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Why Vita TV is a Great Idea

Sony's completely unexpected jump into the microconsole market is a really, really smart move, for several reasons -- not least of which is the fact it'll potentially get more people playing games from the sprawling and underappreciated PSP and Vita libraries than ever before.

News by Pete Davison, .

It was nice knowing you, Ouya. So long, GameStick. See you later, whatever you're almost inevitably planning, Apple; so far as "microconsoles" go, Sony has just won my heart in one fell swoop.

In case you missed it, Sony announced a few new Vita-related things earlier today, one of which was the Vita TV. This 9,480 yen (just under $99) device is set to launch on November 14 in Japan (other regions are yet to be announced) and is, like the aforementioned Android microconsoles, a tiny little game-playing box that you connect up to your TV, then use with a wireless controller -- in this case, the PlayStation 3's familiar, comfortable DualShock 3. It features the same hardware guts as the Vita handheld (an ARM Cortex-A9 core processor and an IMG SGX543MP4+ GPU, for those who enjoy unmemorable strings of letters and numbers) which makes it -- currently at least -- one of the most powerful microconsoles on the market. It has 1GB of onboard storage and slots for both Vita game cards and memory cards, plus USB and Ethernet ports along with 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 wireless capabilities. It outputs video at 480p, 720p or 1080i, and can even stream PS4 games to a different TV via Remote Play.

Even with some of the Vita's strongest titles being absent, there will still be somewhere in the region of 1,300 games available to play. Not bad for a launch lineup.

At launch, the system will support all the downloadable PSP games available on PlayStation Network along with PSone classics and select Vita titles. Vita games which will not be supported at launch tend to be those that make use of features such as the Vita's touchscreen, back touchpanel, tilt controls or camera -- which makes sense, really, since neither the DualShock 3 or the Vita TV unit itself have anything that could serve as an equivalent to these things, with the possible exception of tilt controls. Unfortunately, this does mean that some of the Vita's strongest titles -- including Gravity Rush, Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Wipeout -- will not be available for play on the system at launch, which sounds like a bummer until you realize that even with these titles being absent there will still be somewhere in the region of 1,300 games available to play. Not bad for a launch lineup, huh -- and even more impressive when you consider that with the addition of PlayStation Mobile, the Vita TV is also, in effect, an Android microconsole as well as a TV-connected Vita. As I said... it was nice knowing you, Ouya.

Direct comparisons to Ouya and GameStick, both of which are ready to roll straight out of the box, perhaps aren't entirely fair, though -- aside from the $99 cost of admission to the world of Vita TV, you'll also need to pony up for a DualShock 3 controller and Vita memory card, neither of which are included in the package. However, there will apparently also be a bundle available for 14,994 yen (about $150) that includes both a controller and an 8GB memory card, which isn't a bad deal at all -- though most people will probably want to spring for a bigger storage solution, even at Sony's grossly inflated prices. $150 to get started is still pretty reasonable, though.

Response to the announcement of Vita TV has been somewhat mixed on social media this morning, with reactions ranging from simple "WTF" to people wishing Sony would have just included HDMI-out on the Vita in the first place. Me? I'm very excited about the prospect of Vita TV and will almost definitely be getting one, for several reasons.

Vita TV invalidates all the excuses given by people who, for whatever reason, dislike playing games on handhelds.

Expect both Brendan and me to explain exactly why you should play ZHP over and over and over again once Vita TV is out in the wild.

The first reason I'm excited about Vita TV is that it allows me to be somewhat more sociable when I'm gaming. I enjoy the "personal" nature of handheld gaming -- put a pair of headphones on and you can immerse yourself in your own private experience, which is brilliant for titles designed to take advantage of this like Corpse Party -- and the fact that it's portable, but I'm always conscious of the fact that handheld games are all but impossible for other people to watch.

Why should that matter, though? Surely the important thing is that it provides a good experience to the player. Well, sure, but I -- and doubtless a lot of other people -- have a consideration when playing, which is the presence of a partner who perhaps doesn't play that many games themselves, but who enjoys watching them, particularly stuff that is designed to be cinematic and exciting to observers as well as players.

