As a rule, I write about something only after giving alternate viewpoints some consideration. In the case of physical objects and devices, this includes hands on experience with the product. Consider this post about my thoughts on the likely future of PS Vita in that light.
First the good news.. The overall design, build quality, usability, screen resolution, CPU and GPU power is top-notch. You really cannot complain much about the hardware part apart from some wishful thinking about better CPUs (it is already a quad-core ARM9), the “quasi-HD 220 dpi display” (it is HD for all practical purposes) or the battery life (quite decent for something that does so much). I also have no issues with its cost or size, which are inline with its function and form. Furthermore comparing a dedicated gaming device which has real physical controls with the iPhone 4 or 4s is an exercise in stupidity.
My issues with this device are about its uncertain future as a mobile gaming platform- specifically its role in the device ecosystem. When the original PSP came out in 2005, smartphones were rather primitive and seldom used for serious or even casual gaming. YouTube and other “tubes” for media streaming were just being developed. FaceBook, Twitter and a lot of social media sites either did not exist at all or were just being developed. To put it another way- the PSP was the only game in town as far as high quality handheld gaming was concerned. Sure, you could your Nintendo handheld something, but it was pretty much restricted to sidescroller action games, go-kart simulators and puzzles.
Fast-forward to today and you will realize that much has changed. People use handhelds in a fundamentally different way than they did even 4 years ago and that in my opinion is the first problem for something like PS Vita. Handhelds (mostly smartphones) are now seen primarily as a portal into the virtual world. While there always will be serious gamers, the vast majority of users see games as one of the many uses of handhelds. It is no wonder that short episode length and casual games such as Angry Birds or similar physics based games sell so well. Then there is the issue of gameplay interruption for checking FaceBook updates, Twitter feeds, texts and forwarded viral YouTube videos- you get the picture.
While the PS Vita is an excellent piece of hardware, the software (games and applications) that I have seen to date are based on outdated ideas about how people play on portable gaming systems. Most of the publicized game titles are versions of PS2/PS3/PSP classics or heavily inspired by them. Now that decision by itself is not wrong, but how many people would want to play for a solid 30 minutes on a mobile gaming system? While Sony could bridge that gap by getting more independent developers to develop mobile-friendly games, their previous record in this area and attitudes towards small independent developers has been rather “asian”.
This “asian” attitude spills into their applications too. Everything from their Web browser, FaceBook client etc look, feel and behave somewhat differently from iOS and Android versions of the same. While the quality of their applications is quite good, it is unlikely that most of their users would be interested in learning another new way to do the fricking obvious. In my opinion, they should have just used virtualized android versions of popular applications or built them to look and behave exactly like them. But it seems they have allowed “asian” pride, obstinance and control freakery to overrule expedience.
Then there is the issue of half-hearted support for things like PDF files, Flash videos, Video Conferencing etc. Surely there are ways to make the most common and medium CPU intensity things like Flash Videos work smoothly on a quad-core ARM9 CPU+ GPU combination! And what is this fetish with proprietary storage formats? Just stick with a format that is common, inexpensive and functional.
In conclusion, the PS Vita is a very well-built and powerful handheld device which has been crippled by the “asian” corporate culture of Sony. They seem to forget that the world has changed since their glory days in the 80s and 90s. The PS Vita is a microcosm of Japanese society and its inability to accept or interact with a world which has grown past their “accepted” mental models.
What do you think? Comments?