that comes with a price… and I’m not referring to the cost of the cards themselves.

We all know that the Vita comes with pre-installed apps and system software and these are being added to on an occasional basis and depending on the model of the Vita you currently own, almost 20 icons are reserved by default for every user with no doubt at least one forthcoming for PlayStation Now in the near future. This wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that these icons appear on every memory card inserted into the console. Whether you use a 4Gb or 64Gb card, almost a fifth of your icons have been swallowed up with files you can’t delete and with more to come in the future as the Vita’s functionality increases this problem grows further.

Is that really such a big deal though? Under normal circumstances you would think not until you look closer at the way the PS Vita handles its memory cards and it’s home menus. As Vita owners, our game collections are based on a mix of downloaded titles from the PSN Store, plus games purchased at retail. Unlike “traditional” consoles and handheld systems, the PS Vita automatically places an icon on the home menu for every retail game that is inserted into the console and these icons remain even when the cartridge has been removed. For those of you with a games collection dominated by digital titles, this isn’t such an issue as the icons only exist on the memory card that the game is stored on, but if you have a large retail collection as well, this becomes a major concern. Why? Well, irrespective of the size of your memory card, the game icons count towards your 100 icon limit and the larger your retail collection, the less space you have for your digital collection.

PlayStation Mobile

PlayStation Mobile is the biggest casualty right now with this icon limit. Taking over where the Minis range left off, PSM games are incredibly small and seldom use more than 50Mb of space on memory cards. There are just under 200 PlayStation Mobile games available to the EU market right now and to date I have only seen a few in the range that exceed 100Mb in size. The entire collection would comfortably fit on a 16Gb memory card and even the smallest of memory cards can hold in excess of 100 titles. In terms of making the most of the available card space, PSM games are ideal for “filler” space as well as providing satisfying sessions of bite-sized gaming, but when it comes to actually storing them they can be extremely troublesome.

With a half-decent retail collection, even the 4Gb memory cards seem too large to be of any practical use for PlayStation Mobile (or even Minis for that matter) without an extensive amount of space being allocated first for larger game files or media such as music or videos. With my own collection, I currently have over 130 PSM games, and am currently onto my fourth 4Gb memory card dedicated to just PSM and Minis. On the first three cards I not only reached the 100 icon limit quickly but was left with over 1Gb of space free on each card – hardly an ideal solution and I’m rapidly heading towards the same dilemma with the fourth card.

Indie Support

The PS Vita is getting an incredible amount of support from the indie developer community and we are seeing a stunning range of high quality games being released. Whether you’re looking for platform games, shoot-em-ups, racers, arcade adventures – there truly is something out there to appeal to everyone. However, as with Mobile games, many indie titles don’t need large amounts of space. Just look at the stunning launch title Super Stardust Delta or the BAFTA winning Thomas Was Alone – both used just over 200Mb of space and even if you have larger games on your Vita, allowing for game patches and DLC it’s easy to see that your icon limit will be reached long before you’ll fill your memory cards. In fact, even a 32Gb card will fill up very rapidly if used for storing Indie titles alongside a retail collection.

PlayStation Plus

There’s no denying that PS+ was one of the best things that Sony Computer Entertainment have ever come up with. While we don’t quite get the same variety of games that we used to as part of the Instant Games Collection (no Minis or PS One Classics any more) it’s still a great way to build up a vast games collection quickly, but where do they all go? Larger games aren’t too much of a problem when it comes to filling memory cards easily but when we do get great smaller Indie titles as part of PS+ then they have to go somewhere

Content Manager

I’ve already touched upon this, but it could be argued that Sony have provided us with Content Manager to make the most out of our memory cards and to solve this problem for us. If a card gets full, we just transfer games over to our PCs or the PS3 to free up space to download or install something else. In theory this is fine, but should we really have to constantly install and uninstall games just so we can have a variety of games to play on our consoles? As a gamer, if I am forced to choose what to have installed on my Vita, I am less inclined to buy new titles if it means I have to delete – albeit it temporarily – older ones. However, was Content Manager really intended to act as a solution for the 100 Icon problem or merely to assist gamers who ran out of memory card space as a compromise for the high cost of PS Vita memory cards?

64Gb Memory Cards

In the West, we’ve been teased with the new 64Gb memory cards for several months now. Already available in Japan, we’ve been lead to believe that these will solve all our storage problems for the PS Vita. What is being overlooked is that the capacity of the cards themselves is only half the dilemma that we are facing. While they are ideal for larger games that we want to purchase from the PSN Store and those with sizeable DLC content, they still have no real use when it comes to Indie titles, PS One, PSP, or PlayStation Mobile.

In PS Vita terms, 64Gb is a lot of storage space but if a lot of gamers look at their digital collections, I’d say that a large proportion of those are relatively small and certainly under 1Gb in size. That being the case, allowing for a modest retail collection along with the pre-installed apps many gamers would find that a 64Gb card would become redundant within a matter of weeks without using it solely for larger “AAA” titles.

The Way Forward?

