The sound of thousands of shattered Christmas wishes echoed across the globe last week, as Sony revealed that PS Vita won't reach North America and Europe until 2012. The company maintained all along that the system would launch in the "global market" by the end of 2011, technically exonerating as PS Vita will release in Japan by years-end. But such cleverly phrased PR still kept the optimistic among us from hoping that a Vita might tumble down our chimney this holiday.
But now those hopes are dashed, and with the recent 3DS price drop, there is a good chance that many of those chimneys will chime with the sound of a Nintendo 3DS whirling its way down to the living room floor instead. Which begs the question: why are you throwing handhelds down your chimney? Just put them under the tree. But more importantly, why did Sony push back the PS Vita release, and what does it stand to gain?
Well, one thing Sony is definitely looking towards is the impending release of Nintendo Wii U. The current consoles have been warring for some five years now, and clearly Nintendo carved out a huge amount of sales by producing an accessible console that promised an entirely new way to experience video games. The Wii put Nintendo back on top, after a less than stellar performance by the GameCube, positioning them to pour tons of Wii profits into research and development for their next console, the Wii U.
If the main schtick of the original Wii was motion controls, the schtick for the Wii U is undoubtedly the tablet-like controller. The system does boast some serious graphical capabilities, but that part seems a bit of catch-up rather than innovation. The system's real ingenuity lies in the unique functionality Nintendo promises its fancy new controller will deliver. But just how unique is it?
Next Generation. Portable.
The Wii U controller certainly offers up some interesting mechanics, but as more and more details trickle out about the PS Vita, it seems more and more likely that the handheld, when paired with a PS3, will be able to do many of the things promised by the Wii U, and even some things the Wii U is incapable of doing. By pushing Vita to 2012, Sony may be targeting consumers considering the Wii U upgrade.
Take Continuation Play for example. This is Sony's term for the seamless transition between PS Vita and PS3 gameplay — it allows you to play a game on your PS3, and through the magic of cloud-saving, continue the game where you left off on your PS Vita. The Wii U allows users to do something similar, but in a very different way: instead of taking to the clouds, the Wii U can stream a game wirelessly to the controller's screen, allowing you to enjoy your game away from the TV. But you have to keep the Wii U running to do so, and you can't travel too far away from the console. PS Vita on the other hand lets you hop on a bus to Tijuana if you'd like, free to continue your game, no PS3 needed.
Even for games that forgo Continuation Play, Sony says Vita is already running Remote Play, a feature used by the original PSP to stream content from a running PS3 over the Internet, allowing the connected handheld to view and control the content. Remote Play has been featured in PixelJunk Shooter, Eden and Monsters, but the vast valley of power between the PS3 and PSP hampered the feature's success. With the powerful PS Vita, which can already run full-blown games like Metal Gear Solid 4 and Lost Planet 2, Remote Play should work much more smoothly.