Vita or Vito?

Ah, another year, another Sony toy to talk about. This time it’s the PS Vita, successor to the PSP and the PSP Go. Both of which are great handsets, though the PSP courted some controversy on its release. More on that later, though the Vita is no stranger to controversy either, with some interesting choices in terms of hardware and some more…caustic words for accessory options.=

The Screen

Sporting a 5″ OLED screen, Sony claim this offers a superior picture yada yada yada. Personally, I see this fancy screen as a wasted opportunity to really make a big gaming statement: the Sony Xperia S (XS) launches in March 2012 and comes with a 4.6 inch HD screen. Yep, a 720p picture, on a mobile phone. A quick download of MoboViewer and a run of a Blu-Ray through ClownBD and we can be watching our favourite movies in HD on the go.

Vita or XS? Tough choice? Not really!

The Data

The PlayStation Network is free to access from the PS3 and the PSP using broadband connections. It’s also free from the Vita using WiFi. The data package for the 3G version, however, is hideously expensive at £40 a MONTH for just 2GB of data. Considering the Vita offers cross platform multiplayer gaming, I would assume most users will chew through this in a few days. But not to worry, as you can pay as you go for any excess data providing, that is, you’re happy to hand over life-savings, a spare limb or even your first-born to cover this charge.

The whole thing is monopolised by Vodaphone to boot, so you HAVE to pay their charges to go 3G. Boo!

Add-ons and games:

In order to set yourself up to be able to use the device for more than just playing games, i.e. to take videos and music with you, you will need a memory card. On the PSP you could use Memory Sticks and M2 Micros, which I have in abundance as they came bundled with pre-Android Sony Ericsson phones of old.

Effortlessly stepping on the toes of those who’ve bought bigger M2 cards for their PSP/PSP Go, much like they did with the No-UMD scandal surrounding the PSP Go, Sony have developed a proprietary memory card for the Vita, meaning you can’t use any MicroSD or M2 cards you happen to have lying around. To make matters worse, Sony themselves have an exclusivity on these cards until the summer, so 3rd parties like SanDisc can’t yet manufacture their own cheaper versions. Boo hiss boo!

Fair enough developing these cards for the games themselves, so your progress saves to the game, rather than the unit, but applying this to the storage options on board is a bit mean. For someone to set themselves up with a WiFi-only Vita, a decent game (Uncharted: Golden Abyss FTW!) and a reasonable sized memory card for extra media and downloading a game or two – 8GB is a good size – you’re looking at an outlay of £275 at suggested retail price. £300+ if you buy the 32GB card.

Considering you can buy a PS3 with at least 160GB of storage, if not 250GB, and probably get a couple premium games thrown into the bundle as well for around the £250-£275 mark, the price banding for the Vita is as laughable as it was for the PSP Go.

Attempts to innovate with Vita may well have alienated a large portion of their fanbase, simply because it’s completely unfair, unreasonable and unrealistic to expect people to fork out again – and for such core components as memory – to stay up to date. The PSP Go managed 16GB of onboard storage – was it really too much, with all its OLED bells and dual-analogue whistles, to expect something similar on the Vita? I don’t think so, and when Sony are charging £40 RRP for a comparable level of expandable memory (16GB) on their hallowed proprietary memory cards, something is rotten in the state of make.believe.

Initial launch figures for the Vita were good in Japan but here in the UK things are starting to wane already, just two weeks after launch. Struggling media chain HMV is offering a free premium game with every purchase of a Vita. Beleagured gaming chain GAME spent most of the post-Christmas, pre-Vita launch mercilessly stalking their customers in-store and online with a £25 pre-order deal, before reducing the fee down to £10 due to lack of interest…and they’re now selling off their remaining stock.

The Final Problem

Sadly I feel the Vita is going to be something of a damp squib. Launching 2 months AFTER Christmas, you know, the peak trading season of the year, it’s already out-specced by its parent companies’ first foray into mobile phones. Not to mention over-priced games, over-priced data and monopolised accessories for at least the next six months, I feel the Vita will go the same way as the Move – a good idea, but only the most devout of Sony followers will pick it up.

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