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The Vita Interview

February 21, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

The iPad 3 is heavily rumored to be launching in March, and whether or not it is a big technical leap over the iPad 2, Apple is presumably going to be launching iPads year-in and year-out, and soon they will be on par, right? Does that kind of thing concern you?

SR: Well, I don't think it concerns me at all. And you have to understand, like I said earlier, I'm a fan of all these devices. I really honestly am. I'm an iPad owner, and that's not something that I'm ashamed to admit, of course. And I'm also telling you that as soon as I got my launch edition of the PlayStation Vita, that iPad is absolutely gathering dust.

And why? It's because there's a totally different kind of premium experience that I can have on my Vita.

My iPad is now relegated to a handful of emails here and there, and when I want a gaming experience I am going to pick up my Vita, so it doesn't concern me if the iPad has more horsepower or something along those lines, because the PlayStation Vita is specifically built with gamers in mind, and the iPad is not. It's a multifunctional device.

So there's a place for both of these devices in our world, and I firmly believe that is true.

We recently spoke to Ben Cousins, who is heading up Ngmoco's new studio in Sweden. He says that he sees tablet play patterns as being more like consoles and less like smartphones. He said specifically that they could support games like Uncharted and Skyrim, and that's what he's going for.

While you're right that right now that there isn't necessarily a problem, I think there's a strong chance that there are people out there that have the talent and the ability who are going to be making it a problem for you. What do you have to say to that?

SR: I think it's fair enough. There's a lot of people making bold predictions out there, making bold bets. Let's just say that that was the case, that the scenario that you just outlined for me... I mean, you're still talking about tablets that cost 500 dollars, right? That's a pretty significant investment. And then I can guarantee you that if a Skyrim-style experience is going to come onto those platforms, it's not going to be for 99 cents.

You're talking about a totally different paradigm in tablet gaming, and if you're asking for all of that, with the experience that you're missing from having those tactile controls like the sticks and buttons, it's a totally different experience. So I think there's a ways to go before that scenario comes true.

I do believe there's a spot for tablet gaming out there. When you do the research, you can see console-like patterns of play times, meaning extended periods of time, but again, for the premium experience that people are used to on their consoles, you're going to need some of those traditional controls that all touch device just can't offer. And again, if you're paying for a device that only has touch controls, and you're paying what you're going to pay for a dedicated gaming console, I think the hardcore group is still going to lean towards the portable consoles.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss

You can't just talk about the Vita in isolation, paying for the system, because people do have to buy the memory cards and they can get really expensive, really fast. Are you comfortable with the accessories?

SR: Sure. I hear you. But, again, it's still cheaper than what we're talking about for a current-generation device like the iPad, by a pretty wide margin.

Do you see Nintendo with the 3DS, or do you see Apple with the iPad as more of your direct competitor?

SR: In the portable space, specifically?

With the Vita, yeah.

SR: I think that those guys are on pretty equal footing. They're different crowds, too. I think the one thing that the iPad has over the consoles is the fact that it's a game console disguised as a device that can be appropriated in the business workplace, right? I think that's probably the major difference.

When you have a 3DS or a Vita in your hand, you are proudly proclaiming, "I am a gamer, and I am playing games." I think the tradeoff when you go to a tablet device is that you don't get those controls. So you can secretly play your games, if you will, but you're missing out on the full gaming experience that is available with the dedicated consoles. Does that make sense?

When the 3DS came out there was all this hue and cry about how it was dead on arrival, and then Nintendo dropped the price and it bounced back. Are you taking notice of that?

SR: Well, absolutely, and really it just kind of proves the point that I'm making -- in that there's going to be a healthy market for dedicated handheld gaming. And I think the point you're making is maybe that market only exists when the price comes down to a lower level. And only time will tell.

I think that, again, the PS Vita, I think it's inarguable that it's a premium experience over what the 3DS has to offer. It's all about what kind of great software will appear on both platforms. I think that in addition to the lowering of the price, when Nintendo came out with a few key franchises on the 3DS, that is when it started to take off.

And you saw the same phenomenon in Japan, when Monster Hunter took hold for the PSP. Very late in the lifecycle, that machine just took off like crazy. When you're talking about portable game titles in a relatively small gaming market, that were selling three, four million copies late in the lifecycle of a platform, that's pretty amazing.

Of course we take note of all those things, and we're really confident that we've got a great launch lineup, and a lot of great things in the works for the next couple of years for the PS Vita, and it's a machine that we're proud of. We think when gamers get it in their hands they will fall in love with it.

