When Will The PS Vita Start Being Good?

When I announced the topic of this piece to my colleagues the reaction I received was not a surprise.  Some came right out and told me I was wrong, others I know were thinking ‘I wish Graham would stop drinking at lunchtimes’.  But I promise this feeling has been nagging away for some time and no drink was involved, well not today anyway.  I have long felt I was missing something with the Vita, is it me?  Is it the developers of games and apps?  Have Sony ruined it in some way?  The answer is all of those combined, not one massive cock up, but small little niggles that cause me to reach for a smart phone rather than the Vita for a quick blast of gaming.

PS Vita Good Feature

Let’s start at the beginning: I acquired my Wi-Fi only Vita in the first week of launch, paying the pretty hefty price that comes with buying stuff close to their release day.  At the time I was doing a lot of international travelling and thought it would be the ideal companion.  The price did not put me off nor did the small number of games that were available for it at the time.  Like many great gaming console releases it would take a bit of time to get into its stride and I was happy to be there in the beginning.

 

Games

My first concern after a while was the sheer lack of games that were available for it, a little bit like the PS4 is now, there were only a few desirable titles out.  I soon got bored of Uncharted, and even FIFA Football lost its appeal after a while.  Once new games did start to trickle through, the cost of them amazed me.  I had thought they were a little steep but expected a big drop after 6 to 12 months.   If you look at the list of PS Vita games on the GAME website now most of the top titles are still £39.99.  I can live with the cost of console games, maybe this is a perception thing, but a console game is a big deal, it is an investment, I am swapping my hard earned cash for many hours of entertainment.   The Vita is a handheld gaming device, to me this is a time filling device, a pick up and play as and when you can – I can’t help but wonder if the people who spend this much on new games feel like they have got their money’s worth.  Do they look up and say ‘wow, can’t believe how good that looks on this small display’?  I personally would and have saved my money on full fat games, not half the experience for all of the cost.  The train of thought is real gamers have Vitas, does this mean then that we should pay a higher price?

Vita Black Ops

To be fair the number of games has drastically increased recently thanks to Sony embracing indie developers.  This is where I have seen most of my new games coming from.  Prices are a little better on some of the more prestigious games, but only after they have been out for a while, mirroring the console market.  There is another competitor for this market in the form of the smartphone.  Every year we see a raft of new models from HTC, Apple and Samsung, all with more firepower than before and the ability to handle a better gaming experience than previous models.  The price for these games, even for titles such as FIFA is a lot less, and everyone has a phone these days.  I travel on the London Underground most days and I have seen one person other than me playing on a PS Vita, 90% of people however are on their phones.  People expect portable prices for portable gaming; the Vita struggles here.  Some arguments against this are that many Vita owners play theirs at home, unless there is a power cut I choose the console every time.  And, the rear touch pad still feels like a bit of a gimmick, I would expect after a few years it would be second nature to use.  I think this is down to a lack of knowing how to utilise it by many.  More creative thinking for its use amongst developers wouldn’t be a bad thing.

 

Memory Cards

Pardon?!…… Yes, memory cards!  You need a memory card to play, that’s a bit old school but no bother I have loads knocking about.  ‘No you need a special one to use in the Vita’.  This is kind of how the conversation went with a gaming insider leading up to the launch of the PS Vita.  Now I am sure this will lead to no end of arguments about size and weight which is why they didn’t include any internal storage for the original PS Vita, but memory cards must be the biggest pain of using the device, especially if like me in the early days with no PS Plus subscription you went for either the 4 or 8 gb cards.   These soon were filled up and you were then force to spending a hideous amount of money on bigger cards.  Memory cards are one thing, but charging in excess of £85 for a 64 gig is too much.  Don’t get me wrong, I am sure it makes Sony a lot of money and since the aforementioned PS Plus, they must be raking it in.

Vita Memory Card

The new PS Vita does now come with a gig of storage but we all know how long this lasts, memory cards are meant to be coming down in price but I have yet to see this.  I have a 6 year old son who has a PS Vita, he doesn’t have a smart phone so it is ideal for him to be able to play some cheaper indie games but when a £3 game means you have to invest much more on a new memory card to play it, this becomes an issue.

