The Playstation Vita is still relevant

by ps3iso on May 19, 2013

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the Vita is not performing well in the marketplace.  The prevailing public opinion seems to be that “there aren’t any games for it,” and that “it is too expensive.”  Are these claims true?  The purpose of this article is to examine the Vita, and to determine its strengths (and weaknesses) and how Sony could shore up sales of the Vita.

System specifications:

The Vita runs a quad core, ARM-Cortex A9 CPU (one of the four cores is set aside for system use, leaving three cores free).  This is a 32 bit processor designed for high end mobile devices (phones, tablets, etc), and is comparable to, but quite a bit more powerful than, the ARM11 CPU in the 3DS (if you follow these sorts of things, the original Tegra chipset uses an ARM11).  It is also less powerful than the ARM-Cortex A15 which is in the Tegra 4 (which was just announced in January of this year).  As far as CPU power goes, it can safely be stated that the Vita outpowers any device currently on the market (unless I’ve missed a Tegra 4 release), and there should be no bottlenecks in the area of the CPU.

GPU wise, the Vita uses a quad-core SGX543MP4+.  This is a modified version of the PowerVR GPU that powers that iPad 3, which runs at 7.2 GFLOPS—equal to the Tegra 3, and outpacing the Pica 200 that powers the 3DS (sadly, I could not obtain solid numbers for this as Nintendo does not release tech specs for their systems anymore).  There are mobile GPUs that outperform the Vita (like the Adreno 225 and the Tegra 4), but not many.  Some have compared the Vita to a “portable PS3,” but the performance of the Vita is nowhere close to the PS3: the GPU in the PS3 outputs 176 GFLOPS.

ps3

Sorry little Vita, I love ya, but you’re not in the same class as your big brother.

Other neat features of the Vita include a capacitive back panel and front touch screen, dual analog sticks (yay!), Sixaxis motion controls, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, wifi (b/g/n), front and rear cameras, a 960×544 OLED screen (which is beautiful), and 3G (on certain models).  The Vita also sports 512 MB of RAM and 128 MB of vRAM, which is more than adequate for such a small screen/ low resolution.

When taken as a whole, the Vita is an impressive piece of hardware, even a year after its release.  These technical specs are actually a drawback for the system in some regards, but this will be discussed later.

  OLED

The difference between OLED and LCD is huge.  Go to your local game retailer and pick up a Vita for a test run if you don’t believe me.

Games:

There are not many games out for the Vita.  There, I’ve said it.  It is demonstrably true; there is no point in arguing the matter.  The assertion that there are no “good” games on the Vita, however, is demonstrably false.  Some AAA releases are:

  • Persona 4 Golden
  • LittleBigPlanet Vita
  • Rayman Origins
  • Guacamelee
  • Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
  • Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath
  • Uncharted: Golden Abyss

Apologies if I did not list your favorite game here.  The point is, there are plenty of great games on the Vita, and more are coming.  Anyone who tells you that the Vita “has no good games” is either a fanboy, uninformed, or willfully ignorant.

LBP

Show this to anyone who says that the Vita has no good games. 

Problems:

The Vita is a great system, and it has some terrific games, but it isn’t perfect.  The biggest problem with the system is the cost.  The system alone is $250 ($300 for the 3G version).  In addition, the system is barely functional without a memory card.  Sony, in their wisdom, decided that memory cards would be proprietary and expensive—you’re looking at spending at least $30 for a small, 8 GB memory card.  Don’t forget that you’ll want a case to protect the screen, too—this is not a clamshell design!  Digital distribution is neat, but the discount for digital games is negligible at best.  The whole set up, from the initial purchase to the accessories to the games, feels like it is designed to bleed you dry, and that isn’t a good way to build a consumer base.

Stack Of Cash

Sony’s business strategy: You have money.  We want money.  Give us your money.

The lack of breadth in the game line-up is another major issue the Vita has.  If you don’t like one or two genres of games, that could knock a huge percentage of decent games off the list.  There are few multiplatform titles on the Vita, and this all relates to power: outside of Sony, few developers seem interested in making the leap from PS3 to Vita (the Vita just doesn’t have the horsepower), and few seem interested in making the leap from mobile or the 3DS to Vita (Vita owners reasonably expect those ports to look good—that’s more work).  It’s an interesting problem to have, really: the Vita isn’t powerful enough for most console ports, and is too powerful for handheld ports.

rayman

I like this.  More of this, please.

Finally, the anti-piracy measures taken are downright draconian.  This is somewhat understandable since the PSP was hacked wide open for nearly its entire shelf life, but it still sucks for the consumer.  I need to run a background application to connect my Vita to my PC?  I can’t just connect to my PS3 and transfer data without all kinds of stupid security layers opening up?  I need an overpriced, proprietary memory card ($100 for 32 GB!  I can get 32 GB of SD memory for $20!) just because I can’t be trusted to look at my files?

hamburglar

I’m not a criminal!  Stop treating me like one!

Solutions:

1)  The system needs a damn price drop.  I could get a 3DS XL for $200.  Yes, I know it isn’t comparable, but to the average consumer, it is.  You take it with you and play games on it.  Also, the price of the memory cards needs to drop to reasonable levels.  Get SanDisk to start making them, I don’t care.  These proprietary memory cards are unreasonably driving the cost of the system up, and I believe cost is the primary factor driving Vita sales down.

memory

The bane of my existence.

2)  Sony needs to fix the game problem with a two-pronged approach.  First, they need to start actively courting 3rd parties to make more games for the Vita (and kicking 1st and 2nd parties into gear—where the hell is God of War?  We don’t even have an announcement).  Second, they need to start advertising.  The Vita has a small but great line up of games.  Why, then, does the rumor persist that the Vita “has no good games?”  Because Sony hasn’t told anyone.

vita ad

I know if one thing tells me “we have good games,” its an ad with a girl with breasts on her back.  *sigh*

3)  CMA has got to go.  Also, there must be a better way to connect to my PS3.  For crying out loud, it’s one closed Sony system connecting to another!  What kind of hacking am I going to do with my Dual Shock 3?

Conclusion:

The Vita is a really nice piece of hardware with some great games.  It is powerful enough that I suspect future games will really shine—if there are future games.  Sony has some work to do if they want to make the Vita competitive with the 3DS.  As a Vita owner, I hope they act before it is too late.

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