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Ryan Pielow
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+ The cheapest Asus Transformer Prime SKU MSRP's at $399, plus a PS3 controller for $55 brings the bundle to $454, almost $200 more than a vita with a 4GB memory card ($270)

+ The average user probably wont want to jump through the hoops of syncing a PS3 controller to an android tablet (assuming they have a tablet that is compatible with the app you are suggesting to use).

+ It seems inconvenient to whip out your 7 inch tablet and prop it up on your lap in a bus while you play with a PS3 controller. A compact, easily portable form factor seems like an obvious benefit in this case.

+ I wouldn't consider GTA3 (a 10 year old PS2 game) running at an inconsistent 20FPS (judging by the video) with a jury rigged control scheme a "Skyrim-style" experience.

I'm not saying that tablet gaming will never offer an experience comparable to current portable console (or home console) experiences, but I think Scott is right in saying the current state of tablet gaming doesn't compete with traditional consoles when it comes to controls, depth and polish.

I will concede that the pricing model for new "premium" games for the vita/3ds (or any console for that matter) is too expensive, but that is what amazon deals are for.

Matt Walker
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I would argue that the comparison between making a "Skyrim-style experience" is quite a bit different from GTA3 on the Android. First and foremost that GTA3 is a -port- of a last-gen sandbox game. Dev costs between ports and something completely new of that size would most likely be completely different beasts from one another.

I would also argue that the number of people willing buy a tablet with built in controllers or use a separate PS3 controller with the tablet would be far less than those willing to buy a dedicated gaming system with the controller built in to it ala Vita.

Dave Long
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@ Dan, your argument is pretty poor. For a start, support for optional controllers is a _lot_ different from standardised game controls built into the system. Take peripheral support on PC or consoles as a great example, or even the very much touch-and-go gamepad support on PC.

And then, after you've got your controller, how are you going to hold the tablet while you're gaming portably? And if you're not playing portable games, why on earth did you buy a $500 tablet (twice the price of the Vita) to game on with a controller? It'd have to be the least cost effective controller-enabled option available.

And, of course, if you're buying a $500 device to play games on with touchscreen, are you really going to be looking for ports with relatively clunky (compared to stick and button controls) of a game that's more than 10 years old? Comparing an 11-year old game for a last-gen system, with Skyrim, is just plain ridiculous.

As is not being able to see the difference between touch-based tablet/smartphone gaming and sticks and buttons. Apart from the tactile feel and the far better response of sticks to touch-based virtual sticks, it's also far easier for the fingers to access a greater range of controls quickly than it is with touch only (Dead Space on mobile is a great example - it's a great game, if you play it on the Xperia play - it's a clunky game with a great atmosphere if you play it with touch).

And, as before, if you're hooking up a controller to your smartphone/tablet, it's starting to look somewhat less portable (hard to hold both at once ;)), and it's expensive enough as a portable option, without being a ridiculously expensive non-portable one!

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Dave Endresak
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It's interesting that he didn't mention the huge success of the Hatsune Miku: Project Diva games from Sega. After all, she is a worldwide success without being officially offered outside of her native Japan except for the debut American concert last summer and the Singapore concert last fall. She was also voted the second most popular game character in Japan (after Mario) for Yahoo! Japan's annual popularity poll in fall 2010. Her global poplarity continues to rise as more and more people outside Japan learn about her and the other Vocaloid characters, particlarly Crypton's, but also others such as SeeU. There are people outside Japan importing the games for their PSP even with the terrible exchange rates.

It will be interesting to see the new Project Diva game from Sega for the Vita. Many people are hoping that it includes AR capability.

As far as the tablet argument, I think that he was technically accurate in saying that playing Skyrim on a tablet isn't a 99 cent experience. Tablets are very expensive. I mean, I look at a tablet with a base cost of at least $400-$500, plus maybe $100-$200 more if I really want a powerful machine (and no accessories/plugins), and then I look at a full scale gaming laptop for $1100... well, it's pretty obvious which one is the better buy at this point. Compared to $300-$350 for the Vita with dedicated gaming controles, it's pretty obvious which one is superior for gaming. Also, games like Skyrim have much better control with keyboard and mouse than game controllers.

If tablets drop in price but have the same capabilities, we'll see. Right now, they are only for a certain specific market segment (i.e., one who doesn't want a full scale gaming laptop for whatever reason).

