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Talking Point: Could Apps Transform Vita's Fortunes?

Posted by Damien McFerran

Or are they an unnecessary distraction from the console's primary function?

As much as it pains us to admit it, the PlayStation Vita isn't in the best shape at present. The console is struggling to convince players that it is worth its lofty price point, and rivals such as Nintendo's 3DS and smartphone platforms like iOS and Android are stealing away precious market share. Having already ruled out a price cut to stimulate dismal sales - the exact same course of action Nintendo took when the 3DS was faltering - Sony is clearly hoping that forthcoming gaming software will provide the tonic the console badly needs.

However, the company could well be missing a trick when it comes to pushing the Vita. Like it or not, the console is competing directly with the likes of the iPhone and iPad, devices which are multi-talented rather than game-centric; they don't just run entertainment software, but also allow you to browse the web, send emails, view family photos, make video calls, listen to music and download applications.

The Vita can do most of these things too, but Sony has done a less than stellar job of promoting this element of the system. It's understandable, given the hostility hardcore players tend to show towards consoles which stray too far away from the core gaming ethos - it's been argued that the Sony's obsession with making the PlayStation 3 the centrepiece of your living room was the reason for its shaky start in the marketplace. Still, if the company could convince people to put down their tablets and phones and pick up a Vita - a system which could potentially offer all the same benefits but with vastly superior graphics and proper gaming controls - then Sony could be onto a winner.

There's clearly a market space for this kind of system - the recent announcement of the Archos GamePad only confirms this - but Sony has to make sure people are aware of just how versatile the Vita is. Apps like Twitter, YouTube, Skype, Facebook and FourSquare are a good start, but there needs to be a real drive to attract iOS and Android app developers into bringing their products to Vita.

Imagine a situation where Vita has all the key apps - such as Spotify, Instagram and countless others. If these products can be made to function as well as they do on the iPad, then the Vita is suddenly transformed from a portable games console to a 'carry-everywhere' piece of consumer electronics; should that situation arise, then it could essentially replace the iPad in the lives of millions of people.

Of course, Sony should never lose sight of why they made the Vita in the first place: to host amazing games. That should always be the console's reason for being, no matter how much support it gets from app developers in the future. A situation where the system was turned into nothing but a glorified tablet replacement simply wouldn't do; it would merely become yet another piece of hardware for you to lug around, in addition to your phone, MP3 player, tablet or eBook reader. That is unlikely to endear the Vita to anyone, be they casual user or devoted gaming enthusiast.

The console needs to become the best option for a whole host of functions, rather than a Jack of all trades, master of none. It needs to be the first thing you reach for when you're about to leave the house, rather than an optional extra. Sadly, it's not going to become that just by relying on its gaming credentials - at least not in today's market, anyway.

While we hope that gaming will always remain the central focus of the Vita, it's clear that the system needs to offer something really special to catch up with the 3DS and stave off the attentions of the smartphone brigade. A more comprehensive selection of applications could well be the key to unlocking the Vita's true sales potential.

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User Comments (15)

chazamm-182

#2

chazamm-182 said:

Yeah I could see Sony associating with Google to bring the Android Play Store on the Vita which would help alot in terms of sales for the device.

Slapshot

#3

Slapshot said:

At this point, the more the better, really.

Apps are great, but it's the App-styled games that PlayStation Mobile will bring to the table that I think will have a greater impact for Vita.

Squiggle55

#5

Squiggle55 said:

I could definitely use a few more apps. Something like a weather app would be nice. And one for stocks. The upcoming wake up club. Hulu Plus. Gamefly. A playstation blog app. That would all be great.

Kayoss

#6

Kayoss said:

Let not get ahead of ourself here. As much as I want more apps and more quirks for the Vita. Sony first need to drop the price on memory card. No point of releasing tons of apps and IOS like games and not have enough space for it because most people cant afford a larger memory card. I have a 32gb (its very hard for me to pay for it but I felt it had to be done) but now its filling up quickly and Im not about to dish out another $100 for another 32gb memory card (it like paying for another PS Vita after buying two 32gb memory card). Sony needs to release a larger size memory card at a reasonable price a 32gb Micro SD is sell for $35 at most retail stores now.

belmont

#7

belmont said:

I don't like that in Skype you can only call and not chat with text.
Another thing is that Vita doesn't have Greek characters in the keyboard (the 3DS had a full Greek keyboard since launch) and for example I can't search in youtube for Greek videos.
Apart from the Greek characters and Skype I like twitter, facebook and youtube. I haven't tried the other applications.

I would like a good video player application. Vita can surely handle some high quality mkv videos and it isn't easy to convert them.

However, as far as applications are concerned I think that Sony will permit the publication of more on Playstation Mobile.

nickcarney

#9

nickcarney said:

I haven't used any of the apps that came built in. Probably because I already have a smartphone and iPad. Sony should focus almost entirely on what tablets CAN'T do (and do better).

Squiggle55

#10

Squiggle55 said:

I don't disagree that Sony should focus on games, but it's not like they're asking Guerrilla Games to make a weather app. there's no reason not to have some third party throw together little apps like that or to partner with the Hulu folks. The games are being made either way.

Mandoble

#13

Mandoble said:

While this article is mostly aiming to social apps, there are many people that for one reason or other are quite fascinated by the mini apps, these that usually come with the device by default, free ones and simple ones. A calculator, notepad, address book and mini games, classic ones and again for free.

mibtar

#14

mibtar said:

html 5 and flash support. i mean jeez, at least get the browser to work well. it's just so annoying that you can't even view a video of a page that you're currently browsing. is it also a marketing plan that they would limit the browser? would it really drive away game developers if they find out that vita users are playing flash games on their vita's browser? i don't think so.
what's the point of being game-centric if there are very few games for a specific genre anyway.
just give us a browser that feels like we're using a computer while we're waiting for that games that we like. they don't even have to spend resources in making those social apps whatever because you can already access them in the browser.

rjejr

#15

rjejr said:

I have an iPod Touch and not a Vita and my 3 most used apps are the built in email app, which is limited but lets me read and reply to email all day, the included stock app which I think is by Yahoo, and the Dolphin browser. Having these 3 things would go a long way in piquing my interest.
And while we're on the subject, where's the PushSquare/NintendoLife app ;-)

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