During Sony’s Keynote Press conference at the Tokyo Game Show Andrew House mentioned that the industry was changing. Consoles are not just about games anymore and video games are no longer a niche market. Sony right now looks to wage a war on two fronts; giving hardcore gamers what they want while at the same time being accessible to casual consumers. There isn’t a better example of this than the PS Vita TV and the Playstation App.
When Nintendo launched the Wii U its main focal point was on its one of a kind controller. The Wii U gamepad is the first controller that incorporates its own screen, and for the first time two screens can be used to play console games. At the same time this controller duals as a handheld. The player has the ability to play a game on the Wii U via the controller screen alone if someone else wants to watch television. You really do have to hand it to Nintendo as they’ve always been innovators in the industry and are willing to try new things and try them first. However, sometimes being first has its disadvantages. Sony has seen the advantages of what Nintendo offers and has decided to tweak them and improve upon them. This improvement is accomplished by the PS Vita TV.
Like Nintendo, Vita TV gives you the option of playing your games on a different screen other than the one your console is attached to. However, unlike Nintendo you don’t play it on a small screen. Vita TV allows for you to stream your game from your Playstation 4 console onto another TV and play it with your Dualshock 4. Someone can watch TV in the living room while you can go elsewhere and play your game on another TV. Another important function of this device is getting to play your Vita games on the big screen using the Dualshock 3. Sony has said that Vita, PSP, and PS1 games can be streamed (since you can play PS1, PSP, and Vita games on your Vita). There’s even a card slot for physical Vita games. However, touch screen games probably won’t be accessible by the Vita TV due to the lack of an equivalent touchscreen interface on the Dualshock 4. While both types of controllers are supported by Vita TV however it wasn’t made clear if older games could be played with the Dualshock 4. More than likely you can play older games with the Dualshock 4, but it’s something to be aware of. The Vita TV’s performance also depends on your internet bandwidth. It shouldn’t be a problem with the majority of consumers, unless you are streaming multiple services like Netflix at the same time.
With the overwhelming popularity of the handheld market in Japan I expect Vita TV to move an unnecessary amount of units (the handheld market crushes the console market there). Seriously, the Vita TV will sell like hotcakes in Japan. Right now there is no confirmation on whether the Vita TV will see a worldwide release. Considering how well it is in position to sell and the interest Sony has received form the West, a worldwide release is probably going to happen sooner or later. Although I wouldn’t expect it until sometime in 2014.
Sony understands the amount of people who use smartphones and tablets, the amount of time they spend on these devices, and the social advantages these devices have. They also understand the interest in casual gaming on these devices. In response to this Sony has developed a new Playstation App which will be available for iPhone and Android devices alongside the console’s launch in November. This app has functions that can be used with the PS4 or independently from it, and can also dual as a second screen. While this wasn’t explained in detail, it appears as if the app will act more as a support screen than a literal second screen. The second screen functionality was shown during a Playroom demo with the PS App as a controller. Drawing objects on the screen of the smartphone caused the objects to appear in the Playroom on the big screen. More than likely the controller function will only be used for games with all touchscreen or gesture commands. You won’t be using your smartphone to play Killzone, but it does bring the possibility of touchscreen only games to the table for the PSN.
With the PS app you can check up on your friend’s activities, get multiplayer invites, access your trophy information, watch shared videos/Ustream, and have access to Twitter and Facebook. You will also be able to chat with your friends via the PS App. The most interesting and useful function to me personally is the remote purchasing of games from the Playstation Store. This gives you the power to buy games at any time, at any place. The real kicker is that you can wake up your PS4 and download your games while away from the console. Cant’ get the day off of work? Download your game while at work and play it when you get home. Don’t want to traverse a flight of steps to get to your PS4? Whip out the Playstation App. The importance of this app cannot be understated for digital sales, as digital buying has just been made even easier. The app will be available at launch day in each territory. I didn’t think it was humanly possible, but I am more excited for the next-gen launch in November.