As expected, Amazon broadcast its arrival into the microconsole space today. The straightforwardly named Fire TV is a miniscule set top box designed to stream media applications such as Netflix and Hulu to your television. However, in addition to being a conduit for video content, the miniscule machine can also be upgraded with a gamepad, allowing you to play smartphone-esque titles with more traditional button-based controls. It’s a concept that sounds similar to Sony’s own PS Vita TV – but has the platform holder’s hesitation prompted the Japanese giant’s solution to lose signal?
Despite only being announced for Japan initially, there was plenty of pent-up demand for the PlayStation maker’s own Ouya-inspired unit late last year. Inundated with requests about the device, Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida cleverly told consumers to “stay tuned” for a Western release. Alas, it’s been over six months since the diminutive device’s announcement, and there’s still no word on a North American or European launch. Group president Andrew House admitted in December that the platform has “strong market potential”, but that’s the last that we heard.
It would seem, then, that the manufacturer has been pipped to the post. When the market was occupied by little other than the Roku or Apple TV, the PlayStation maker’s intrinsic ability to pair games with media may have been a selling point. However, that’s something that Amazon’s box is now already doing, with its newly established Game Studios division comprising of Strider developer Double Helix and high-profile employees such as Portal creator Kim Swift and Ubisoft luminary Clint Hocking.
With Sony opting to sit on the PS Vita TV hardware outside of Japan, it may ultimately end up regretting its indecisiveness
Sony, of course, also has an impressive roster of developers on its pay roll, but the PS Vita TV’s approach to gaming appears muddled in a post-Fire TV planet. While the Japanese giant’s microconsole is technically capable of playing releases such as Soul Sacrifice, Killzone: Mercenary, and the God of War: Collection, its association with the manufacturer’s portable platform means that titles such as Tearaway – which rely heavily on touchscreen interfaces – simply won’t function on the format. It’s an oversight that House and crew perhaps recognised when looking overseas.
However, we can’t help but feel that it’s still missed an opportunity. The manufacturer’s biggest competitor in the microconsole space last year would have been the Ouya – a device which has struggled to establish itself outside of the initial wave of Kickstarter supporters. With a strong selection of apps – many of which are already available in the firm’s ecosystem – and well communicated software support, it could have been enjoying the attention that Fire TV is currently commanding over six months ago. Instead, the market just became even more challenging to penetrate.
Alas, the one ace up its figurative sleeve remains cloud streaming service PlayStation Now. Amazon’s own device may be able to go toe-to-toe with the PS Vita TV in overall multimedia functionality, but unless the platform holder opts to provide access to its on-demand gaming platform on competing appliances, then its own solution may have a compelling trump card. After all, we doubt that you’ll be playing experiences of The Last of Us, Puppeteer, or God of War: Ascension’s quality on a Fire TV anytime soon.
Still, we suppose it remains to be seen whether that’s even a selling point for the audience most likely to invest in a microconsole – or, indeed, whether there’s even a market at all. As already alluded, the Ouya has flopped beyond its initial wave of crowdfunding, and despite the logo on its packaging, even the Apple TV has struggled to make an impact worldwide. However, with Sony opting to sit on the PS Vita TV hardware outside of Japan, it may ultimately end up regretting its indecisiveness if the Fire TV takes off in a big way.
Do you think that Sony has missed an opportunity to establish the PS Vita TV in Western territories? Can the diminutive device compete with Amazon’s Fire TV, or has the ship all but sailed on the system? Tune in courtesy of the comments section below.
Do you think that Sony should still release the PS Vita TV overseas? (68 votes)
Yes, I still really want one
Hmm, I’m not sure
No, the opportunity’s gone
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