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Will both Vitas survive 2014?

PS Vita Screenshot - 1152856

The TGS reveal of PlayStation Vita TV quickly directed cries of redundancy at the original Vita, in spite of its Japan-only release. The outcry was with good reason; a markedly cheaper system that can stream PS4 games in addition to a smorgasbord of media content and play Vita games is a sizeable contender to the traditional handheld. Adding fuel to the fire, Sony Japan exec Masayasu Ito confirmed (via Eurogamer) that, due to unprecedented enthusiasm from the Western audience, Sony is “thinking of launching [Vita TV] in the US and Europe.” Sony Computer Entertainment boss Andrew House echoed this notion, saying the early Western response had been “very, very positive,” which encouraged an international move.  

Bringing Vita TV out of their homeland could easily be a lucrative choice for Sony, so it’s no surprise to hear that the option is on the table. However, this could also divide the vote between the two Vitas and leave the handheld console trampled beneath the rapidly growing microconsole. This raises two questions: When, if ever, would Vita TV release outside Japan; and what, if anything, could keep both systems relevant?  

PS Vita TV Streaming

This is certainly a good start on that list.

Sony has yet to disclose any details regarding the potential stateside release of Vita TV. That being said, 2014 is a solid estimate. Near the end of September, Ito said Sony was aiming to “watch the environment and identify what other services are available in the US and Europe and whether we’ll have to add other services.” Looking at Sony’s current agenda, the 2014 addition of Gaikai tech to PlayStation Network stands out as a change that could spur just that sort of service. This is to say nothing of the fact that in order to get the most out of localization, the system needs to find a US and EU foothold before PlayStation 4 content really picks up speed. 2015 isn’t out of the question, but the sooner Sony can get a next-gen advantage—which a cheap, multipurpose companion system would provide—the better, and to some extent, more likely.

So what of the systems themselves? If the only distinction between the two were price, there wouldn’t be much of a contest. Of course, there’s the obvious benefit of mobility in the Vita’s ring. Card-sized or not, Vita TV is still a set-top console—a limitation offset by the fact that it puts Vita games in the living-room—while Vita is a full-fledged handheld. But there are several more prominent advantages at play.

With Vita TV now hanging temptingly in front of consumers, Sony’s handheld is banking on PS4 crossplay, touch controls, and its aforementioned portability—specifically, being able to bring the revamped PlayStation Plus benefits everywhere.  Cross-platform support will largely depend on next-gen adoption rates among developers, but touch-based games are uniquely valuable for Vita, since the DualShock 3 controller (you have to use one of those, by the way) will keep them off Vita TV. Every Tearaway and Murasaki Baby is another Vita-exclusive title that adds to the short list of reasons to own both systems.

Murasaki Baby

See this? We need more of this—"smile" and all.

Vita TV, on the other hand, is predicated on its affordability, streaming access—which pertains to both the viewing and room-to-room transfer of content—and presumably re-upped visuals by way of improved resolutions. A $99.99 RRP on a home console needs no help (outside the possibility of a discount on a DualShock 3 controller when bought together—but that falls to retailers), and gamers after media access and the comfort of, say, playing their living-room- or office-based PS4 in their bedroom, already know what they need to know. However, optimizing Vita games for play on large televisions could sell current Vita owners on picking up the little system, if only to couch out a month revisiting their Vita library in gloriously eye-candy fashion.

Gravity Rush

Don't even try to pretend that you don't want to see this on your TV.

In some ways, Sony has pit two of their own products against one another—profiting all the while. In spite of that, the unique features of the two Vitas are rife with ways to market both successfully. When you look at Sony UK boss Fergal Gara’s recent comments (via OfficialPlayStationMagazine), confirming Sony’s interest in long-suspected PS4/Vita bundles, it’s clear that the company hasn’t defaulted on Vita TV to win the day on its own. Regardless, speculation is speculation; until Sony details its post-holiday plans (aside from wallowing in the capital generated by Black Friday and Christmas), all we’ve got to go on is a series of optimistic maybes—and some damn indicative ones, at that. 

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Austin Wood
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