With the 2011 Tokyo Games Show in full swing, fresh gaming info is hitting the web faster than most gamers can keep up. Of all the news coming out of Japan, nothing has received as much attention, or as much positive “buzz” as Sony’s PlayStation Vita. The system’s Japanese release date and extensive lineup of launch titles have already been revealed, yet that isn’t the end of the Vita news emerging from the show.
Shuhei Yoshida, head of Sony Worldwide Studios, dedicated a significant portion of his TGS 2011 Keynote speech this morning to Vita, revealing extensive details on the system’s still in development AR capabilities and remote play functionality. Separately, details on Vita’s need for a memory card have gone public, along with the first images of Vita’s game cartridges and packaging.
As first unveiled at GDC 2011, the PlayStation Vita is a powerhouse of an Augmented Reality machine. The system supports distinct modes of AR gameplay, dubbed Wide Area AR and Markerless AR. In Wide Area AR, the Vita is able to track a number of marker cards. In a video demonstrating the feature, marker cards spread out on a table defined both an AR space for game characters and the curves of a racetrack. Placing the cards higher or lower than one another added depth to the track. Though not confirmed, it’s difficult to imagine this feature not making the cut for Vita version of ModNation Racers.
Markerless AR, as the name suggests, requires no marker cards — the Vita is able to place AR characters accurately in whatever visual space it perceives. As with the GDC display of the technology, Ape Escape apes and a giant T-Rex were used to demonstrate Markerless AR in action.
Moving on to Vita’s Remote Play capabilities, Yoshida focused on the system’s ability to stream actual PlayStation 3 games for play on Vita. Though the PSP has long been able to play movies, music, and select PSN games (PixelJunk Eden, for instance) streamed from PS3, Vita’s ability to play streamed, disc-based console games could be revolutionary.
Yoshida himself fired up Killzone 3, streamed from PS3 to Vita, live onstage. For games that need them, Vita’s rear touch pad stands in for the Dual Shock 3’s L2 and R2 buttons — a feature that should also come in handy when using the Vita as a PS3 controller, which Yoshida demonstrated by playing LittleBigPlanet 2.
Exciting as all these announcements are, a few pieces of less positive Vita news have come out of TGS as well, beginning with the system’s battery life. As reveled yesterday, Vita suffers from the same modest battery life that so upset consumers at the launch of the original PSP, and more recently, the 3DS. However, unlike the 3DS, the Vita does not come with a handy dock to easily charge the system. Sony is addressing this shortcoming by releasing just such an item separately, though it won’t come cheap. Sony’s Vita Charging Dock will retail for roughly $36.
While the battery life may just be the cost of powering such a forward looking system, one of Vita’s requirements is almost defiantly old fashioned: the need for memory cards. This being Sony, the cards are proprietary and, therefore, expensive. Set to release in 4, 8, 16, and 32GB iterations, the cheapest card comes in at roughly $29, while the largest option carries a whopping $124 price tag — fully half the system’s U.S. price.
Meanwhile, the first images of Vita game cartridges and packaging have hit the web (thanks, Destructiod), and unsurprisingly, the cases look a lot like Blu-ray cases. Check out Japanese box art for Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Hot Shots Golf 6, and Gravity Daze below.
There can be no question that Vita is coming out of TGS 2011 as a force to be reckoned with, and its December 17th debut in Japan is all but sure to be a major event. That said, with the U.S. and Europe not getting the console until 2012, will the Vita be able to maintain this kind of momentum? And, should Nintendo’s 3DS enjoy strong holiday sales (which, given the upcoming release of both Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7, it just might), will Vita be able to close the gap? What do you think?
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