Now that the PlayStation TV has a release date, I think it is about time to share some thoughts about the possibilities this console may have on the PlayStation brand, particularly on how the console may affect the future of the PlayStation Vita.
I love the PlayStation Vita but I cannot deny that Sony’s portable handheld is faring poorly when compared to the Nintendo 3DS. The fact remains that the Nintendo 3DS has sold far more units than the PS Vita. We only need to look at the latest global hardware sales statistics (VGChartz). At the time of this article’s writing, the 3DS has sold 44,046,059 units compared to the PS Vita which has only sold 8,632,269 units.This is an astronomical difference and I don’t believe the PS Vita will ever overtake the 3DS’ sales numbers.
So where does the PlayStation TV factor in? Now the Vita TV isn’t doing well in Japan as with home consoles as the Japanese video game market is dominated by handheld consoles such as the PS Vita and 3DS. However, this situation of handheld console dominance is reversed in the west. Already, we know that there is a market for the PlayStation TV and Sony has confirmed this. I believe the PlayStation TV will not save the PS Vita. However it can save the Vita brand and extend the lifetime support of game development for the Vita.
Let’s take a look at the PlayStation TV’s features:
- Supports both the DualShock 3 and DualShock 4 controllers
- Remote play features
- Uses the same core hardware the PS Vita
- Can stream PS1/PS2/PS3 games through PlayStation Now
- Supports most Vita games
- Uses a Vita memory card slot
Now the PlayStation TV is being priced at US$99 for the standalone console or US$139 for a bundle that includes: a DualShock 3 controller, HDMI cable, 8GB memory card and a copy of Lego: The Movie Videogame (PS Vita). So what can we take away from these prices? The answer is simple, the PlayStation TV is being released for a good price, particularly the bundle option. Now you can argue that some people want larger memory cards and the prices of Vita memory cards are still extremely high. You would be correct in that regard and currently there is no getting around that but I’ll elaborate on this point a bit later. However, there is no doubt, that the PlayStation TV is a much cheaper alternative to play Vita games than purchasing a PS Vita.
Now I mentioned earlier that the PlayStation TV is compatible with most Vita games. While this may deter some gamers as a portion of the Vita library will be lost and inaccessible on the PlayStation TV, I don’t think the extent will be that bad. This is where I believe the PlayStation TV’s compatibility with the DualShock 4 controller comes into play. Let’s look at some of the features of the PS Vita besides the OLED Screen.
- The Vita has front and rear touchpads
- Front and back cameras
- It has motion controls
This is where I think making the DualShock 4 controller compatible with PlayStation TV was a stroke of genius, as the controller somewhat compensates for nearly all of these Vita features except for the cameras. The DualShock 4’s lightbar is the source of the controller’s motion functionality so Vita games that use motion control mechanics are covered and the Dualshock 4’s touchpad can possibly become a substitute for the Vita’s touchscreen. Now I’m not a developer so I don’t know how developing for a touchscreen is different from a touchpad but I think the DualShock 4 has functions that are potentially capable of acting as substitutes for a variety of PS Vita features. However, I do believe that the DualShock 4 will be incapable of replicating rear touchpad experiences so games such as Tearaway won’t be playable on PlayStation TV.
This is where things get a bit tricky. Developers are still making games for the Vita and some games will try and use every feature the PS Vita has but how many use all of them? I have games like Ys: Memories of Celceta, Persona 4 Golden, One Piece Unlimited World: Red and much more but I found very few Vita games will attempt to use all the Vita’s functions. I believe that the release of the PlayStation TV will encourage developers to build games whose controls can be mapped to the DualShock controllers, preferably the DualShock 4 as it has the most functionality. This could lead to a potential increase in the number of Vita games being made as developers may become less inclined to develop their games to take advantage of all the PS Vita’s functions. As such, developers might be able to reduce the costs and difficulty of making Vita games.
Next, let’s look at the development costs of Vita games. While I haven’t been able to find any information to the exact development costs of Vita titles, Sony Worldwide Studios President Shuhei Yoshida may have provided some answers in this regard. In an interview with GamesIndustry Biz back in 2011, he clearly states that developing a Vita game was more comparable to developing a PSP game rather than a PS3. In other words, development costs of a full fledge Vita games is lower than developing for the PS3 and certainly less than the PS4, with the exception of indie titles but that area is up to debate. We only have to look at the prices of brand new games to see that developing games on a handheld is much cheaper than for home consoles. Roughly a brand new handheld game retails for about AUD $60 with new home consoles games being within the AUD $80-$99 margin. With the arrival of the PS4, I do expect the prices of new PS3 games to start decreasing but regardless, Vita games cost less for consumers. The reason why games are sold at various price points is that they have to tailor to what the market is willing to pay and this is often determined by the type of console and the game’s production values. I doubt people would pay anywhere close to AUD $100 for a handheld title.
It is also known that PS Vita owners buy a lot of games and this is evident by responses from developers Drinkbox Studios and Ripstone who reinforce the notion that PS Vita owners have high game adoption rates. This means Vita owners buy a lot of games and this is an incentive to developers as it increases the likelihood of Vita owners and PlayStation TV owners purchasing their game. Never forget that PlayStation TV plays Vita games.
Therefore, developers will be making games that are cheaper to develop with higher chances of their games being purchased. For consumers this means they will have access to cheaper PlayStation games when compared to PS3 and PS4 titles. Plus the added bonuses of PS4 Remote Play and streaming with PlayStation Now is a good addition in providing consumers more value for the console.
This brings up the issue of those expensive Vita memory cards. Now, buying digital games is great and all but physical copies of Vita games take up very little space on the memory card. In the scenario of PlayStation TV being a successful console, I can easily see more publishers releasing physical copies of games which might resolve the need for consumers to purchase larger memory cards unless they plan to purchase all their games digitally.
Finally, there is one more issue to consider and that is exclusives. By being capable of playing Vita titles, PlayStation TV will already have access to a number of exclusives. The extent of which has yet to be confirmed but that isn’t the issue I want to discuss. Dedicated handheld games aren’t easy to port to other systems later on in the game’s lifecycle which is one of the reasons why the handheld market has a smaller market than home consoles and PC. So when developers make dedicated Vita titles, the likelihood of those games being truly exclusive to only the PS Vita and as a result the PlayStation TV is fairly high, even when they decide they want to release the game on other platforms later. Have a look at games such as Freedom Wars, Gravity Rush and Soul Sacrifice — I’m quite confident that neither the PS3 or PS4 will ever get these games. As we all know, exclusive titles are large factors that determine the success of a console.
Well that about covers everything I have to say. I believe that the PlayStation TV might be the saviour of the Vita brand and renew the industry’s confidence and support in developing Vita games. Thank you for your attention and let me know in the comments what you guys think.
Andrew Lee is an Associate Writer for MONG. Currently, he is in awe of the beautiful city of Cloudbank as he waits for the chance to jump into the world of a virtual Akihabara. You can follow him on Facebook.