My girlfriend very much falls into this category (Animal Crossing addiction notwithstanding), and -- thankfully -- particularly enjoys watching me play JRPGs and other story-heavy games. I'm very grateful for this, because even outside of my professional life penning pieces like this for you, dear reader, gaming is an important part of my leisure time, and I like being able to involve her in it. This is a situation that handheld gaming isn't all that compatible with, and as such my handheld time tends to be confined to when we're both sitting in bed, me with Vita in hand, her tapping away at Plants vs. Zombies on the iPad for the umpteenth time. With Vita TV, I'll be able to catch up on all those incredible JRPGs that the PSP in particular plays host to, and share the experience on my TV.

The second reason I'm excited about Vita TV is that it invalidates all the excuses given by people who, for whatever reason, dislike playing games on handhelds. Finally, I'll be able to share the joy of some of my favorite games like Corpse Party and Trails in the Sky with my friend who enjoys story-heavy Japanese games but suffers eye strain when looking at a small screen; finally, my JRPG-loving friend who has a curious and unexplained aversion to all things handheld will have a wealth of "new" (to him, anyway) games to play. I'm looking forward to Vita TV as much for the fact that it will open up the PSP and Vita's incredible library of games to people who otherwise wouldn't have touched them as anything else. I can't wait to start talking about these games with my friends who are yet to encounter these joyful experiences.

I'm genuinely excited about Vita TV -- more than I am about Xbox One and PS4, if I'm being perfectly frank.

Trails in the Sky is one of the best JRPGs in recent years; with Vita TV you'll be able to play it on your television.

There are a host of other benefits to Vita TV, too. It'll be good for livestreamers and Let's Players, for example, who will finally have a reliable, affordable and good quality means of getting footage from handheld games. If the concept video above is to be believed, it looks like there'll be some means of playing multiplayer games with a single system. The Vita TV will be compatible with popular video streaming services, making it an affordable Netflix box. And the Remote Play functionality will allow people to enjoy playing on the PS4 from another room if the television it's connected to is tied up with something else.

There's a lot about Vita TV we don't know yet, and it remains to be seen if the console remains free of issues such as the controller lag that has plagued Ouya since launch, but my first impression of the new gadget is overwhelmingly positive. I'm genuinely excited about this -- more than I am about the Xbox One and PS4, if I'm being perfectly frank -- and I can't wait to see what effect it has on the PSP and Vita markets in the future.

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Comments 25

  • Avatar for aaronpinsley40 #1 aaronpinsley40 3 years ago
    Maybe it was a bad translation or just wishful thinking, but people on twitter were saying that the DS4 (touch pad and all) would work with the VTV. That seems like it would alleviate some of the controls problems.

    (although, in all honesty, if I can play Persona 4 Golden on my TV everything is right in the world)
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  • Avatar for thesnowman #2 thesnowman 3 years ago
    My wife hates watching me play games, and aside from a few choice games like zookeeper and diner dash doesnt play games.

    However I am somewhat interested in the vita tv. I do have a vita, although it doesn't get played that often, still got Assassins creed 3 to play on it.

    My wife has always wanted to get an apple tv like device, but with a wii, 360, ps3, vita, 3ds, iphones and ipads in the house I didnt quite see the need. This device might tempt me to buy one, but not till next year as I have a xbone and a ps4 to get first.
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  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #3 Captain-Gonru 3 years ago
    If this is something Sony really wants to commit to, I wonder how many Vita games going forward will have those incompatible features. If so, could we see a "simplified" Vita (lacking a back touch pad, camera, etc.), coming in at a lower price point?
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  • Avatar for pjedavison #4 pjedavison 3 years ago
    @aaronpinsley40 I believe the plan is for DualShock 4 support to be patched in later. That would certainly alleviate some issues. There's also nothing stopping devs from updating their Vita titles to have a "touch/tilt-free" mode designed for Vita TV.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #5 jeremy.parish 3 years ago
    Meanwhile, I would rather have my console games on portables, so I am not this device's target audience. Alas! It does seem to steal a lot of competitors' thunder, so good on Sony.
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  • Avatar for limbeckd #6 limbeckd 3 years ago
    Yay, I am the target demographic for this! I enjoy gaming on the couch, with my wife sitting next to me doing stuff on her iPad. I like gaming on a TV with surround sound, and I find regular controllers much more comfortable than handhelds. These days I pretty much bust out my DS once a year when I go visit my parents, and that's it. I really look forward to being able to try out some PSP/Vita games. At $100 it'll be a no-brainer.
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  • Avatar for touchofkiel #7 touchofkiel 3 years ago
    @jeremy.parish My thoughts exactly. This is a neat thing, but sorta the opposite of what I would want. I barely play consoles anymore, so I would love to see more of console-like games on the Vita. AND the type of games you can only get on handhelds - yes, I want my cake, and I want to eat it.

