Have you recently heard rumblings a new version of the PS Vita handheld could be in the works? While only a few diagrams have appeared, the validity of which are highly questionable, it got me thinking that maybe a third version of the Vita could be third time lucky for Sony. Here’s how they could turn things around.
Of course, the Vita’s ‘success’ so far is a divisive topic. Gamers expecting a handheld that pumped out AAA titles like Uncharted: Golden Abyss on a regular basis feel understandably short-changed as Sony and third-party developers never really supported the Vita with any true ambition.
On the other hand, the PS Vita has been a treasure trove for fans of niche Japanese titles, with interactive novels and JRPGs in particular blossoming. Indie studios have also done well with the Vita and many titles have benefitted from being included in the Instant Game Collection’s monthly updates with PlayStation +. In regards to that last point though, many of those titles have also been cross-buy and played on the PS3 or PS4 instead.
If the rumours of a third version of the PS Vita (or PS Vita 3000) turn out to be true though, it would appear that Sony aren’t content to see the handheld’s legacy to be one only fondly remember by niche connoisseurs.
The only noise Sony has made in recent years about the Vita has been about its Remote Play function where you can stream games from your PS4 to the handheld. It’s a neat feature, occasionally let down by lag. The lack of additional shoulder buttons on the Vita has meant the controls aren’t represented well at all in some games, with touches of the rear track pad replacing the missing buttons.
So when I saw these ‘leaked prototype’ images with all four shoulder buttons included, my interest was certainly peaked. This would fix one of the main reasons I never use the Vita for remote access. That and I don’t live with my parents, so I don’t have to worry about getting booted off the TV. Although I could really do with something better to do when my girlfriend is watching Downton Abbey or Gilmore Girls.
Naturally, I’d hope the Sony boffins would also tinker with the Vita’s innards to get Remote Play to be a smoother experience over both wifi, cabled or PS4 to Vita connections. I’ll leave the science bit to them, but if you’ve ever used the function, it’s clear there’s room for improvement.
Originally on the Vita, I bemoaned the lack of an HDMI-out option. But now I’m not so sure I’d want it. After all, most vita game’s aren’t exactly lookers (Uncharted aside, naturally). I’d give the option a go, but if keeping it out keeps the costs down, then maybe it’s best worth leaving out. Another option is a Chromecast-like dongle for your TV where you can ‘broadcast’ gameplay to your TV. But again, let Sony weigh that up with the required cost.
I keep mentioning costs, because a new version of the Vita needs to be super cheap to attract customers. If it’s more than £100, forget about it. Sony need to be cheaper than the New 3DS and ideally cheaper than the regular 3DS or 2DS too. You can argue that the 3DS is a different beast and not really in competition with the Vita, but perhaps that’s why Sony’s handheld has never competed. Targeting more non-gamers/casuals/parents with competitive pricing next to the 3DS, could do wonders.
How else could Sony keep those costs down? Maybe they’ll take another crack at releasing a handheld without an option to play physical game cartridges/disks. We laughed the PSP Go out of town for exactly that back in 2009, but it could be that the times have caught up with Sony’s earlier ambitions. In 2009, PSN was a pricing disaster for PSP games and rarely competed with physical prices. It’s far from perfect now, but the vast array of indie titles (not to mention the PS+ freebies) has seen many Vita lovers barely use their cartridge slot. The flipside of this being that a single market for games means a lack of incentive to keep prices low.
Sony may also find that they’ll confuse the market with a new Vita, especially with PlayStation TV now thrown into the mix. PSTV’s price was recently slashed to £45, making it much more appealing and the cheapest way to get into Vita gaming, albeit only on your TV.
But what else would we want to see on the new Vita? Original Vita buyers would love to see the original OLED screen make a comeback, as the newer LCD screen is a bit duller. I wouldn’t count on this as the LCD screen is much cheaper and did improve battery life with the Vita Slim model.
The Vita’s disastrously priced proprietary memory cards have always been a controversial point, so it would be nice to see Sony finally allow traditional SD cards, so we could afford acres of cheap storage and not have to play an annoying memory management game every time we buy a larger title.
As ever with evolving forms of tech, we’d want it to be lighter to hold and feature improved battery life too. Lots of colours available at launch would be another benefit. They may as well get in on the detachable faceplates fad too. So, um, yes copy Nintendo then.
So would a new Vita and a bump in sales convince developers to make big-budget titles again? To be honest, it would have to be a staggering sales comeback to push this movement, but even an increase of indie games or ports of even more PC titles would be good for the life of the machine. If the Remote Play functions also improved, we’d love to shout about them more, as they’re just too inconsistent right now to praise it as a serious selling point.
There’s never been a handheld as powerful as the Vita and we’re certainly prepared to give it another chance. If Sony are set to bow out of the handheld market after the Vita, we hope they’ll at least go out swinging in the final round.