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Why PS4 can and must save PlayStation Vita

Poor PlayStation Vita. It has been the whipping boy of critics and outraged gamers since day one, and with every sales figure update or release schedule revision, many are keen to pounce on the handheld and declare it ‘dead’. Sony’s refusal to release official sales figures only breeds paranoia, and its sparse gaming line-up strongly implies that developers may have given up hope too. Thing is, Vita isn’t dead. It’s just resting its eyes. It’s waiting for the PS4 to unlock so much of that potential locked away inside its hard and software.

Make no mistake, PlayStation 4 can save Vita from failure. Without PS4, there’s little doubt that the nay-sayers are right--Vita will flop, thanks to its relatively high price, the stiff competition it faces, and a dwindling line-up of quality games. However, this winter could represent a significant boost for the handheld that, for all its faults, is still a cracking little piece of tech.

Sony needs to tackle price first. There are two ways it’ll do this, and both involve PS4. The first is simple. Recent rumours posit that Vita will be bundled with some PS4s, and many suggest the price for this pairing will be $499 (or roughly £429). That’s the same price as a core Xbox One but, more importantly, it represents a price-cut of almost 50% on Vita's current price. That’s huge, even if the initial outlay of $500 / £430 feels like a swift kick to your bank account's dangly bits.

Secondly, Sony will use PS Plus to reduce the cost of gaming on Vita. If you want to play PS4 online, you need PS Plus. Given that Microsoft has been charging £40 per year for Xbox Live Gold, and people have been willingly paying for almost a decade, it’s safe to assume that most PS4 adopters will be happy to sign up for PS Plus. Now, the big selling point of Plus is that it offers you several free games every month (via Instant Game Collection), and this usually includes a couple of Vita games. So, in theory, you could get a Vita bundled with your PS4, and fill it up with an enviable library of top games for just over £100 / $140. And let’s not forget--that’s just one aspect of PS Plus’ offer.

Price-wise, that’s attractive. However, Vita needs to justify its existence in your living room, even if it’s as cheap as a second-hand copy of Billie Piper’s autobiography. No doubt the idea of using Vita as a second-screen will interest many developers, especially as Nintendo has laid the groundwork with Wii U. Expect map screens, inventory displays, and loads of radars. More than that--expect the ability to play your PS4 games remotely, a feature Sony has already confirmed.

This feature is cool, but has limited use (the idea of playing a beautiful next-gen game on such a small screen seems counter-productive). It’s likely to become secondary to some of PS4’s other, more interesting media features. Given the right integration--and let’s be clear, this is speculation at this point--Vita could be used to share media, video chat, or keep track of your XMB while you’re playing a game. It could even be used to watch a friend's game stream, while you play something else (or follow their lead) on your console. PS4’s hardware is certainly capable of that kind of multi-tasking, and one of the buzzwords of modern media is ‘multi-screening’. It makes sense that Sony would try to occupy as much of your attention as possible.

Sony has already confirmed that PS4 will support other tablets and second-screen devices. Cutting itself out of the iPad demographic would be madness. However, the more functionality it can cram into Vita, the more likely it is that users will opt to make it their second-screen of choice. Given the PR high that Sony is currently floating on, the PS4 manufacturer is in a position to demand that third-parties support Vita with their second-screen functionality. More than that, Sony can ensure that certain Vita exclusive content is built into the biggest next-gen launch games.

Now, there’s no doubt that Vita will need proper, exclusive games to survive as a handheld. However, acting as a home to next-gen companion experiences will definitely help to plug the current holes in its release schedule. Being able to play as a drone in Tom Clancy's The Division, for example, is no substitute for a proper, big-budget Clancy game on Vita, but it’s better than nothing. And if Vita can establish itself as a real companion for PS4, widening its user-base, then the exclusive games will come. Developers just don’t want to risk spending money making full-fat handheld games if there aren’t enough Vita owners to buy them. By becoming BFFs with PS4, Vita can grow its user-base enough to justify the development time and cost that comes with bigger handheld games.

There’s one more ace up Uncle Sony’s sleeve, though; and it’s one that could change Vita’s fortunes on its own. Gaikai. The cloud streaming company that Sony bought back in 2012 could change everything for Vita, because it could potentially offer up every PSone, PS2 and PS3 game ever made to be played remotely. Gaikai could be the key to unlocking Sony’s impressive back catalogue of games, and Vita would be the ideal machine to siphon all that potential juice. The ability to steal WiFi from your local Coffeebucks to have a quick game of TimeSplitters 2 would be huge. Huge. Especially if game streaming came included with PS Plus, which, you know… you probably already own for PS4.

