9 reasons the Vita TV is Sony’s best idea in years

September 9, 2013

vitatvIf you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I complain a lot about Sony. So in the rare occasion that they do stuff right, I feel I have to celebrate the event as much as I can. Today Sony unveiled the Vita TV (you can check the video below), a tiny TV Box that supports Vita/PSP games, a bunch of streaming services, and PS4 connectivity.

And I think it might be Sony’s best business ideas in years. Here’s 9 reasons why:

1. It makes total sense for Sony’s business

I’ve complained many times about how Sony failed at leveraging their ecosystem. They are one of the only companies in the world that own the content (Sony pictures for movies, Sony music for …music), the distribution system (the Playstation Store), and the hardware to distribute the content (PS3, PSP, PS Vita, PS4, tablets… hundreds of millions of users in the world). Given a similar situation, companies like Apple or Amazon would have already taken over the world. Yet Sony has consistently failed to gather momentum on that (who buys music or movies from the PSN? Don’t be afraid to raise your hand, we know you exist).

With the Vita TV, users might finally be welcoming a device where purchasing Sony content makes sense and is not too difficult. Sony are finally leveraging their content and distribution system with a device that is directly targeting “TV consumption”.

2. It helps the Vita when the Vita needs it

Let’s face it, the Vita hasn’t been selling so great, and I’m pretty sure game developers are seeing this too. Adding a new way of consuming Vita games for customers is exploring a new target and could help boosting the Vita game sales, bringing back developers interest. Hell, it could actually help the Playstation Mobile program as well, bringing new ideas to hobbyist developers, who knows!

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3. It bridges a gap in the Sony hardware

I love to watch Netflix on my ps3, but I would never think of having my PS3 on constantly: it is too noisy, generates too much heat, uses too much power. and my Vita is great, but it does not connect to my TV. The vita TV, if engineered properly, is a device that might stay on all the time and connected to my TV. It has a sleek design, seems tiny enough that you won’t have a problem putting it somewhere near your TV, even if the area’s crowed with 3 consoles and an old DVD player. And I won’t have to wait 2 minutes for my PS3 to boot before I can enjoy he content from Sony. This puts Sony one step closer to being the first thing you’ll think of using when it comes to purchasing digital content on your TV.

4. It will be available on time for the TV Box war

I’ve criticized Sony in the past for being late on understanding many signals in the industry, such as when they missed the “casual gaming” revolution that was brought by Apple’s Appstore.

This time, less than 2 years after the Vita launch, and when everybody’s still in the race to be the “one” TV box that everyone wants, releasing this product in 2013 is extremely relevant. Sure, the Apple TV and Roku are already here, and if you’ve been following me for a while you already know I’m in love with my Android miniTV, but none of these is the definite winner of the battle yet, so a new device this year is perfectly relevant, this is a war Sony could actually win.

5. It brings bad news to new competitors for the “cheap console of the year” battle

Despite what the naysayers tell you, the OUYA has captured lots of attention, and is gathering a growing audience. One of the major selling points of the OUYA is its low price, and with the Vita TV, Sony brings a huge library of games that everybody knows and likes, AAA titles, for the same price as the OUYA. When faced with the choice, at the same price tag, people will think about it twice before getting an “alternate” device.

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6. It’s a TV box that brings something more to the table

at $100, the Vita TV will be competing directly with other TV devices such as the Roku or the Apple TV. Although these boxes all have their pros and cons, Sony brings support for video games in addition to roughly the same services as the other boxes, so it might be an instant choice for many people. This is not “yet another box”, it is “yet another box + 1300 ‘icing on the cake’ games”

7. It adds one more nail in Microsoft’s coffin for the control of the living room

The price tag of the vita TV was carefully chosen at about $100 so that for the price of an XBox One, you can get a PS4 and the Vita TV. One can easily imagine a bundle where both would be included, directly competing with the Xbox one, at the same price but with arguably a better offer. The PS4 in itself is already offering pretty much everything that the XBox one has to offer, but if you need to be convinced with a “TV TV TV” offer, the vita TV might be exactly that, providing Sony gives it the right support in the long run.

8. It makes perfect sense if you’re already in the Sony ecosystem

Sony are used to coming up with new proprietary hardware every time they design a new product. If you owned a PSP, half a dozen 32GB memory sticks, and realized (like me) you’d have to buy a new format of memory cards for the Vita, you probably know what I’m talking about. Here, the vitatv will make sense if you already own a vita (same game cartridges), or a PSN account (you’ll be able to play your PSN games on it), or a PS3 (you’ll be able to use your Dualshock on it). Basically, if you already own any Sony product at this point, there’s good incentive for you to get the vita tv instead of any other tv box.

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9. It has lots of hidden potential

I’m also seeing a few things that I like in the promotional video that Sony released. The PS4 connectivity is of course a nice to have for people who have several TVs, but I am also seeing 2 players mode in the video (which was not guaranteed given that the Vita is, by definition, 1 player only), and this could make a huge difference for people considering this versus, for example, a OUYA.

Conclusion

The Vita TV bridges a gap in Sony’s content ecosystem, adds interesting connectivity with their existing hardware, and manages to bring trouble to most of their competitors thanks to a great price tag and set of functionality. It almost looks like the Vita TV is the final piece of some gigantic puzzle, as if Sony had been planning this for years (hu, could this be why the Vita doesn’t have TV output, when the PSP did?)…

This could be Sony’s greatest business decision in years to appeal to non gamers. But they also have many ways to turn this into a disaster: lack of support or updates (such as what happened to the PSP phone… the PS4 connectivity for example could be a fake promise), failure to implement things that will become the norm in a few months (the Chromecast DIAL protocol comes to mind), incompatibility with the most popular services (Netflix?), or simply forgetting to sell the device outside Japan for obscure reasons…

We’ll see, but I must admit I haven’t been that excited by Sony in years. The PS4, and now the Vita TV, are on my list for Santa this year.

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