 

Size

OK, this is a personal thing, but in their quest for a small light machine I and a few others I know have massive issues with painful hands after a while.  Not so bad on the less intense titles like Pixel Junk Monsters but something like MotoGP13 hurts about as much as falling off a real motorbike.

 

Graphics

I will admit some games on the Vita look great and make you appreciate the gaming machine you are holding, but many fall below par.  This has to be down to the developers, it makes you wonder if they just can’t be bothered to submit a polished game.  Do they also think the Vita is for quick gaming moments and not longer subversive encounters?  Maybe, but again if this was the case they shouldn’t be charging as much as they do.  MotoGP13 is a case in point, it is 80% there but just lacks the feel of something that is properly finished.  Back when FIFA 13 was fast approaching, Vita owners in their 1000’s pre ordered it after reading what they could expect from the next instalment.  Like me most thought the cross format game would have similar features on all platforms.  How wrong we could be, no wonder EA did not release any review copies.  FIFA 13 on the Vita was just a rebadge and an update of the FIFA Football game from the previous year, no new physics engine or enhancements the other platforms were being treated to.  How can this be a device for real gamers if the makers do not take their customers seriously?

Vita MotoGP13

 

Social Fluff

I love twitter and Facebook as much as the rest of the world, but I can’t say the social elements of the PS Vita appeal to me.  It is good to chat to your buddies and see their trophy hoard, but apart from that I wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t there.  Near has never worked properly for me, along with MAPS, it thinks I live in Enfield – only 40 miles out.  Emails: I have an iMac, Macbook, work laptop, 2 smart phones, an iPad Air and a Nexus 7.  Think I am pretty well catered for on the email front and don’t often think about checking them on the Vita – I challenge you to find people who regularly do.  I also think that the Facebook and Twitter apps are the best social additions to have, but are a bit awkward and clunky to use.

 

Cameras

Very poor and not needed, again would swap for some storage everyday of the week.

 

Remote Play and the PS4

So in my darkest hour with the Vita I was thrilled to hear that it would be the perfect partner for the PS4 (which I was planning to buy).  Now it is here can’t help feel a little let down.  Far as I can tell remote play is the best it’s going to get and for me this is a bit rubbish.  For one my Vita has a bit of an issue with Wi-Fi signals, being it’s a Wi-Fi only model it should be excellent at this, but no.  In my house it hardly registers a signal on any of my networks and makes proper remote play a little tricky – to the point I don’t use it.  I did try to use it once but with the shoulder buttons on the Dual Shock 4 being replaced with areas on the rear touch pad I would have had more luck playing patter-cake, patter-cake with a lag-switch fitted CoD player.

Vita Remote Play

 

Music and Video

It has You Tube which is great!  10/10, my son loves this and it keeps him quiet for hours.  The other video and music services are lost in today’s world of Netflix and Spotify, if Sony wasn’t still keen on doing things their way and could offer apps from other providers this would be a great.

 

To summarise: if it cost less, had some internal storage/cheaper memory cards, lost its pointless social guff and had games priced properly I would love it.  As it is I feel like it tries to be too much to too few, a tighter focus on what it needs to be is what I would suggest.  If this is a device for real gamers, then focus on them and don’t treat us like fools.

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Graham

30 something grumpy father of 3 small annoying children, lover of fast cars, motorbikes, gaming and all things technological. I also own a ZX Spectrum 128k

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9 Comments

  1. yojimbob April 15, 2014 7:08 pm  Reply

    No games are you serious my friend ^_^ I’ve bought mine 4months ago and have over 20 games!! First i did was subscribe to PSN for £20 for 6months. That gave me hotline miami (amazing), soul sacrifice, dynasty warriors next, little king story and more. All amazing and play so excellently on a handheld. Then 2nd hand games picked up wipeout (best racer on handheld or tablets imo, disgaea, persona 4 golden! Earth defense 2017, killzone liberation, tearaway. .. then there’s all the ps one and psp library I’ve never played! !! They look and play awesome on the vita screen. Oh yeah u can get 16gb memory cards over at argos or amazon. And the line up for next 6 months is astonishing. I’ve been a gamer for over 10 years and this beats my psp, ds, 3ds xl and smart devices anyday! !! Give everybody’s golf or castle storm a go too. Oh and walking dead series. I could just go on and on. Soooooo much choice! Freedom wars and borderlands 2 just around the corner ^_^

