We’ve all been calling out for Sony to make changes for the PS Vita for months now. It’s been struggling at retail for a while going head-to-head against the 3DS. While the 3DS had a rocky start, it picked up considerably to the point that it’s in a dominating position in the market and its retail presence is backing that up. In contrast, nothing much has changed for the Vita… apart from an initial push at launch there is hardly any presence at retail, we still have memory cards that cost a frighteningly high amount and while there are some great games available it feels like the majority are download only and that publishers are abandoning us…
Sony have said that they are making announcements regarding the PS Vita next month and 2013 is certainly a time for change for the Japanese giant. They’ve just stopped production of the PS2 after a ten year lifespan and we’re going to get news soon about the Playstation 4 with its anticipated release at the end of this year, along with a great upcoming games line-up for the PS3 but what of the Vita itself? We know what is on the way, but what could Sony have up their sleeves?
Well, nothing has actually been said at the moment but going by their past history with their consoles and what the market is currently screaming out for, there are things we can possibly look for next month…
Right now, the price of the console is crippling sales. Despite its power and technological advantages over the 3DS, consumers don’t take that into consideration when buying a new console. The PS3 had a slow start because of its higher price and even the 3DS itself had a slow start until there was a cut in its price. At the very least, there needs to be a cut of £50 from the RRP. Granted, Sony have given us some great bundles for the console, but these need to be replaced with something more appealing, and including a memory card – even if it’s only a 4Gb card – as standard.
Certainly an off-putting factor for gamers is the cost of the cards themselves. My personal decision to get a Vita was influenced by the cost of the cards initially. Knowing that some games were likely to need 3-4Gb of space and that the cards cost anything up to £80 each was a major expense that I simply couldn’t afford. This needs to be tackled from three angles. As with the PS1 and PS2, Sony now need to allow competition in the form of third-party cards which will drive prices down. However, they need to take the initiative themselves and not only reduce costs by at least 50% but also provide us with the option of a 64Gb card.
Cross Buy is a fantastic feature for games and for many adds an incentive to buy some PS3 titles but with some games needing a lot of space to install (the forthcoming download of Ratchet and Clank: Q-Force needing 4Gb, for example) it makes Cross Buy unviable.
I’d say this is very unlikely. With the exception of some minor tweaks, the last time Sony did a complete re-design of a console was the PSP Go which was a complete disaster. Removing the UMD, taking away access to the majority of the game library was a bad move for the system. The slide design also made using some of the buttons uncomfortable to use for many gamers. The only real hardware changes that could be made would be power efficiency and cost efficiency for production but adding new features would simply result in functions that simply couldn’t be used by all gamers.
3G / 4G
To put it bluntly, 3G has been a disaster. Partnering with specific networks hasn’t worked and has been restrictive for gamers. AT&T has caused problems in the USA and to be blunt, Vodafone coverage in the UK can be hit-and-miss at times. 3G is unsuitable for anything other than limited access to DLC, sharing content and using functions such as Near and suffers from too much lag for gaming. Whether the console is 4G compatible is unknown but for this to be practical it would a) need to be unlocked for any network and the data costs across networks would need to be viable which, at present, 4G isn’t.
The best option in the long run is for the 3G model to be dropped in favour of focusing on wi-fi and presenting consumers with a single, less confusing and more affordable option. Public wi-fi hotspots are plentiful and many are free and this is the best way forward.
Remote Play / Cross Play
This has limited functionality right now and only a handful of games are supported. PS1 games, with the exception of RPGs, don’t run well enough to be playable and this needs to be improved andif this technology can be cracked we could be in for some fantastic cross-platform integration.
It is expected, as I said earlier, that Sony are due to announce the PS4 very shortly. There is talk that the PS4 will integrate with the PS Vita and if this is confirmed, many could see the Vita as an early pre-PS4 purchase so they are ready for the first step of their PS4 gaming experience.
We can already download PS1, PSP and Minis to the Vita but there is no reason why the PS Vita can’t run PS2 games as well. Even though the catalogue in the PSN Store is limited, there are some gems amongst them so February would be an ideal time to announce them along with some key titles as part of this line-up.
Yes, all of this is a lot to expect from Sony, but we have to remember that the PS3 had a slow start but now it has overtaken the XBox 360 in terms of global sales. While we will never see the PS Vita outsell the 3DS, it can still make up a lot of ground and increase its market share considerably, bring in more gamers and get publishers on board and – more importantly – bring those back who have had cold feet. I think February could be an interesting month…