The PS Vita never achieved the glowing success of its predecessor. 80 million sales for the PSP was an incredible achievement so it was a disappointment that the Vita only achieved 16 million in its lifetime. We often wonder if there were changes Sony should have made to the Vita to improve the console in that time. Putting the marketing woes aside that had a devastating effect on the public’s perception of the Vita, we take a look at some changes that could have been done to give the system a much needed boost…
One thing that users had cried out for since the Vita was launched were more media apps. Now, while this was an area generally out of Sony’s control, it is something that they could have encouraged. As such, it’s another one of the key changes Sony should have made to the Vita. We know from past experience with games such as TxK that Sony had invested in development for the platform. What could have worked wonders from the start was the same for media apps as well.
While some did exist either from the start or later in the Vita’s life – notably Twitter, Twitch, Crunchyroll to name but a few – Vita owners quite rightly felt short-changed. We needed services like Netflix, Amazon Video, iPlayer, Spotify etc. More importantly, with these being equally present on the PlayStation TV it could have strengthened the position of the microconsole as more than just a Remote Play device.
In this instance what Sony should have capitalised on – especially when pitching the need to port apps across to the Vita – is the consoles high attach rate. Vita owners are incredibly loyal and buy a large amount of software compared to most other console owners. It’s fair to assume that this high spend level could be extended to other services available on the Vita, including streaming media.
Even though the original 1000 Series Vita came with 3G connectivity it wasn’t Sony’s greatest decision. For gaming it was too slow to be on any real use and it was impractical when it came to downloading store content. Having two versions of the machine available didn’t help, but the limited speed offered by 3G combined with the network restrictions soon marked the demised of the 3G system and it’s no wonder that it was dropped by Sony.
However, with the widespread introduction of the 4G network in 2013 this enabled high speed connectivity across the mobile network. With the timing of the release of the 2000 Series Vita, there was no reason why a network-free 4G couldn’t have been incorporated into the design as standard. Were a single model released this could have become a solid selling point for the Vita. Removing dependency on wi-fi would have made the Vita truly portable on all levels. With the upsurge in SIM only contracts available from mobile network providers, more affordable contracts and more importantly better data packages mobile gaming could have been a real possibility.
Speaking from my own experience, while my Vita travels almost everywhere with me, it’s only used online where I can access free wi-fi networks. I did connect my Vita once to a 3G network tethering it to my phone (not long after I purchased it) but found the speed to be almost unusable. With 4G comparable to high speed broadband, it could have offered a real alternative. Proper store access, fast web browsing, online gaming through sites like worldbookies.com, PS Vita multiplayer gaming… the potential was limitless.
PlayStation Now is another oddity. Sony invested a huge sum of money acquiring the game streaming service Gaikai and turning it into PlayStation Now. Setting it up to run on a wide range of devices was a superb move, allowing gamers to experience a wide range of games from the PlayStation catalogue not only on the PS4 but on the PC (eventually) the Vita, PSTV and even on compatible televisions. The trial run suggested a few different possible business models from individual game rental to a monthly charge but it worked surprisingly well.
Despite having a relatively slow internet connection, I was able to run PlayStation Now happily on my Vita with just a basic 15Mb broadband connection. Unlike the high demands required by Google Stadia, this worked well enough for most games and had it been running through fibre broadband could have been superb. Why this was dropped seems bizarre and had this continued it could have offered another feather in the Vita’s cap, both for home use and on the move.
The Vita’s web browser was good for general day to day usage but sadly it wasn’t perfect. Unlike Firefox, Chrome and others, it wasn’t updated regularly and soon became outdated. While it it did provide access to some streaming media services where apps weren’t available through their websites, these were still lacking in full functionality. Even worse for for streaming services such as My5, ITV Hub, and All4 as none of these were supported by the Vita’s browser at all.
While some may argue that the Vita wasn’t meant to complete with mobile phones or tablets for web browsing, searching for the best au online betting websites, playing online games though Facebook or online shopping, a good browser is more important people may think. How many of us have taken a screenshot of a game and wanted to share it socially? As it stands our options are limited to posting on Twitter using the Vita. But the idea of being able to do more with media and simply explore more content is worth it alone. Not to mention a better seamless online shopping experience. Which brings me onto…
There’s no denying that the current PlayStation Store for PS Vita owners is atrocious. The original version we had available at launch for the console was considerably better. It was easier to navigate, faster to use and had a more optimised and accurate search function. When you used it you were fairly confident in finding what you wanted and could easily see the latest releases at a glance. Since the new release several years ago, games are hidden completely, new titles get buried quickly and it has become a cumbersome experience. For many, it’s seldom used for purchases and instead only to access the download list.
Most instead choose to use the web version of the store. Even using a phone and the mobile version seems to be faster and more comprehensive. No matter how much I love my Vita, I can’t remember the last time I made a purchase using the Vita. It makes no sense when I can browse the store, add funds and buy something in no time at all online. My Vita only comes into the equation at the download stage when obviously I have no choice! For those that do use their Vita to manage and purchase all of their content though, this MUST be damaging sales on a daily basis. I do wonder how many Vita owners either gave up buying games for the console or significantly reduced their spend on the platform purely because of the user interface?
Would These Have Made A Difference?
We can all talk about what went wrong with the Vita and hindsight is a powerful thing. Certainly we all have a wishlist for things that we would have wanted to have seen implemented over the last 8 years with the console. Games, pricing, hardware, accessories, marketing – all of these would have had a positive impact on the development and growth of the Vita. And who knows what future the console might have had… Or what future plans Sony may have changed when it came to the handheld market had the Vita been more successful.