E3 2011: Thoughts on the PS Vita

The Reveal

At long last, we finally know the real name of Sony’s next generation portable: the PlayStation Vita. At the Sony conference, its price was set to $249 and $299 for the WiFi and 3G versions respectively, which puts it at a reasonable range for everyone to enjoy the new handheld console. However, the fact that the service exclusivity has been given to AT&T makes many people uneasy due to the company’s reputation of lackluster coverage with their 3G service.

A huge list of games was announced for the Vita at launch, which can be seen here, but other titles for Vita were shown at the press conference as well. The highlight was Uncharted: Golden Abyss, a completely new Uncharted game by Sony Computer Entertainment Bend Studio that is set before Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. In addition, a surprise announcement from Ken Levine of Irrational Games was of a Bioshock title coming to the Vita. Rounding out the list were a bunch of new titles such as Ruin, ModNation Racers, LittleBigPlanet, and Street Fighter X Tekken.

The Praise

From what was seen at both the press conferences and at numerous demos throughout the day, it seems that developers are jumping to join the PS Vita bandwagon, and why shouldn’t they? The features on the Vita are truly remarkable. Many games are taking advantage of the dual touchscreens as a way of providing more control for the player. In ModNation Racers, the front touchscreen is used to level terrain while the rear touchscreen is used to create mountains and hills. Sound Shapes (working title) used the touchscreens to manipulate the orientation of sound blocks. The technology coupled with the Sixaxis controls (hope they get better with the Vita) should prove to be a solid arsenal for developers to play with.

I am a big fan of graphics and the Vita does not disappoint. All the games featured at Sony’s press conference look amazing in the 5″ OLED screen. Hopefully this is going to be just the tip of the iceberg, and we will see better graphics as the years flow by.

That is a great game on a huge screen, don’t you think?

Interconnectivity between consoles is something new this year, at least for me. The fact that some games on the Vita can be played alongside their PS3 counterparts is absolutely brilliant. It attracts more players to a game, which in turn increases the competition online. In terms of LittleBigPlanet and ModNation Racers, sharing levels and tracks with an even bigger community is great.

The Criticism

Sony runs on exclusive titles, and compared to the overflowing amount of Kinect at the Microsoft press conference, the word “exclusive” does not sound irritating after being mentioned so many times. While some of the titles on the Vita share their name with their PS3 counterparts, the portable version is a completely new project. However, too much of one title, even if it is a new project or a sequel, can become tiring. It would be nice if we got to see more unique titles from developers that do not have another title on the PS3. Exclusivity for the Vita is vital to its success as a portable console. Imagine an unknown developer making their mark on the Vita instead of a game on the PS3 first. Would that not be a nice change?

Another thing that I’m not happy about is the Vita’s social network, Near. The service provides a way for nearby players to socialize and compare trophies. It seems that Vita is running on a different social feature than the PS3, and only time will tell how this social service fares in terms of usage.

Everything was going good for Vita…then this.

My final beef with the Vita is its service provider, AT&T. I own an iPhone, and I am somewhat displeased with AT&T’s service. Groans from the audience at the press conference support my discontent. There are other service providers out there who provide better 3G service and a lot of people knew it.

The Verdict

The PSP Go was not a good product for Sony. Its predecessor, the PSP, was a hit, attracting many consumers to a new PlayStation portable console. However, Nintendo still reigned supreme in the handheld arena. With the PS Vita, the handheld market might see a huge shift. The prices for it are sound for what it is offering. There are so many ways that its features can be used in games, and I cannot wait until I get my hands on it. There are many who did not see Sony’s future in portable gaming to be a success. Hopefully the Vita can prove them wrong.

Share Your Thoughts: What do you think of the PS Vita? Will you be one of the first to line up for its release, or is there something that you would like to see on the Vita that will convince you to buy it? Will it beat Nintendo’s 3DS?

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