Sep 11, 2013
At their Japanese conference, Sony unveiled new hardware, alongside the Japanese release date of February 22 for the PS4, almost three months after the West.
The news of an updated PS Vita, releasing on October 10 in Japan, seems to be tackling the lack of sales for the mobile console. The original PSP was very popular in Japan, and Sony hopes to gain sales in this market. There is no news on a release date elsewhere, yet the updates show Sony’s new strategy. The new console, named the PS Vita 2000, harkens back to the upgraded PSP, also tagged with the 2000 moniker, and significantly increased sales for the platform, with Sony hoping for a similar rejuvenation this generation.
The changes include the OLED being removed, and replaced with an LCD. Although this is essentially a downgrade, with a lower quality screen, it reduces the price tag. This means Sony are going after the more casual market, as the pricing and features of the Vita appeal to hard-core gamers. This lower price may attract the public away from tablets or the rival 3DS for their mobile gaming needs.
Otherwise, the facelift has meant the console is 20% thinner, and 15% lighter. It also comes in a wide range of colours, another way of attracting a casual market. This announcement comes to light after Nintendo introduced the 2DS, designed and marketed at younger fans under 7 with a lower price, conveniently released in conjunction with the new Pokémon games. This shows the current state of the mobile gaming platform, with poor sales in recent times meaning both companies have had to take measures to ensure their futures.
Otherwise, Sony also announced Vita TV, which attempts to replicate Apple TV with media streaming applications. Yet the killer feature is being able to play Vita games on your TV, and also the ability to stream PS4 games to any television. Essentially, this could bring Vita game sales to those without the mobile console itself. And with the ability to download a wide range of digital titles, it could compete with Valve’s upcoming ‘Steam Box’, or the Android-based Ouya. This hardware leaves technical power aside, focusing on affordability and casual access, with small downloadable titles similar to tablet or mobile gaming, which is a big threat to Sony and Nintendo. Vita TV could be more accessible and user-friendly than the Ouya, also boasting an extensive back catalogue of games available for download. With Sony’s branding, it seems the Ouya could struggle to compete.
Vita TV is another attempt at capturing the casual market, with a lower price tag equaling around $95; much cheaper than the full PS4 console. Despite this, Sony’s last attempt at a similar device, PlayTV, largely went under the radar, as it was a DVR add-on for the PS3. The difference being that Vita TV is a standalone unit, and Sony will be hoping for it not to meet the same fate. However, this device also allows streaming of PS4 content, essentially making your PS4 games portable, as you can take this device to a friends and stream your games there. This could be a bold new move into making the home console, a mobile console, in essence.
It seems that Sony is attempting to broaden their appeal in the gaming market. The PlayStation 4 captures the hard-core gamers at home, and the original PS Vita appealing to a similar crowd on the move. Now, their target is the casual market, with a cheaper edition of their Vita handheld, whereby the technical specifications suffer, in order for a lower price tag.Vita TV is could serve as a cheaper alternative to more powerful and expensive consoles, and with PSone classics, alongside Vita and PSP games, it has some great games to offer, from the comfort of your home.
This move is rather unexpected but it shows Sony is thinking forward. Sony have shown they do not wish to be left in the dust, and are beating their competitors to the punch, including Microsoft and Nintendo. This innovation in delivering a different gaming experience into the home, and could appeal to those who would not purchase a PlayStation 4, whilst strengthening the struggling Vita console and respective game market. But this does suggest that Vita TV could render Sony’s handheld Vita obsolete, as gamers choose the cheaper home option, rather than the mobile edition. It is impossible to see how this plays out, as maybe it is still not enough to deter casual gamers from playing Candy Crush Saga on the bus, or on the couch.
Perhaps this new breed of micro console could become a new trend in the gaming industry now giants such as Sony are picking up the concept, as I’m sure we shall see in the near future. At least this shows Sony’s willing to adapt to a fast-paced and ever-changing industry, and are willing to take bold risks.