Right now, if Sony Computer Entertainment want the PS Vita to continue to succeed as a games console and for all of us gamers to continue to buy games and support the format in the way that we all want to, then change needs to happen urgently. 100 Icons simply isn’t enough any more and if this limit stays in place, gamers are going to be forced to make tough decisions. We’ll be left with no choice but to stop buying games at retail (which will have the knock on effect that will result in the retail industry losing faith in the console) or becomming increasingly selective over what purchases we make. We would all love to be able to own larger memory cards to store games on and be able to buy a wide range of titles from the PSN Store but that’s just not possible right now for most of us.

When looking on the store to buy games, the questions we ask ourselves should be “Is this a game I will like?” or “Do I have enough money in my PSN account?” but instead we wonder “Will this push me over my 100 Icon limit if I buy this?” or “Will I need to re-arrange my memory cards to get this game?”. Is that what Sony Computer Entertainment really wants from its loyal fan base?

As gamers we’re not asking for much from Sony. A simple change to the Vita’s operating system to either remove the icon limit or at the very least revise it so we can display significantly more icons on the PS Vita’s home screen. Some gamers have wanted to see a return to the XMB interface seen on the PS3 and PSP which had no limits imposed on the number of titles that could be displayed but understandably this would entail a complete overhaul and redevelopment of the core OS of the console.

Right now, we’re calling for Sony Computer Entertainment to make this a top priority for the PS Vita. To increase or completely remove the icon limit from the first available firmware update for the PlayStation Vita as a matter of urgency so gamers across the globe can continue to enjoy using the console without having to worry about whether or not they can buy games and store them comfortably.

Please help us here at Vita Player in bringing this to the attention of as many people as possible. If enough of us make our voices heard – gamers, developers, publishers – then maybe we can show Sony that something finally needs to be done.

Simon Plumbe

Site Editor, Vita Player

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5 Comments on PlayStation Vita – Time For The 100 Icon Limit To End

  1. This is due to the way Sony wanted to handle save files on this console – and a design choice I simply can’t understand the reasoning with. Homescreen bubbles are basically not only a launcher, but a “folder” holding more information on the games – saves, metadata, and the like.

    The “100 bubbles max” thing seems definitely arbitrary, though.

    An easy way to deal with that would have been to use a system-wide “Saves” folder (and cache), just like on the PS3 for instance. Having a “Saves” item in the “System” menu would have been perfectly fine, and ease management a lot.

    The CMA is still a joke. It’s impractical, and has been implemented for DRM reasons, nothing more. At least it’s quite ligthweight. I’m still waiting for a Linux version, and I still would have prefered to use regular mass storage – or regular MTP even.

    • I agree completely regarding saves and this is something that I can’t understand. PSP, PS One and Minis titles have their save data separated out and this is accessible through the System icon, PlayStation Mobile saves are embedded into the game files and as you said, on the PS3 (and the PSP as well) game saves and additional game data such as DLC, was kept separate to the games themselves in a controlled area.

      If the icon is just there to launch the game then all we really need is for these to appear temporarily when we insert the game cartridges (as the DS does) and possibly even give us the option to play the game when the Vita boots up. For DLC as long as we know what memory card we have saved that data to for those of us who have multiple memory cards, there shouldn’t be any problem. Infact if gamers use multiple cards regardless, finding DLC and game update data still becomes an issue if you have the wrong memory card inserted so permanent icons simply causes confusion no matter what!

  2. Each of those folder-bubbles can hold ten icons and you can have up to one hundred folder-bubbles (assuming you put EVERYTHING into a folder-bubble)…

    You do the math and that means that theoretically, you could have up to 1,000 applications and games on your PlayStation – you can’t SERIOUSLY tell me that’s not enough?

    • Sadly I wish it were that easy. When Sony introduced the concept of Folders in the update last year, all it actually allowed us to do was sort icons out into folders to make arranging them easier. What it didn’t do was increase the limit in terms of the number of icons available so the 100 icon limit still remained.

      In essence, if you had 10 folders, each with 10 icons in them then your 100 icon limit will be reached (this has been tested and proven to be the case by countless PS Vita owners on the day the update was released, by myself included) and no further icons would be displayed no matter what you installed or copied to the PS Vita using Content Manager. It has been reported that the Vita’s core OS is based on Android which makes the icon limit even more strange as I have an Android table with far more than 100 icons displayed on the home screens on this spread over several pages, so it’s certainly not something inherently present in Android devices.

      As a commited Vita supporter, I’ve currently got just short of 400 titles for the system either physically or digital download – native Vita games, PSP, PS One, Minis and PlayStation Mobile – and all of these would potentially fit onto a 64Gb and a 32Gb card combined but instead I’m using 8 memory cards and still having to store some files on my PC. I have physical space on my memory cards, just no free icons on at least 5 of them and wasting about 10-15Gb of space between them.

      • Sony were claiming the same thing I said regarding the number of applications and games… However I will have to take your word for it, because I am yet to test this.

        You are however, wrong (by a mile!) about the basis of the operating system on the PlayStation Vita – it is based off FreeBSD, as is the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4…

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_products_based_on_FreeBSD#Commercial_Products

        There’s references on that page too, if you don’t believe me.

        Of course, that just goes to enforce your point regarding any software limitations in the PlayStation Vita – FreeBSD is a VERY powerful (Linux/Unix-like) operating system that is capable of as much as (if not more) a typical Microsoft Windows-powered PC!

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