The decision to go ahead and invest in Sony's new handheld was a tough one. Especially when you consider the Playstation Portable's lackluster impact on the world of video games and consider the future ramifications of device convergence (i.e. portable games on smart phones).
Historically, I have been all about the idea of convergence. I remember when I was in college and carting around a feature phone, a digital camera and an iPod and desperately wanting a better solution. It was good that cargo pants were fashionable back then, because they were an absolutely necessity. Dockers even had a special pair of trousers they marketed exclusively toward gadget hounds. With the advent of the modern smart phone, we consider it unthinkable to have to carry multiple devices any more. In fact, I sometimes wonder why no one has yet thought to use the camera and the touch screen on a smartphone to enable the device as a bluetooth wireless mouse for a desktop computer.
Anyway, being able to take pictures, listen to music, surf the web and occasionally make phone calls on my phone is great, but playing games is not. I tried. I made the leap several times and downloaded game after game. None of them were terrible, but none of them felt natural to me. Bear in mind, I'm not talking about games like Cut the Rope, or Angry Birds. I'm talking about 'game' games. Stuff like Firemint's phenomenal Real Racing series, or platformers like Pizza Boy. I wanted to play games that reminded me of the types of console games I already enjoy. And plenty of developers swooped in to fill the void left by the absence of big publishers/developers on mobile devices. Gameloft alone introduced (or reintroduced) the Asphalt series, the N.O.V.A. series and the Shadow Guardian series as a substitute for Burnout, Halo and Uncharted. I tried all of them. All of them were decent and none of them were as good, to me, as the real thing.
|Close, but no cigar.|
Enter the PS Vita. The Vita instantly alleviated a number of concerns I had never gotten over with the PSP. First, there are two genuine analog sticks to control games. There's a full compliment of buttons and a d-pad and the Vita also seems to be embracing the digital side of gaming with access to the same friends list, trophies and store I already have on my PS3. I can purchase games straight from the built-in store over wi-fi or 3G, and the Vita has a featureless but functional web browser, a movie store and the possibility of dedicated apps like Netflix, Twitter, Flickr and whatever else may come down to the pipeline in the future.
To top it all off the Vita has an even bigger even more gorgeous screen and this one is touch enabled. Throw in accelerometer/gyroscope Sixaxis technology and you have a rival for any touchscreen smart phone on the market.
One of the major criticisms of the Vita, however, goes back to that idea of convergence. Now that the consumer has gotten used to carrying one device that can do anything, and more importantly, paying for games that are rarely priced above $10 (the majority of which are .99¢), are consumers interested in going back to multiple devices and even if they are willing to carry a separate, much larger device, are they willing to pay $30, $40 and even $50 for games? Even if those games are massively better in terms of quality and depth?
Many analysts and pundits believe that the Vita was doomed even before it was released, contending that Sony's new handheld is simply on the wrong side of history.
I went ahead and took the plunge figuring even if the critics are right, there are bound to be a few great games for the system, just like the PSP. I'd even be able to go back and find those old PSP games that I missed and play them on the Vita. Not to mention the screen is larger and lovelier than my iPhone 3GS and will be well worth lugging along when it comes time to watch a movie on an airplane or something. I'd also been craving a secondary console that I can play when the TV in our living room is in use. Sometimes I feel guilty playing something like Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix (a remake of a game that was originally released on the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis) on my household's only television. When my wife wants to watch Downton Abbey, I'd love to be able to go sit in an easy chair and continue to play my games.
So the deck was already stacked in such a way that the Vita was going to fill a desire that I'd had for a while.
|Katamari, meet Super Mario.|
I eventually did buy the new Uncharted game and I'm loving that as well. It's well done and in my opinion, better than the first Uncharted game. Will the Vita pan out? Who can say for sure. At this point I feel like it is guaranteed to be more successful than the PSP was, but will it be a viable platform filled with a variety of games?
I stand by my choice of the Vita because I hope to be able to play games, big and small and all without running down the battery on my phone.