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PlayStation Vita Review

So, after the underwhelming PSP, Sony brings us the PSVita – the “Ultimate Handheld Entertainment”. Well, can’t fault them for being optimistic can we? There are a few issues I have with this machine, but the first surely has to be the failed potential of it. It’s attempting to compete with the massively popular and excellent iPhone, however, they have failed to include the main component – a phone. It has the touch screen, it has the Wi-Fi, some models even come with a nice pricey Vodafone 3G contract, however, you can’t do any phone stuff with it. Quite frankly, this is unforgivable. In an age when people want everything rolled into one; a good multi-functional and a multi-purpose device is what the consumer wants. Not another gadget to try to cram into your pocket. Look at the iPhone and other smartphones, what can you do with them? Emails, internet, a mind boggling amount of apps, portable music, video player, organiser, etc. etc. So let me put it this way, it’s a gorgeous summer day and you’ve got on a pair of shorts with limited pocket space, enough room for your wallet in one pocket and a smartphone or PSVita in the other, which do you chose?… And this is going to be Sony’s problem. People can live without Wipeout, Killzone and Uncharted as they travel about, but they can’t do without their main form of communication.

Sony’s whole problem is that they are targeting the hard-core gamer market, something I class myself to be part of. But I have no interest in a portable dedicated gaming device. I have my phone. If I have a spare few moments that require me being entertained while I’m out, I’ll play the addictively frustrating Angry Birds, or flick through twitter. I won’t want to play a console like game on the go. I want something easy, something to pick up and play for a few minutes. But, it’s the opposite at home, if I want to play an epic console game, I’ll play it on my PS3 or Xbox 360 on a nice over-sized HD TV. I won’t sit on my couch squinting at a handheld console.

I know I’ve started off on a very negative foot here, but I am flabbergasted that such a successful and innovate company like Sony have been so short-sighted with the design of a major piece of hardware. Not all of it is bad; the touch screen is second only to the iPhone and the LED/HD screen is wonderful and simple to use. The screen definitely surpasses any smartphone for quality, but is that enough? Despite its many faults, my main, unforgivable issue with the PSP was its button layout. The Vita is a definite improvement; it now has twin analog sticks, which make controlling certain game genres so much easier. But, all lessons have not been learnt. The placement of the buttons is still uncomfortable. After a single game of FIFA my thumbs ached horribly and I had no intention of continuing in such discomfort. Such a simple thing to get right is still horribly wrong and should’ve been addressed.

I’m running out of words now to describe my shock and surprise at some of the choices made for the Vita, but please bear with me as I attempt to search for some more….oooh “astounded”, that’s a good one…I was utterly astounded when I saw the price of the Vita, £209 for the cheapest model! Now, for those of you that remember my PSP review, I did a little list of things you can buy for that price, so here goes:

Things to buy instead of a PSVita

PlayStation 3 and games

iPod Touch

2 nights in London, including train tickets

Nintendo 3DS

Xbox 360 and games

Kindle

20900 penny sweets

A mountain bike

A couch from Argos. Probably.

A family day out to Alton Towers

162 McDonald’s double cheeseburgers

Ah, balls to it, a whole host of more interesting and useful things!

I know it sounds like I hate the PSVita and I’ll wallow in its failure. But I won’t. It’ll start off with a fanfare of sold outs across the length and breadth of the country. Gadget geeks and new console collectors will rush out in force and buy it. In the opening months, helped by its very strong launch day games, Sony will proclaim it to be a massive juggernaut of a hit. After that initial curiosity, interest will die down and sales will flat line. The Vita will fade into the same obscurity as the Game Gear and the Atari Lynx.

The Vita’s problem is that could have and should have been so much more. Sony will only have themselves to blame as they struggle to make progress against, not only Apple, but Nintendo. It’s no good as a MP3 player as its HDD is a paltry 512MB. I understand Sony want to minimise piracy, but good god man, put a bloody usable HDD size in. At 512MB it may as well not have one by today’s standards.

All of this says to me that Sony are trying to dictate to us what we want rather than what they should be doing… which is asking what we want. If you don’t listen to what your consumers are trying to tell you then I’m afraid you’re doomed to fail.

So, how best to wrap up this entire mess? Errrr…. If you want to play games it’s ok. Like every other console it will depend on the production of good games that will made for it. If you want to do anything else on it then there are far better products out there for your needs. Sony has definitely missed  the trick. I should be sat here praising a worthy adversary to the iPhone, rather than picking faults in a gadget that could have been so much more.

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