The PlayStation Vita releases tomorrow and with it, nearly two dozen games. How it will compete with the Nintendo 3DS and other mobile products remains to be seen, but it has the potential to offer mobile gamers the closest experience to home console gaming that we've seen from a handheld device to date.
In preparation for the release, Sony has released the 1.61 software update just in time for launch and the official PlayStation blog posted an interview with Andy House, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, to talk about the launch of their latest gaming device.
First, the update which adds a few key features that were missing on the Vita for those who pre-ordered and received it last week:
- A new application, (Maps), has been added to the home screen.
- In addition to photos, you can now take videos using the Photo application.
- You can now publish stories about the products that you rate in PlayStation Store to Facebook.
- In near, players’ information is now displayed on the Discoveries screen. On this screen, a list of the online IDs of up to 100 players that you have encountered, and the number of times that you encountered each player, are displayed. Tap an online ID to display that player’s profile screen.
- The Mac OS version of Content Manager Assistant for PlayStation has been released. The Windows version has also been updated.
Users can update the firmware through Wi-Fi by going to System Update in the Settings menu or they can connect the device to the PS3 or a computer and utilize the Content Manager.
The PlayStation 3 is known for being a more difficult platform to develop for compared to its competitors. For the Vita, Sony rectified this developmental hurdle and made the device not only easier to program for, but easier and cheaper to sell products. In response to a question about video game development and the changing industry climate, House explains the advantages for developers working on applications and games for the Vita:
"...we have created a much easier development environment than we have for previous platforms. That facilitates experimentation and combined with the opportunities digital distribution provides, such as removing the risk of having to commit to an inventory stock, we are able to lower the barrier of entry for developers and hopefully encourage them to experiment and take risks.
An extension to that is PlayStation Suite which, for me, is an initiative that runs in parallel to PS Vita. What we have there is a very low cost development environment and an opportunity to immediately access a broad and growing range of Android devices and the install base that comes with them, as well as the option to make your content compatible with PS Vita. In essence, PlayStation Suite is an extra route into delivering PS Vita content that will be available to a much larger pool of developers, and in a much more agile, quicker to market way."
An easier and cheaper development environment combined with the ease of digital distribution bodes well for the long-term future and growth of the Vita's software library, assuming the reports out of Japan about developers switching over to the 3DS are overblown. This however, does not explain why the launch titles on the device are so highly priced.
We're seeing more expensive Vita ports of games that are cheaper for the PS3 and some games, like Dungeon Hunter: Alliance are available for a fraction of the cost on other platforms. Regardless of Sony's stance on competing with Android and iOS apps, the reality is that those products do offer an alternative mobile gaming platform and games that are going to cost $30-50 on the Vita are tough to justify.
Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.