There are plenty of theoretical scenarios here, but none are far-fetched. If even half of them come to fruition, then Vita could easily become an essential part of our gaming set-up once again. Sony has the potential to turn Vita into a cheap, media and game-filled companion to their already sold-out next-gen console. Let’s hope someone is taking notes…

(So was Sony successful? Read our PS4 review to see how the systems match up.)

You know that awesome guy at parties who talks too much? Drink in hand, way too enthusiastic, well-educated in topics no one in their right mind should know about? Loud? Well, that guy’s occasionally us. GR Editorials is a semi-regular feature where we share our informed insights on the news at hand. Sharp, funny, and finger-on-the-pulse, it’s the information you need to know even when you don’t know you need it.

14 comments

  • oscar-cannibal-corpse-pullin - August 22, 2013 8:49 a.m.

    I sounds very cool when the PS4 comes out, I'm only interested in the linking up to the Playstation 4, for instance, I'm cold, and I want to go to bed, simply just link my PS Vita up to the PS4, and away I go, just use my vita in bed from where I was on the PS4.
  • Fireninjastar - August 8, 2013 9:01 a.m.

    *3DS systems come bundled with Wii U's* Hmm....
  • taokaka - August 7, 2013 4:36 p.m.

    I love my vita but I can understand why some people are being skeptical of it. I thought that at E3 sony would've announced a price drop and at least one new game worth giving a fuck about, but they didn't. It's painfully obvious what sony needs to do to fix this but they don't seem interested.
  • avedon-arcade - August 7, 2013 1:59 p.m.

    I just jumped on the Vita wagon and couldn't be happier. And I have a 3DS as well. I couldn't pass up on the awesome indie games out, Cross Buying, and upcoming titles. It's not a lot, but I don't have THAT much time or THAT much money so I'm not too bothered by its success at the moment. And if it can only get better for the Vita as the PS4 comes out, by all means have at it.
  • Cyberninja - August 7, 2013 11:38 a.m.

    I like my Vita its a cool device but it needs more games the first game I have bought for it since last year is Dragon's Crown which I am also getting on PS3, granted PS+ is nice but it doesn't do everything it can to help. Like with 3DS I lost count of how much I bought for it this year alone, because the flood gates are open and I am happy with drowning.
  • JasonJenkins - August 7, 2013 7:01 a.m.

    I personally think if VITA had PS2 Classic's the VITA would sell a bit better. With the release of KILLZONE soon on the VITA, if that can show that FPS can work I see that adding an extra life to the VITA. And say it did get PS2 Classic's I would straight away buy Max Payne, GTA's and Black(If that was on the PSN store).
  • watevermanimlost - August 7, 2013 9:21 a.m.

    I can't tell if that's sarcasm.... killzone sucked....hard....
  • taokaka - August 7, 2013 4:19 p.m.

    he means killzone mercenary not the original killzone
  • nick-stancato - August 7, 2013 6:40 a.m.

    totally agreed here. I have a Vita and 3DS, and I tend to use my 3DS more because of more and better games. However, I like the Vita much more from a hardware perspective. I really hope the PS4 gets the Vita moving like it should be so Sony actually supports it outside Japan
  • shawksta - August 7, 2013 6:38 a.m.

    Neat, ill be looking forward to it.
  • rainn'sgaydar - August 7, 2013 5:32 a.m.

    I've had a lot of similar thoughts on this subject, and I hope they come true. I'm only cautiously optimistic right now though because as logical as all those points are, they could easily be missed. But I hope they come to fruition in some way because I love my Vita. I would also think that even at $550, a PS4/Vita bundle would be attractive to consumers. If, like you say, even half of those seemingly easily implemented features become real. And one of my favorite and least praised features is that it carries trophy support. I know trophies aren't as popular of chievos, but when you don't have an XBox, they're important. And I've played so many Vita games instead of 3DS thanks to that extra little incentive. Oh, and just a side note for Andy: I'm fairly certain Sony guarantees 6 games playable on Vita at a given time with PS+. That can be a combination of Vita and PSP games (if they couldn't use PSP games they'd have already offered Vita's entire library...almost), but I'm fairly certain it's 6. Just so you have know. I think it further supports your point about Vita purchase incentive.
  • GR_AndyHartup - August 7, 2013 6:05 a.m.

    Yeah, I think it is 6 games guaranteed. Thanks for the spot. Chances are, they'd include more if the demand for Vita increased.
  • ObliqueZombie - August 7, 2013 5:26 a.m.

    I always personally thought that the Vita was cool to begin with. I mean, the hardware, the fact one can stream PS3 games to it, and the ability to play most if not all PSP games downloaded on one's PS3 is a damn cool feature, especially to someone like me who only owned a PSP shortly into its life and then sold shortly thereafter. But yes, fully unlocking its potential with the PS4 will do wonders with other's purchasing decision. Some exclusive software other than Killzone and Gravity Rush wouldn't hurt, either.

Showing 1-14 of 14 comments

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