For those who missed it, Sony recently announced PS Vita TV during a live-stream press conference in Japan. It was announced alongside a redesigned Vita, a Japanese release date for PS4, and a bunch of very Japanese looking PS4 games. And while PlayStation 4 is undoubtedly Sony's poster-boy for the next generation, it’s PS Vita TV that represents one of Sony’s smartest moves in years.
The device is clearly aimed as a rival to Apple TV, only Sony has added a couple of extra features that elevate Vita TV a little higher. There’s a slot on the device for Vita-compatible games and memory cards; allowing you to play Vita, PSP and PS One Classics games on any TV, using a DualShock 3 pad. You could even play against other PS Vita players via Ad Hoc multiplayer.
It also lets you access certain video services, and Hulu was the first partner Sony mentioned. Given how voraciously LoveFilm, NetFlix and Sky have spread onto mobile devices and multimedia boxes like Xbox 360 and PS3, it’s likely that some--if not all--will sign up for Vita TV if it becomes a success and moves to the US and Europe. The only caveat? Getting that all-important, stable broadband connection to make it all work.
All that is very cool. Essentially, you’ve got a device that can stream media and play portable games wherever you are in the world. However, what’s most interesting--and the reason it’s such a clever device--is that Vita TV allows remote play from your PS4. Think about that for a second. Although remote play is currently limited to local use (so, as a second screen within your home), Sony is looking into cloud-based streaming for PlayStation games. With this little white box, no more than the size of a mobile phone, you could eventually play PS4 anywhere in the world. You could take it round to your friend’s house and plunder the Caribbean silly in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, even though he doesn’t have a PS4. Can you think of a better viral marketing campaign for PS4 than allowing people to stream their games while they're visiting friends? If so, I image Sony will want to give you a job.
It’s another, more user-friendly, step ahead of Microsoft when it comes to sharing. While Xbox One has tied itself in knots with DRM and limited profile-sharing, Sony is now offering a device that lets you take your PS4 profile anywhere, and lets you share your Vita (and potentially PS3 and PS4) games with anyone. That’s a big, big deal.
PS Vita TV really opens up the possibility for what Sony can achieve through its network of multimedia devices and partners. It’s a device that not only boosts the appeal of PS Vita, and brings the portable closer together with PS4; it also makes your PlayStation games and subscriptions (like PS Plus--you could use Vita TV to play free PS+ Vita games, without owning a Vita) more valuable. PS Vita games become even more essential travel companions and, crucially, the Vita brand gets even more attractive to big developers again. Which means more delicious games.
It’s smart tech, and a real statement of intent from Sony that you will always be connected with your PlayStation experiences wherever, whenever. It’s a big step into the next-generation. However, it’s the price that really impresses. While Sony has been criticised in the past for making its tech too expensive, PS Vita TV weighs in at 9,480 Yen--just under £65 / $95. That’s circling the edge of ‘impulse buy’ territory--something Vita and PSP never really achieved. Looks like the days of giant enemy crabs and Riiiidge Racer are truly behind us. Thankfully…
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