PS Vita TV: How Good Could Be Great

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As part of the Game-Modo team, I am of the opinion that the PS Vita TV could stand to receive some improvements before making its way to the west. Richard happens to have a different opinion than I, which is OK. I think the device is sound, but it could be the “game changer” that everyone likes to clamor for if it just received some proper attention. Not being the type to just gripe without a solution, my solutions are provided below. All Sony has to do, is lay out some products and services on a table, and realize the potential their PS TV (what I will use, as PS TV is a much better name) could have.

The PS TV play PS Vita, PSP, and PlayStation games. It will let you watch movies, TV shows, & video services. You will be able to remote play PS4. It can be used as a second Vita device, enabling those with a Vita to play ad-hoc multiplayer games at home with friends.

My problem with the PS TV is that it sells itself short. It can do most Vita games, which may be worse for the Vita than the PS TV. It also has intentions of streaming video, without investing too much effort. Lastly, is going against not only other companies without guns blazing, but is at odds with its own company. Sony has also just announced the Bravia Smart Stick, which I will address later. Here’s a software and a hardware problem, and how I would address each:

Software Problem: Developers might alter gameplay with the PS TV in mind. If they don’t consider the Vita, and instead focus on the PS TV, gameplay would veer from short spurts to the couch mindset. It’s not just a matter of hitting pause – portable games are actually designed with on-the-go gaming in mind. Vita games could change, as as a result, multiplayer might be viewed differently, if many playing Vita games are at home with a constant connection.
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Software Solution: Take a different approach with the Vita app Near. It’s been on the Vita since launch, but here’s what to do. Take a cue from Google’s Ingress, and allow players to manually leave game goods wherever they go. Let Near search out not just nearby players, but caches of gaming goods generated by games on the systems. Most importantly – put Near on the PS TV. Players could see what’s around them just the same as if they had a Vita, and if they own both a PS TV and Vita, Near would sync data from both devices to enable players improved oversight of their surroundings while at their home base. Near could be a proactive app, instead of a reactive one. This is how developers could also inject more fun into asynchronous multiplayer and campaign progression that affect your multiplayer character (read: Killzone: Mercenary), to keep mobile multiplayer gaming enticing. This will actually encourage players to take their Vitas with them. One other thing, regarding Near – offer it as a smartphone and tablet app. Let people see what’s out there and tag those places with markers. They can then return with their Vita, using it as the tool for a digital game of geocaching. Near could be the app that would connect gamers at home and on the go.
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Hardware Problem: There’s a lot quality Sony products on shelves, which would be confusing at best and cannibalizing at worst. If the PS TV is released in the west, there will be the upcoming PS Vita slim Wifi, PS TV, PS3, PS4, and Bravia Smart Stick, as well as Xperia smartphones and tablets. I mention these because they’re shown in advertising when marketing PlayStation.
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Hardware Solution: Merge the PS TV and Bravia Smart Stick. Fewer products doing more is always better. Merging the PS TV and Smart Stick would link the Vita, PS4, and TV, obviously, as well as the rumored PS3, and also eliminate an extra product from the shelf. Take a look at the recently-announced device, which is described as follows:

“The BRAVIA Smart Stick features a slim form factor, 8GB of on-board storage, and plugs directly into the MHL port on the back of 2013 Sony BRAVIA TVs, with a USB cable to provide its power source. In addition, the BRAVIA Smart Stick comes bundled with Sony’s award-winning, voice-activated remote control, giving viewers a variety of ways to interact and control their entertainment. Priced at $149.99, the BRAVIA Smart Stick is available now at Sony Stores and select retailers nationwide.”

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What would remain is the stationary PlayStation gaming systems, the mobile gaming system, mobile devices that support PS Mobile and Near, and a bridge device that supports content found on all others. Merging the PS TV with the Smart Stick. I know what you’re thinking – a DualShock 3 and a voice-activated remote? Yes. Sell the PS TV, with all the software capabilities of the Bravia Smart Stick bundled with the DualShock 3. Heck – sell one later with the DualShock 4, in an exclusive color. Just make sure to also sell this cool remote as a PlayStation accessory that works with any Bravia television, as well as any television connected to a PS TV. As much as I like my DualShock 3 controller and look forward to the DualShock 4, a remote control is likely to be more accepted by the masses for watching TV shows and movies. Why not sell it along with the other high-quality accessories in the PlayStation line?

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The PS TV is a good product. It would likely see some justified success in the West. What I’ve outlined above, however, would make it a truly revolutionary product that would not just to stand stronger alone, but also strengthen the rest of the PlayStation brand.

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