  2. Andy April 15, 2014 7:37 pm  Reply

    I agree with yojimbob that there are some good games out there, Killzone: Mercenary is solid, P4G is one of my favourite games of all time and I’m playing Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate now too, which I picked up in the Easter Sale. But Graham makes a good point about a lot of devs phoning in the “big” titles; Resistance, CoD, FIFA and numerous others are all sub-par. Third parties need to get on board!

  3. Axe99 April 16, 2014 2:01 am  Reply

    The author of this article should get more informed before he starts getting his thoughts down – more reading before writing, so to speak.

    For example:
    – Memory card prices, while still relatively high compared with most other formats, dropped in price last year, and it was well publicised. The author may not have seen it, but that’s because they weren’t up to speed with gaming developments, not because it didn’t happen.

    – Game prices are very reasonable, in general (the main exceptions are some third-party price gouging – Dungeon Keeper and Asphalt 8, fr example). The larger titles with greater production values like Uncharted and Gravity Rush cost more – because they cost more to build. It’s not the job of game design to match this author’s playing habits, but rather this author should only buy the games that suit him, rather than complain about buying full-fat games and then saying they don’t suit his lifestyle. If I buy a helicopter for a lot of money but rarely fly, the helicopter isn’t at fault for being pricey, I’m just silly for buying it ;).

    – You can ignore the social stuff. You’re not forced to use it, and it’s unlikely you’re paying much, if anything, for it. This seems like an excuse to complain, rather than a legitimate concern.

    – The author may not enjoy using the camera, but it is actually necessary for some of the AR games (some of which are quite enjoyable), and can be good for random snaps to put up as backgrounds on the Vita. This is the author assuming everyone is like him, an assumption that rarely pans out well.

    – Early on, the author complains about getting hand cramps after long sessions with the Vita, then later on, complains that the full-price games don’t fit his “pick up for a few moments” playstyle. Again, it sounds like he’s looking for excuses to complain, rather than airing legitimate grievances. If the author really is using it for extended periods of time, then there are optional third-party hand-grips that can help with RSI issues. Clearly, the Vita’s design has to compromise some things to achieve its size. I’d have no doubt if the hand grips were built in, that the author would instead be complaining about its size ;).

    – Remote play is well documented as working well. Given the lack of attention to detail displayed in this piece, it may well be that the author could stand to spend a bit more attention on their wi-fi network ;). I’ve top-scored online in KZ:SF playing on remote play, where rear touch-pad use is regular and necessary. The issues here sound like the author’s (or an issue with a defective Vita unit) rather than a systemic issue for the system. Indeed, Remote Play has been great, and all of my mates who have tried it have been equally pleased by it.

    – The last point about music and video is again the author assuming that the whole world uses the services he does ;). The actual services available are very good, and work well on the Vita. I agree that Netflix, Spotify and others would be good additions, but writing them off as irrelevant is even less appropriate than writing off this article that way.

  4. Big Bob April 16, 2014 8:46 am  Reply

    Like the PSP, the Vita still sells with a poor range of games. That’s why Sony hasn’t released much. On top of that, the price of games is a joke. No Turismo and no The Last of Us (to name a few), like the PSP, the Vita has been laid to rest by Sony.

  5. Graham April 16, 2014 9:25 am  Reply

    Axe – A good post, I am speaking about my thoughts and experiences which may differ from others but lets address your points;

    Memory cards – so they have seen a reduction in price but they are still too expensive, and there is still the frustration of memory cards in general.

    Game prices are reasonable? Some are many are not. The point i was making is paying a lot of money for a gaming experience is a worth while exercise paying a lot for a game on a hand held device i am not so sure. Especially when the experience isn’t as good. I don’t mean all Vita games are bad but its the investment against return.