Same problem with smart phones... they are far too expensive for anyone who doesn't use the phone very much (or at all, really).

The current market reminds me of back when cell phones first started going mainstream. Within a few years, cell phones dropped way down in price (like 10% of what they were several years earlier).

I think it all depends on how the market evolves and what the various needs are for specific segments. As he said, we'll have to see.

Nathaniel Marlow
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I wonder what his definition of "the long term" is in terms of piracy protection.

evan c
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"Sony's been very, very open about the fact that piracy really hurt the PSP"

I personally think that poor marketing is what really hurt the PSP and piracy the second.

Their ads are either controversial(psp b/w) or just plain annoying(marcus), most of the times they just don't bother advertising at all(Ghost of Sparta.)

Also compared to Ms and Nintendo, Sony's the only company that is relying on 3rd parties to sell their consoles/handhelds. Uncharted and GT are good and all but they're not system sellers like Halo or Mario. Specially in Japan where they have nothing that interest the people there.

Brian Tsukerman
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For anyone who doesn't want to read this entire thing, I'm looking forward to seeing what the Vita can do, but Sony's history of hyping their systems with more features than they can handle has convinced me that early adoption is simply not justified.


To start with, I am looking forward to the improvements that the PS Vita brings to handheld gaming, and am especially pleased to hear that they've taken precautions to avoid the game drought that both the PSP and PS3 experienced. Nonetheless, I'm concerned with Sony's habit of offering more options than will likely be supported by either themselves or the developers, which is something that the Vita is at risk of as well. On the one hand, I understand how such an approach grants flexibility to the pre-launch hype that has preceded both the PS3 and the original PSP, and how it makes the systems seem closer to being a "Renaissance system" than a specialized piece of technology.

However, it seems to me that as the life cycle progresses for a Sony system, there's always several "innovative" ideas that were originally announced that are subsequently underutilized or abandoned, which makes me skeptical on exactly how much of what is being offered will actually last. Some examples come to mind in particular:


- Remote Play sounds like what they're advertising in the MLB commercial right now. Too bad it was so incredibly poorly supported by anything that actually mattered like most games and movies

- Was to function as a controller for the PS3. I don't know of anyone who used it though.

- You could play multiplayer games with others who had a PSP nearby, but it was a miracle if you could find a person that both owned a PSP and the game you were playing.

- Microphone & VoIP. I need to research what percent of the systems total game sales used the microphone, but I sense the answer is "negligble." And who the hell used it as a phone replacement?

- You could browse the internet, so long as you're comfortable with using a joystick to navigate pages and can make due with the atrocious virtual keyboard that Sony still implements

- You can watch videos on it, which was a big pro over the DS, but is universal amongst smartphones and tablets now

- You could read Marvel digital comics on it. Oh wait, that was discontinued.

- TV output, in case you want to show everyone in the room what you're playing. Otherwise, why?

- With the PSPGo and Vita announcements, you were supposed to be able to convert or trade your UMD's for digital versions of the game on the newer system. Both were canned stateside due to lack of demand, which I can understand.

- PSPRoom, something like a PSP approach to Playstation Home, which I honestly didn't even know about until looking it up just now.


- Backwards compatibility, which only lasted for first generation

- Region free, which while technically true, is still largely restricted according to whether your television uses NTSC or PAL standards. All-in-all, though a minor positive.

- Can use the Playstation Eye to play games. A carryover from the PS2 where it was hardly used, same here, but seems like it's being targeted for resurgence as a Kinect-esque feature for Sony's next console generation. Not sure if I'd rather have that or the 3D visor.

- Can use PSMove instead of standard controller, which already seems to be falling to the wayside a bit due to news about the PS Eye.

- Sixaxis controllers, originally the standard that Sony felt warranted removing the Dualshock feature. And yet, Dualshock controllers remain the norm, and I can't remember the last time that Sixaxis was used in a PS3 game to any significant purposes.

- Playstation Home. Woo 19 million total downloads! Why can't I find out its MAU or DAU though?

I don't honestly expect every game to incorporate every feature. But the usefulness of a given feature is only as great as the game(s) that best implements it. And though I love games made by smaller, independent companies, I'm confident that the lion's share of the best-selling games will be from major studios rehashing existing intellectual properties, which indicates what the majority of peoples memory of playing with the system will be. It is upon these games, how fun they are and how well they use these new inputs, that Vita's success/value/longevity depend upon.