Counter-Point: Vita should be the greatest PS3 accessory ever

By Andrew Yoon, Jun 21, 2012 2:00pm PDT

This editorial is a response to Steve's piece, Vita needs less imitation, more augmentation

In his editorial, Steve argued that Vita was following the footsteps of its predecessor, focusing too much on me-too ports of console games. "I don't really want a portable PS3," he said. "And looking at the stumbles of the PlayStation Portable, I'm not sure the market does either."

I disagree. I think what Vita needs to be is the best peripheral to the PS3 ever. Vita's current shortcomings are the result of Sony's inability to fully embrace that philosophy.

Portable games must be designed for portable systems, Steve argued. I totally agree with that. The success of iOS and Android games is evidence of that. But, should Sony be offering a similar experience with the Vita? I don't think so. The needs of the traditional "portable gamer" are already being sated by Nintendo or by cell phones. Sony shouldn't attempt to make yet another Game Boy--there are plenty of other devices that serve the same purpose. The Vita is an absurdly powerful device with buttons. It's a portable PS3, and it should act like one.

Sony is still diverting resources into creating original games on the Vita, and that's a prospect that simply doesn't appeal to me. Gravity Rush is a terrific game, one that takes advantage of many of Vita's unique features. But could it have been done on the PS3? Yes. Creating an original touch-based game for Vita squanders the hardware's power, and restricts the potential audience for a developer. Creating an original 3D game on Vita invites comparisons to the home consoles--and that's a losing battle.

Instead of trying to one-up what Nintendo and Apple are doing, Sony should look elsewhere for inspiration: the cloud. Cloud-based services have taken off over the past few years, and are likely to expand even further as the technology gets better. Even if you haven't used OnLive or Gaikai, the appeal is certainly there: being able to carry your digital library with you, regardless of where you are or what device you're using. I attribute Netflix's growth partly to its cloud functionality: I can start watching an episode of Breaking Bad at home. Then, I can continue watching from where I left off while I'm on the bus. I can finish the episode when I'm at home on a tablet. I'm far more willing to pony up for a subscription, knowing that my access isn't restricted to just one device.

The PlayStation ecosystem has been the most embracing of that philosophy among the big three. Certain games, like Minis and PSone classics, will be transferable across PS3, PSP, and Vita. And because these games are running natively on the platform (versus cloud-based services), there's no bandwidth or latency concerns involved.

Sony has shown some signs of embracing a platform-agnostic approach to its content. Games like PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale and Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time will launch on both Vita and PS3 simultaneously. But that's simply not enough. Without having a single purchase unlock both versions, Sony has given us little reason to value the Vita experience--and that's the problem. Why should I pay an extra $40-50 to have a lesser version of a console experience? No wonder the Vita library invites such disappointment.

But what if Sony treated the Vita version not as a separate SKU, but as an extension of the PS3 experience? The PlayStation Network could be like Netflix: I pay for one copy of Sly Cooper, and play it wherever and however I want. And, like I do with Netflix every month, I'm willing to pay a subscription fee to consume the content I want in the manner I choose. Maybe next time I'm on the bus, I'll want to play a few rounds of PlayStation All-Stars, instead of watching another episode of Breaking Bad--and that's something that no other handheld device can offer right now. By becoming a portable PS3, Sony can offer an experience that Nintendo, Microsoft, nor Apple can do--and that's what makes for a genuinely unique offering.

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