    Social Stuff – i do ignore it but when i believe other areas could have done with a bit more work it makes you wonder how much investment went into these areas that could have been deployed elsewhere. PS. i am a miserable git so probably do like bitching more than most.

    Cameras work well in highly lit areas, making AR games only possible when its glaringly bright, but then you can’t see the screen anyway.

    If you have another read i don’t state that I play the vita for long periods but actually intense games do cause hand cramps after a ‘while’ 5 minutes is a while for me. What did you say about assumption? ;)

    Good to hear you get on with remote play, my wifi network is fine – everything else works very well with no issues. Just the vita, i am not the only one with signal issues with the vita either and it does make remote play almost impossible. Sony say there is nothing wrong with it. This gripe is very annoying as it would be a great buddy to my PS4 but as it is not stable it is rarely used.

    As for music and video i still think they are behind some of the mainstream services and as such people won’t migrate to using them. I didn’t say they were not good but they are not enough to make me use them. If Sony announced an agreement with more of these types of providers could it add weight to those who maybe put off buying one?

    I suppose my view is if you are a pure gaming machine concentrate on this and do it well, get all parties on board to offer great games and decent prices and the sales will follow. If you want to be a media hub then again do this and do this well and half a job.

  6. Matt April 16, 2014 12:42 pm  Reply

    I’m in two camps with this. For some elements I feel the same as Graham, particularly in the games area where there are just not enough big retail releases. This isn’t to say there’s no content, but for a handheld to survive it’s got to “appear” to have games to the wider market and not just core gamers, and the first place people see those are on the shop shelves or online stores.

    I’m also with him on the remote play. I have a very stable fibre optic connection, but can’t maintain a stable link to my PS4. I’ve tried every router setting and option on both machines and still experience a slight dropout that prevents it from working smoothly. This is always on the same network by the way, any attempts from another location just fail completely so my dreams of playing my PS4 abroad will remain just that. Such a shame because I also love the idea of using my Vita as a 2nd controller but get fed up of being forced into a crash when trying it with Need For Speed Rivals.

    However, I find the unit comfortable to use for hours on end not being cursed with giant hands, and think that implementation of social connections is pretty good – forgetting Near of course, that’s just a missed opportunity. Interestingly here, no one is raising the graphic horsepower or capabilities. Am I right in saying we all think it has completely nailed that aspect and that are gripes are in relation to the ancillary aspects we think it could do better?

    I like my device, it’s a lovely piece of kit but it definitely doesn’t have that “wow” factor that other bits of tech get despite what it can do, and I sometimes wish I’d waited until the price drop and saved myself the price of a 64 gb memory card.

  7. Matthew Holloway April 16, 2014 12:48 pm  Reply

    I only have a few of the same complaints. Memory card prices are still a bit much. I have an 8gb and 16gb and both require me to keep deleting older PS+ games to install new ones. I also wish they had not locked the 3G to AT&T. With Verizon’s new share everything plans, I’d love for my Vita to be usable.

    One thing that I’m surprised that nobody has mentioned is the ridiculous “one PSN account” restriction. I hate that I cannot share it with my wife and let her get her own trophies. Surely there had to be a way to set up user switching. Perhaps just linking the memory cards to a PSN account (which I think is done anyway – so, no sharing PSN purchases). This all seems like a ploy by Sony to sell more Vitas.

    Other than those couple things (and my hand size / dexterity challenges trying to use the back touch panel), I’m loving my Vita and wish that I was not always the one driving when I traveled.

  8. Brandon April 21, 2014 12:49 pm  Reply

    Graham, I really liked reading your piece. Different opinions are always fun to read.

    I definitely think Sony was trying to do too much with the Vita. But how much is the Email bubble taking up on your screen? 50kb? They have plenty of great games and yes plenty of bad ones too. Until the system sells better we won’t be seeing another COD, Madden, or other big titles on the Vita. Heck, Sony is paying for Borderlands 2 to come to the Vita. It’s gotta be good too.

    So I think you see the potential in games here and there. There’s a million things announced for it (indie titles and such). It just needs to sell more and people will make better games.

    Thanks for sharing your opinion with us.

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