Following E3, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the Vita and what I want from the device. I’ve mentioned my thoughts on Twitter, our E3 podcasts, and even the N4G Podcast following the big announcement, but wanted to crystallize them in a larger piece.
I’ve not hidden my excitement for the Vita despite being burned by purchasing a PSP at launch, selling it, and then reacquiring the system once the library finally became robust enough to warrant it. I’m excited for some of the titles that have been announced. Uncharted: Golden Abyss is likely to be a launch title, Little Big Planet looks to make great use of the hardware’s unique features, and being able to play games like Resistance Retribution with two thumbsticks will bring huge improvements to games sorely needing better controls.
Despite looking forward to stepping into Nathan Drake’s shoes for two new adventures within mere months of each other, it’s not the games that are truly motivating my purchase. For someone that wholeheartedly believes in our site’s motto (Play games, not consoles), this is a huge departure. Instead, it’s the way the Vita promises (and I use that word very deliberately) to work with the Playstation 3.
At E3, Ruin, a dungeon crawler, was showed off as proof of concept. Using cloudsaving, it took only a few seconds to move an in-progress game back and forth between the two systems. The developer, Idol Hands, demonstrated that moving (transfarring?) between the two platforms allows the player to pick up exactly where he/she left off. If you were about to get hit by an enemy on the PS3, moving your game over to the Vita will see the pain dealt out in the palm of your hand, immediately after resuming.
Additionally, Vita support has been announced for Dust 514. This game was already on my radar due to its unique connection to Eve Online’s persistent world. It’s not clear exactly how the Vita will be used, but it’s not hard to imagine that the Vita might be used as a PS3 controller with a screen. If so, the wind is immediately taken out of Nintendo’s sails. The tables are turned, with the Wii U following Sony on this innovation. Sure, not every PS3 game will feature use of the Vita’s screen, but it’s more likely that when a title does, it will be appropriate and well designed. I’m not sure we’ll be able to say the same thing about use of the Wii U’s screen, especially using all of the waggle-heavy shovelware that hit the Wii as an indicator.
That’s why I’m excited about the Vita, but that isn’t enough for everyone. If Sony wants to convince every PS3 owner that Vita ownership will enhance their favorite games without intruding on the already-great play experience, they need to do a few things.
First, Sony needs to use the Blu-Ray movie model for handling Vita games with the level of interoperability shown with Ruin. Many Blu-Ray movies have a version that comes with a DVD or Digital Copy version. Don’t make me buy two full-price, identical copies of a game; bundle them. Make a version of the game that includes a download code, Vita game card, or simply includes the Vita copy on the PS3 disk for a small up-charge. With PS3 games priced at $60 new and Vita games likely to be at least $40, it’s simply too much. Charge me an additional $10 – $20 over the $60 as part of a bundle, though, and you’ll get me almost every time.
Second, Sony needs to offer cloud saving for every Vita owner. I know this is a Playstation Plus exclusive right now, but if you are going to tout this level of interoperability, it needs to be something that is a system feature and not a membership benefit for a program that offers little else by way of benefit. I know there are people that see the value in Playstation Plus. Right now, I’m not one of them.
Third, Sony needs to strike a hard bargain with AT&T. If multiplayer isn’t possible over 3G and, instead, that feature is only used for moving save files (typically very small) back and forth, it needs to be free for users. If it is possible to engage in multiplayer games over 3G, the pricing plan needs to be an annual subscription similar in cost to XBox Live. Vita owners will not pay $15 – $25 per month (the costs of the 250 MB/2 GB iPad data plans) for this feature.
Finally, Sony needs to be very particular about the software that is released for the system. There is room for indie titles via the Minis program. Don’t put the crap in a box or in the main part of the PSN store, though. If there is one thing Nintendo has shown us is that shovelware alienates and frustrates users.
The Vita is shaping up to fulfill the promise that Sony made with the PSP years ago. Whether it simply ends up being a good system or rises to greatness is completely in Sony’s hands. The third-party support is there and the hardware is impressive. Now, it’s all about smart marketing and promotion. I, for one, have faith that Sony will make the correct decisions.