Stateside

Stateside: PS Vita TV is the microconsole developers have been waiting for...

...so long as it gets a western release

Stateside: PS Vita TV is the microconsole developers have been waiting for...
Chicago-based Carter Dotson is a senior writer at 148Apps.com, which was acquired by PocketGamer.biz publisher Steel Media in 2012.

This past Monday morning, when most of America was asleep and Britons were just having their morning tea, Sony lifted the lid a potential game changer in the microconsole race.

It announced PS Vita TV - an $99 microconsole that plays Vita, PSP and original PlayStation games on TV.

Developers ought to be very excited about the opportunities this will bring versus what Ouya and the current crop of Android unconsoles are doing. And they ought to be more enticed by this than they would the Apple TV, if and when it becomes a gaming device.

Part of the reason that PS Vita TV is such an opportunity for developers is that it's not an entirely new platform: it's simply a new form factor for an already-existing one, the handheld PS Vita.

This means that, minus the few games that would have issues without the touchscreen and/or rear touch pad, there's going to be a solid library of titles available right at launch for those who pick up the system.

Yet, the Vita library is not at a point where developers are necessarily entering into a crowded market, either. It's a prime market for developers to get in on.

Indie assault

And it helps that Sony wants independent developers to make Vita games.

Sony is open to self-publishing and getting dev kits to the developers that want to make Vita games, and those who follow SCEE's senior business development manager Shahid Kamal Ahmad know that Sony is actively pursuing developers with interesting content to get in bed with Sony.

He's Sony's best asset: he's someone who legitimately cares about getting great content for the system and about doing right for developers. Oh, and Vita is widely-reported by developers as being easy to develop for, too.



Even for those who can't get Vita dev kits, PlayStation Mobile still exists as a method to get in to the ecosystem: a free, open-access marketplace that supports Unity.

PSM is far from perfect, of course - Sony could make discovering titles on there far easier by letting users actually search for them. Nevertheless, it's there.

The long and short of it is, anyone who wants to be on Vita can be. And with PS Vita TV, it's going to be possible for developers to get on TV as well - possibly even without having to do anything at all.

Apple of our eye

On paper, PS Vita TV is a much better option than any other microconsole. Even the Vita's current straggling sales and retail presence already outclasses Ouya's install base and retail availability.

Think Sony and PS Vita TV couldn't out-do them or any other Android-powered unconsole? Even just little things like the availability of PSN cards is a huge advantage for Sony and Vita TV.

It's greatest potential rival - an Apple microconsole - comes with plenty of uncertainties. Namely, could developers hope to make as much money per sale as they could on PS Vita TV, an actual gaming system?

Given the App Store's current base of cheap and free content, the possibility for the kind of premium content that would thrive on microconsoles just might not exist on an Apple device thanks to the chaos of the App Store.

And even if PS Vita TV fails, there's still the Vita handheld to support the content developers put out.

West is best

Oh, and there's the prospect of PS Vita TV serving as a legitimate budget console for consumers: even the PS3 hasn't hit $99 at retail yet, and due to its proprietary Cell processor and Blu-ray drive in particular, it may never be that cheap.

With many titles already plugging into cross-buy between PlayStation systems, Sony's plan appears to be to make the Vita a new budget gaming platform - one that could serve as a way to upsell to the PS4 with cross-buy games and Remote Play functionality.

For developers, what's important is that Sony's making serious efforts to expand the Vita userbase, utilising both PS Vita TV and the cheaper Vita that's just been announced for Japan.

Now, let's say that Sony actually is just "throwing good money after bad" as claimed by DeNA's Ben Cousins. Well, there's a second play here for PS Vita TV: as a Trojan Horse for streaming PS4 games over the internet with Gaikai down the road.

Sony could use its cheaply-made Vita TV boxes for just that purpose if PS4 hardware sales start to lag post launch.



Considering Sony has been especially supportive of indies looking to come to PS4 - to the point where some have found it easier to get on PS4 than on Steam - developers likely wouldn't get left out in the cold, either.

While a lot of this is predicated on Sony actually making PS Vita TV internationally available – and there's much doubt right now as to whether this will happen – logic would suggest that a release in the west is surely just a matter of time.

Come launch, PS Vita TV could well prove to be the winning proposition developers have been waiting for.

Stateside columnist

Freelance writer covering mobile and gaming for @toucharcade, @Gamezebo, and more!

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