Yesterday Sony revealed the Vita TV and for the most part I think it's genius. The industry has long been waiting for a new sub $300 console and attempts made by the Ouya have largely fallen flat. For $99 you get a tremendous value as the system can play PS1/PSP/PS Vita games all while offering the functionality of a set top box like Apple TV.
However, I feel like some aspects of the Vita TV misses the mark and will fail to resonate strongly with a more casual and mainstream audience. I think it has the potential to be an incredible devices for familes and children, but some these things really hold it back.
The following makes assumptions about the US retail prices for the Vita TV and Vita TV bundle to be $99 and $149 respectively.
No included remote/controller
For $99 you get the box and only the box. This assumes you already have DualShock 3 or whatever other PlayStation accessory it may be compatible with. This then begs the question that if you already have a PS3, why would you buy a set top box that is inferior in media services, video quality, network functionality, and games library.
The most obvious solution is to simply bundle a cheap remote like the Apple TV. Another solution is to create a smartphone app that can control Vita TV similarly to the Vita's touchscreen.
The Vita TV boasts a blazing fast quad core Samsung CPU as well as a quad core GPU that is speced similar to a $500 iPad3 or iPad 4. Yet despite this, it can't handle 1080p video playback and maxes out at 720p/1080i. By comparison, even the Apple TV's piddlingly tiny single core chip can handle 1080p videos.
Network Media Playback
At this moment the PS Vita is currently incapable of streaming media over a network media server. One of Apple TV's biggest selling points is being able to playback videos and music from with a router hooked up to a device such as a Windows computer or external hard drive. Having expandable memory helps, but the expensive memory cards and large game sizes makes this impractical. And no one wants to bother connecting the Vita TV to a computer and sync just to watch a movie.
Still uses the expensive, proprietary memory cards
Sony still doesn't understand that these memory cards are the biggest problem with both the Vita and now the Vita TV. Of all the things they did well with the PS Vita-2000, this was still the major drawback. The faster Sony moves to a non-proprietary memory card solution like a microsd, the better.
Uses a touchscreen UI for a TV screen
The Vita TV uses the same exact UI from the PS Vita. This is usable thanks to a firmware patch that allowed players to navigate the UI using buttons instead of the touchscreen. However, the UI is still extremely clunky to use with a controller whether it navigating arduously from icon to icon or trying to quickly check notifications or move between apps. Hopefully the Vita TV takes advantage of the four extra buttons, but having the DualShock 4's touchpad for simple things like navigating between pages or scrolling would have been nice.
Being designed for the DualShock 3, not the DualShock 4
As mentioned above there are quite a bit of advantages to having the Vita TV ship with a DualShock 4 instead of a DualShock 3. Being able to do simple gestures like swiping or scrolling brings allows developers to transition from Vita to Vita TV more seemlessly. More importantly however is the fact that the DualShock 3 does not work with the PS4. That means anyone who uses the Vita TV and wants to eventually upgrade to the PS4, can't use their controller. It also means that someone who has a Vita TV and plays with friends that have PS4s, can't bring their controllers over. But most of all, it introduces more fragmentation to an already divided eco-system. Introducing two new consoles with two different controllers makes the PlayStation ecosystem less united and just more messy. It's bad enough that the DualShock 3 won't work with the PS4, it's even worse when they package it with a new console.
No built-in camera
This one is odd but I think the Vita TV could really use the same, cheap camera from the PS Vita. There are quite a few Vita games that require a camera for gimmicky functions and moving them to the Vita TV would be a bit easier. The best part however, is that if this is a console aimed for families and casual gamers, having a cheap $99 set top box you can Skype on a TV with is a functionality that neither Apple TV nor Wii have. Skype is already available on the PS Vita, so not having a camera built into the body of the Vita TV feels like a lost opportunity to me.
That being said I'm very pleased with a lot of the decisions made for the Vita TV. It's an extremely powerful device for the price and with services like Crunchyroll and Hulu Plus coming, it's media services will be very compelling. Being able to play the PS4 from any TV in the house is something I would have loved to have had when I was a kid always fighting to use the big screen tv. I've listed quite a few complaints, but I think the Vita TV is a phenomenal value with fantastic functionality.
Desktop: AMD Phenom X4 955, ATI Radeon 7950 :: Laptop: Intel i7-3532QM, ATI Radeon 7670m
Consoles: 3DS XL, PS Vita, Zelda 3DS, PS3 Super Slim, DSi, PSP Go, PS3 Fat, Wii, GameCube, PS2
Now Playing: Metroid Prime 2, Dark Souls, Fallout: New Vegas, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, Persona 4: Golden