Between Sony and Nintendo, the handheld market is like David vs. Goliath. Sony, the intrepid young competitor, and Nintendo, the giant monstrosity with which little can compete. It’s the sort of monopoly most companies dream of. But Sony has made ground against gaming’s behemoth. A growing association between consoles automatically pits Nintendo in a downward spiral, a position Sony readily finds itself in.
Platform merging is a growing trend; Microsoft and most of the major tech makers have made strides into it. Microsoft began this by integrating Xbox Live with the Windows Phone and Games for Windows Live, the latter of which has since been phased out. Sony started integrating PS3 and Vita even before its E3 conference; the “Cross-Buy” initiative gave access to the versions on both platforms.
But the Vita has disappointed. Largely nothing has worked, per Nintendo’s absolute dominance. So why not phase out the Vita completely?
Before the Tokyo Game Show, Sony unveiled “PS Vita TV“. The component barely larger than a deck of cards allows DualShock 3 access to Vita games on TV screens. Thus, removing the point of buying a Vita. The tiny device has a bunch of features: Vita memory card use, Hulu access, and to play classic games through the PS Store. It connects to PlayStation 4 as well.
Even when Sony showed off a redesigned Vita, it brings out a reason not to buy the handheld. If someone likes Vita games but has a console, what’s to stop them from buying the games exclusively? The company should be trying to elevate Vita, not alienate it. After all those cross-promotional features at E3, the Vita seemed like a viable machine. If you had a PS3, Sony had legitimized your purchase.
But this endorses the opposing idea. The Vita hasn’t dented Nintendo’s handheld sales. So by completely removing Vita from the equation, where does the platform stand in Sony’s long-term plan? Unless something is to come, this move makes little sense. There is no reason to purchase a Vita now unless you actually play the titles out in public.
It does, though, represent a greater shift in all of technology: the war for the living room. Game consoles have the digital side firmly planted, but as Google and Apple issue TV-capable devices aiming to destroy cable packages, it makes sense that gaming companies would want in on the action. The emphasis is on streaming and Internet browsing while being cheap and accessible.
The device launches in a limited run later this year to test the market, but only in Japan. If Sony intends to compete with Apple, this might be a mistake. Japanese consumers behave quite differently than their American counterparts; essentially, they could be more receptive to a native company’s tech. On the contrary, the American market has been the most competitive. It would be a better testing ground, even in a limited run.
This also paints an interesting scenario: So far, Microsoft has been seen as the gaming company most prone to the television market, after Halo The Television Series was announced. Could PS Vita TV change that attitude (and somewhat misguided hatred) towards Sony? The Japanese company has mostly been immune from criticism lately.
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