    The Vita has the potential to be that machine, but support is really lacking. Still, so many PS1 and PSP RPGs I haven't played yet... I have plenty to play on Vita, even if they're not actual Vita games.

    Really, all I want is FFXII HD for Vita. I sincerely mean it when I say I'd trade the entire Vita library for that.
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  • Avatar for Kirinn #8 Kirinn 3 years ago
    I look forward to the inevitable list articles of VTV-compatible gems that fans of various genres who get this after never owning a Sony handheld should be checking out. No, really - I'm not sure if I'm sold yet, and that sort of thing would actually be helpful.
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  • Avatar for nakedbob #9 nakedbob 3 years ago
    If this is essentially a PSVita minus the screen & interfaces, who's to say that I can't take this to work or a friend's house and play my PS4 games there(via Remote Play)? If that works anywhere near as well as I hope, then sign me up for a couple of these bad boys!Edited September 2013 by nakedbob
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  • Avatar for Stealth20k #10 Stealth20k 3 years ago
    I honestly think its a terrible idea that has doomed the platform.

    Not to mention you can get a psp with component cables and do what this theoretically does, only better.

    Also it devalues the original vita. No consumer will spend more when this is 100 dollars. Also devs will have to weigh touch screen functionality with the other features.


    "With Vita TV, I'll be able to catch up on all those incredible JRPGs that the PSP in particular plays host to, and share the experience on my TV."

    PSP with component cables my friend.Edited 3 times. Last edited September 2013 by Stealth20k
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  • Avatar for docexe #11 docexe 3 years ago
    This is not exactly that different from the Super Gameboy and the Gameboy Player. I downloaded a few PSP and Vita games from PS+, with the intention of playing them on the future once I had finally saved enough to buy the actual handheld. So, if this device is cheaper to acquire in my country than the actual Vita, and I can play downloaded PSP and Vita games from PS+ on it, then it would be perfect for me.

    But I’m not sure if it will hamper the rise of the microconsole and whatever thing Apple and/or Google may be cooking (if they are actually cooking anything). The Vita is benefitting from Sony’s push to get indies on the console, but the handheld console is still in a very difficult position.
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  • Avatar for transmet2033 #12 transmet2033 3 years ago
    Since my PS3 died and have not replaced it, this seems like the most logical way to play my collection of PSone Classics.
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  • Avatar for helpfulmole #13 helpfulmole 3 years ago
    Cool. Maybe it is just me but could this cause customer confusion like the Genesis or Turbografix did to so many parents 20 years ago?
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  • Avatar for rishardchapoteau67 #14 rishardchapoteau67 3 years ago
    I will probably buy one of these just so I can play my PS4 games on a different without moving my PS4 around which is what I currently do with my PS3 . . .
    That being said I'm not happy about this device for several reasons.
    1) Most of the cool features (the ability to play psp and vita games) should have just been included in the PS4. Thinking about it now, I wouldn't be surprised if the PS4 Slim will have this functionality built in.
    2) I wish it had some type of HDMI passthrough, or a way to attatch it directly to my PS4 so I don't have to use another HDMI port.
    3) I want to be able to use a USB drive to store VITA games on, instead of expensive proprietary Sony memory cards
    4) I wish I could use my VITA to remote play with this to to tv instead of having this be my VITA. This way it would support all of the games and all of the features without an issue.

