The Sony PSP has had a rough lifetime hampered by piracy, a lack of good titles, and lethal resistance from the wildly popular Nintendo DS. That said, the console certainly had a lot going for it, including more horsepower, better graphics, and far more multimedia features than its rival.
Once again, Nintendo have beaten Sony to the punch with the release of the 3DS, however, thus far they are struggling to repeat their previous success. Can Sony finally claim the handheld crown with the upcoming PlayStation Vita? I personally believe that it's possible, and here's why.
Firstly, the PS Vita will yet again be the most powerful and graphically impressive of the two consoles. Astoundingly, the brains of the operation will be a quad core processor. Yes, you read that right: quad core.
The Nintendo 3DS essentially has to render its images twice in order to create the autostereoscopic 3D effect, limiting its graphical output as a result. The PS Vita will not only have a more powerful GPU to begin with, it also won’t be constrained by this burden. Consequently, the visuals are shaping up to be almost on a par with the PS3, a remarkable achievement for a handheld console.
Even better, these show-stopping visuals will be displayed on a high-quality 5 inch OLED touchscreen. Expect to be treated to beautifully crisp, colourful images that are guaranteed to give others more than a slight twinge of jealousy. The capacitive touchscreen will provide an experience similar to that seen on mobile phone gaming, but the presence of tangible, physical buttons also will give the best of both worlds.
Another first for handheld games consoles, and something that is long overdue in my opinion, is the inclusion of two analog sticks (cue a chorus of ‘Hallelujah!’ from the heavens). This home console-like functionality will ensure that portable first person shooters on the PS Vita will be far superior to anything else released, to date. Fact.
Another control feature that has the potential to be revolutionary is the unique touch-sensitive back panel. Touchscreens can be a fantastic tool when implemented correctly, but it imaginably could be a bit cumbersome in some situations, with all of those buttons to think about at the same time – not to mention the issue of your fat, greasy thumbs obscuring the view. Sony have obviously thought of everything, implementing a solution which makes use of the oft-neglected backside of the console.
Add to this the inbuilt motion sensor, which won’t completely ruin the graphics when used (unlike the 3DS which immediately loses its 3D sweet spot), and the Vita will come equipped with a dizzying amount of input options. Hard to believe that two decades ago we had to make do with ‘A,’ ‘B,’ and a Dpad, on the Gameboy Classic.
Let’s forget about the hardware for a minute, though, and take a look at the operating system of the console. The PS Vita will run on Android, and who doesn't love Android? (Quieten down, diehard Apple fans). Expect a deluge of apps available within weeks of launch, from mini games to full-fledged titles, to egg-timers. Nintendo have stated that they have little interest in ‘cheap and cheerful apps’, in a typical ignorance of their current popularity. Sony, on the other hand, are unlikely to be so closed-minded.
The Vita will be available in a 3G-compatible model, enabling connectivity on the go. Even GPS will be built in, perfect for if you’ve been gaming on the go for so long, you’ve forgotten your way home. I can also imagine that there may be some interesting uses for this function, in certain games and applications: competing for the highest score in your city, and searching for nearby players, for example.
Not only will the Vita have similar performance and functions to a home console, it will also integrate with its big brother, the PS3, in a variety of ways. Your existing PSN account will carry over, offering a streamlined experience. The console has Trophy support, so those with more dedication/time on their hands than me can add to their prestigious Platinum collection, whilst out and about.
In an interesting twist, the Vita can function as a PS3 controller, and there will even be games compatible between the two systems, allowing you to switch consoles at will and continue your progress. This will be achieved through Cloud saves, an online feature that will keep your save files safe, whilst simultaneously granting more freedom. This has already proven itself very handy on Steam, where I can effortlessly switch between my gaming computer and laptop, yet maintain my progress.
Of course, the quality of the games themselves is crucial to a console’s success, and this is arguably why the Nintendo 3DS has fallen flat so far. There just weren’t enough first party killer apps available to support the console at release, and game hardware doesn’t sell based on its own merits alone.
It’s still months before the release of Sony’s machine, but we already know a huge list of top-quality franchises that will be making an appearance: Littlebigplanet, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Wipeout 2048 and Silent Hill: Book of Memories are just a small selection of titles to look forward to, and entries in the Call of Duty, Bioshock, Assassin’s Creed and Killzone series have also been announced in development. Fingers crossed there will be enough of these system-sellers ready at launch.
Last but not least, the PS Vita will most definitely be an attractive-looking console. Looks certainly aren't everything, but with its glossy black finish, aesthetically-pleasing curves and vibrant OLED screen, you won’t be shy clasping it between your sweaty palms in public.
The asking price of the PS Vita has been confirmed at $249/€249/£229 RRP for the Wi-Fi only version, and $299/€299/£279 for the 3G-enabled version. This places it at an even level with the initial RRP of the Nintendo 3DS, the price at which could have contributed to its mediocre adoption rate. When the two consoles are directly compared, however, it's undeniable that the Vita offers far more technological prowess for the money.
So there you have it; the PlayStation Vita is all set to revolutionise, and possibly dominate, the handheld games console market this generation. The shortcomings of the Nintendo 3DS have left it vulnerable, and Nintendo's previously unassailable position could be overthrown. With unmatched power and a plethora of advanced features, the PlayStation Vita is the one to watch early next year.