Since we’re at the Tokyo Game Show 2013 conference (TGS), it was time to take a closer look at the Japan-only (for now) PlayStation Vita TV, a set-top box version of Sony’s handheld game console. At TGS 2013, Sony was promoting its redesigned PS Vita and the PS Vita TV quite strongly and a quick look at Sony’s TGS booth would show that right away. It may have something to do with that Sony cloud vision that is coming in 2014, but from what I can tell in the Tokyo subway, PSP handheld devices are more popular here than anywhere else in the world, so faith is high here at Sony Japan.
If you have not followed the official launch of the PS Vita TV, it is basically a set top box version of the PS Vita console. The device is quite small since its volume is comparable to something like an Apple TV and it has been designed by Sony to be a companion for your television. As such, it is capable of playing PS Vita games, but as you can guess, it can also access an array of online video services like Hulu and others that are available and compatible.
In a way, it does pretty much everything that an Apple TV does (provided that the services are available), and it plays most PS Vita games (some PS1 games and maybe PS3 games one day) in addition to that – you can check the official compatibility list here. It also uses regular PS controllers, so most people should be quite comfortable when it comes to controls.
When I played with it, I was impressed by how fast the user interface was. In the game console world, this is not really a feat of engineering, but when you see how slow most “set top boxes” are, it is very refreshing to see that you can blaze through the menus at 60FPS and flip pages really quickly. If the video game world has one thing to teach to the TV world it’s about user interface responsiveness.
Games worked just like they would on a PS Vita, except that they are now displaying on the TV. Obviously, this is not PS3-quality, but if you find games that you like, there is clearly a good opportunity to have some real fun here, with a device that has a minuscule footprint. To be honest, most of the other apps seemed to work just fine, but since they were all in Japanese, it was hard for me to relate to most of them. What I can say is that the system performed quite well and it’s the kind of TV experience that I had not seen before in this form-factor.
Given that PS Vita TV should retail for something like $100, and if there is a good amount of services available (Movies…), it may be able to gather some traction. I can see myself using this instead of an Apple TV or Roku box.
After all, once you have Netflix, Hulu and a good selection of movies and TV show, the platform doesn’t really matter much and the PS Vita user interface is pretty cool. As it is the case with most these devices it comes down to “content”. What’s available, when and at what price will determine if the PS Vita TV’s success. What do you think? Would pick one up?
Note that no Vita TV launch has been scheduled for the U.S and Europe at the moment.