    Despite those 4 issues, like I said I'll probably buy one or more just for the PS4 remote play functionality, and the fact that its cheap.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #15 link6616 3 years ago
    @Stealth20k I wouldn't say all that. Firstly component cables are annoying because they don't full screen (I know it's silly but I found it a real pain) also, yes it kills the vita handheld for anyone who doesn't value being able to carry it around. If I told you you could a ps4 for 400, or a ps4 portable for 500 you wouldn't outright ignore the other.

    The DS xl series, more expensive, all you get is larger screens. Still sells well. The vita as a handheld suits a need that the psvtv doesn't cover.
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  • Avatar for Dogislander #16 Dogislander 3 years ago
    @pjedavison You read my mind. Being able to play that backlog on a big screen, with stereo...I'm bummed that I won't be able to play through Gravity Rush, but Corpse Party...how great will that be. And to play Trails in the Sky 2, both on the go and at home. What a blessing. Thank you, Sony.
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  • Avatar for Stealth20k #17 Stealth20k 3 years ago
    @rowanidriscarmichael Your splitting the fanbase even further
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  • Avatar for WillowWolf #18 WillowWolf 3 years ago
    This does sound like a good idea... I'm not sure if I'm sold on it, however. The Oya (or however that's spelled), is nice because it can be a good emulating console- but it doesn't have all of the games other consoles and handhelds have. The Vita TV will have the PSN PSP and PSX (and PSV?)items people may want, but I couldn't emulate on it like I could with an Oyia ... Ouya... I think it's the last one. Then there's the added cost of the overpriced Vita memory cards and not getting a controller in the package with the console. Don't get me wrong, I love my Vita, but the price of their memory is OUTRAGEOUS, even after the price drop. I'm iffy on whether or not this will do well. considering I could do the same as this thing could do on my Vita system, I'll just stick with the handheld.
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  • Avatar for Bla1ne #19 Bla1ne 3 years ago
    I never would've seen this thing coming, but it was a stroke of genius from Sony! Aside from the input disparities between the Vita TV and the Vita proper, which could potentially end up hurting either or both consoles where games libraries are concerned (due to compatibility and splitting the consumer base), it's great that it can increase the number of Vita units out there. But mostly I'm dumbfounded by all the great games this thing will be able to play, at launch, and shortly after. PS1 and PS2 classics, PSP games, and (select) Vita games. Not to mention the Vita is getting a lot of indie support, and has a lot of great PS3/ Vita and PS4/ Vita games--like Dragon's Crown!

    I already have a PS3, will have a PS4 come November, will get a Vita as soon as the slim one comes to America, so I'll have all the bases covered, but I still want a Vita TV! I just fell in love with the idea of this thing the moment I learned about it.Edited September 2013 by Bla1ne
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  • Avatar for Shad0w59 #20 Shad0w59 3 years ago
    @Stealth20k Do you not have anything better to do? You were trolling the Edge Online opinion piece of the Vita TV, you're here spouting venom and I believe you've been banned from Destructoid for behaviour like this. It really is quite sad.
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  • Avatar for Stealth20k #21 Stealth20k 3 years ago
    @Shad0w59 Not banned anywhere ( your not banned for different opinions. I love dtoid and post daily) . Not liking the idea is not trolling.

    Have a wonderful day.Edited September 2013 by Stealth20k
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  • Avatar for Stealth20k #22 Stealth20k 3 years ago
    @WillowWolf Very good points.
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  • Avatar for Shad0w59 #23 Shad0w59 3 years ago
    @Stealth20k I stand corrected, I apologise for any offense caused.
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  • Avatar for Stealth20k #24 Stealth20k 3 years ago
    @Shad0w59 Apology accepted
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  • Avatar for Brevan #25 Brevan 3 years ago
    I feel kinda deceived. I bought the vita for full price, and now for less than half that money i could play those still very few great games on the big screen? Maybe I can still get enough money for the vitatv if i sell the handheld on ebay, dig out my psp and use that for public transportation purposes.
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