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A few days ago, I was able to get a sneak peek of the (yet to be released in the U.S.) PlayStation Vita in Best Buy. After all I’ve read about the Vita online, I was not nearly as impressed with it as I thought I would be. I did not get a chance to try out the actual game play on the Vita myself, but the sales person that was showing it to me did do a little bit of a demo and showed me its features.
At first glance, the Vita looks much clunkier in person than in the pictures online. The PS Vita basically comes across as an iPhone (i.e. Sony’s attempt to compete with mobile gaming and smartphones), but with a lot more physical buttons on the sides and an extra touch screen on the back. I don’t quite understand the purpose of this second touch screen, as I haven’t seen it in use. However it is an interesting thought that “touch screen” devices could eventually become three-dimensional. So, although Sony’s “back side” touchscreen looks strange on the Vita, it could be a beginning step towards something else in the future, e.g. three-dimensional “touch” devices and gaming.
Maybe my sales person at Best Buy just lacked energy, but the sales pitch for the PS Vita lacks a lot of originality. The Vita itself does not come across as revolutionary (contradictory to Sony calling it “the best handheld gaming device ever created). The one “unique” thing about it is the touch screen on the back. Other than that, it sounds just like every other new mobile device appearing on the market – touchscreen, wi-fi, 3G capability, and a front and rear camera. And that’s pretty much it. This may be new for the gaming industry/market (though the Nintendo DSi already boasted a camera well before the Vita) but it certainly isn’t anything new in the world of mobile devices. The one thing the Vita seems to lack is the capability to use it as a phone.
I read some opinions online that the somewhat “enormous” size of the touch screen on the Vita is a good things. I disagree. According to reports online, an iPhone 4 can fit onto the front touch screen of the Vita. Not the entire console – just the screen. I own an iPhone 4, and I really cannot imagine anything bigger than it being considered portable and/or mobile. The point of mobile devices and/or gaming is to have a compact, streamlined experience that you can take with you anywhere, but it also should be easy to store when on-the-go. I already do so much on my iPhone, including playing games, why would I buy a Vita? A PlayStation Vita wouldn’t replace anything in my life, and it wouldn’t add to my life. It really comes across as useless.
The price of the PlayStation Vita varies, and from my conversation at Best Buy, it was concluded that shelling out about $400 or more would give you the full “Vita” experience. That estimate includes – Purchasing a single PS Vita with only wi-fi (3G capability significantly increases the price) buying some games, a case for your vita and other accessories, as well as the “required” memory card that does NOT come with most (pre-order) packages available. The Best Buy price for a Vita console alone with just Wi-Fi is $249.99. That includes nothing but the console. A PlayStation Vita First Edition Bundle from Best Buy comes out to a whopping $349.99. This comes with 1 game (Little Deviants), 1 4GB Memory Card, and 1 Case as well as the Vita. There’s also the $39.99 Starter Kit you can purchase, the $19.99 PS Vita in-ear headset, the $14.99 PS Vita USB Cable, and the $9.99 Protective Film cover you can purchase for your Vita. Now, of course the in-ear headset and the USB Cable aren’t really necessary for a buyer who may already own these things, but I haven’t even mentioned the actual $40-50 games for the Vita. When iPhone and smart phone games (that can be just as entertaining as the PS Vita) can range from being free to $5.99 (or in rare cases, higher) a $50 game seems like quite a lot to pay. Infinity Blade, a truly revolutionary game for the iPhone and iPad, costs me just $5.99 on the App Store and it’s extremely entertaining. I understand that these $40-50 games for the Vita are longer and possibly more developed than iPhone games (e.g. Uncharted: Golden Abyss) but I can buy an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 game for that price. From what I’ve seen of the Vita, I would only recommend this for die-hard Sony PlayStation fans.
As I mentioned before, the PS Vita looks very clunky in comparison to the sleek & sexy smartphones of today. Why even bother with getting a “hand-held” gaming device if you already own a smart phone that has games, apps, music, text messaging and a phone all in one! Also (if you’re a gamer) you may already own a video game console such as the 360 or PS3. The question I was really left asking myself after my preview of the Vita was, “Is this device really necessary?” and even more so “Is this worth the money?”.
In conclusion, my first impression of the PlayStation Vita = I think I’ll pass.
*Note: For anyone wondering how the PS Vita name is pronounced (my sales person at Best Buy did not know) according to the internet, it’s pronounced vee-tah.