Hot of the press from the Tokyo Games Show is Sony’s announcement of Vita TV. In case you haven’t seen it already this is the promo concept video.

This is an intriguing move. I’m not sure it is a positive move, but it certainly makes those muddy waters a little more cloudy!

I have a series of points that I think are worth making, but they come in no particular coherent order, with no real conclusion. I guess it’s just a set of reactions that might be worth considering.

Impact on the original Vita

When the Vita came out, boasting the power of a “proper” console in a handheld I was questioning whether people really wanted that experience on the move. If you’re a hardcore gamer you want to do that in a living room on a big screen. If you are on the move you want a casual pick up and play style game. Vita delivers this to some extent through the indie development. This move is almost like saying – yeah, ok, so if you want to play real Vita games then you should do it on a big screen after all! The advantage that the Vita did seem to have was the novel interfaces, the touchscreens, the accelerometer, and the potential for augmented reality games. Now though, those things have gone, and existing games are having to be patched to make them work for the Vita TV. This is sad news. Despite heavy criticism one of the great things that the Xbox One has done is to package a Kinect 2 with every Xbox. This means that developers can now develop Kinect features safe in the knowledge that everyone has one. They aren’t reducing the market, and they don’t have to cater for Xbox One owners who don’t have a Kinect. That means that Kinect features can be created as core gameplay.

Gamers hate TV – Everyone knows that!

Ok, so gamers don’t hate TV, but the reaction to Microsoft’s TV-centric event at E3 was not positive. Microsoft were criticised because their press release was heavily focused on TV and not a lot about games. Sure, Microsoft got the market wrong at that event – you know, the games convention! Now Sony are introducing a device to stream services like hulu and Netflix. The one thing that I think this does demonstrate is how seriously Microsoft and Sony are taking competition from Apple encroaching on the games market. In fact, Gabe Newel has openly commented that the competition from the upcoming steam box is coming from Apple, and not form Sony or Microsoft.

Vita TV means Sony kills Ouya

What?!?

I’ve also read a lot of articles claiming that Sony are targeting the Ouya market, and have just put the last nail in their coffin. That simply doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s almost like these reporters are saying “Hey it’s like a console, but it’s small and it’s cheap – like the Ouya. The must be the same!” Ouya is about an open source platform for independent development. I still think it does that very well – but according to reports it doesn’t sell games very well. I still like the idea of the Ouya as a creative outlet – but if it becomes about making a profit then by all accounts it’s a lame duck. The Vita seems to do a pretty good job of promoting indie development. That’s encouraging, and it’s the only context that claiming Vita TV is a competitor to the Ouya makes any sense to me.

A summary of sorts

  • I think the mobile market belongs to the phones now – although at GDC last year I was impressed with the form factor of NVidia’s Shield device.
  • I think the ability to play “fully fledged” Vita games on a TV is overrated – especially given that you probably have a PS4 sitting in the corner.
  • I think that the ability to stream PS4 to other rooms might be of use to some people.
  • I think the opportunity Vita TV provides for Indie development is interesting, but I think that losing other abilities such as touch and AR, or having to cater for both rather than making novel interfaces a core part of gameplay is a real pity.
  • I think that a PS4 with a Vita TV looks a little bit more like an Xbox One – and with a similar price.
  • I think that technologies are diverging and fast. Microsoft’s vision of one box, one media centre that does it all is a nice idea, but it doesn’t seem viable in the long  (or even the short) term.
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