Fixed that for you: How we’d save the Sony PS Vita

The Vita is ailing, but this regiment should help save Sony’s handheld.
How to fix the Sony PS Vita
Fixed that for you: How we'd save the Sony PS Vita © Sony
By Jon Partridge

Has it really been two and a half years since Sony’s flagship handheld, the PlayStation Vita first launched? While the original PlayStation Portable found success as one of the best consoles to play RPGs on the go, its successor has lagged behind Nintendo’s mighty 3DS due to its high price and lack of AAA grade exclusives – at least to start with.

With the arrival of the PS4 and a slew of new cross platform indie games, things are starting to look up for the Vita, but there’s more work to be done. Here’s our tip sheet for Sony on how to beat out its rivals, rule the handheld scene and become more than just a glorified home console accessory.

Bundle it with the PS4

Sony needs to get more Vitas into more gamers’ hands, and one easily solution is the pair it up with its brand spanking new flagship PlayStation 4 in one single box. Sony has plans for a PS4 and PS Vita bundle – known as the Ultimate Player Edition – to launch later this year, but there’s no firm word of when, and how much it’ll cost. If it hits the right price point – $500, say – it could be the best move Sony could make for its lagging handheld, and the perfect gift for under the Christmas tree.

More games from first-party publishers

© Sony

The PS Vita is in need of a healthy dosage of top-name games, not just watered down ports or spin-off stories. Shuhei Yoshida, President of Sony’s Worldwide Studios has even said that first-party support is slowly dripping away too, with fewer and fewer big projects planned for the handheld, meaning the Vita needs a AAA-injection, and fast. We’ve hardly seen any titles that match the jaw-dropping clout of Killzone: Mercenary or Uncharted: Golden Abyss, games that launched early on in the Vita’s life-cycle.

© Sony

How about a new model with extra shoulder buttons?

Remote Play on your portable Vita is one of the best features Sony’s tiny titan has, letting you pick up and play your full-sized PS4 TV epics away from the couch, but there’s one problem: emulated controls. Tapping on your screen is certainly no substitute for clicking in the thumbsticks, or pulling on the rear shoulder buttons, which is why we’d love to see Sony roll out a new Vita model with enhanced physical controls for true gaming on the go. The latest redesigned Slim PCH-2000 model could also do with a spec boost too: gone is the glorious OLED display that was first spotted on the original model, replaced with an inferior LCD panel – let’s see Sony pull out all of the stops with a brand new Vita model, as it could be the portable PS4 powerhouse in your pocket.

© Sony

Fix Remote Play

You could argue that the Vita’s killer feature is Remote Play – in theory, you can play PS4 games on your PS Vita anywhere in the world, so long as you’ve got a Wi-Fi connection – but the reality right now is underwhelming. Quality drops even when in a different room on the same Wi-Fi network at home, and on the road games are all but unplayable. Sony needs to make setting up the perfect connection even easier if Remote Play is going to get better, especially when you’re mooching a coffee shop’s Internet connection. If OnLive can manage remote play on mobiles, why can’t Sony?

PlayStation 2 Classics

The Vita is the perfect handheld for kicking back with classic PlayStation games, both of the PSone and PSP variety – but what it really needs is full-blown PS2 support, not just the occasional remaster like Final Fantasy X HD. We want to see the PlayStation Store littered with PS2 classics, such as Gran Turismo 4, Final Fantasy XII and Zone of the Enders 2. PlayStation Now could also be the perfect way to do this, as the Vita is capable of tapping into Sony’s streaming service – we just need to see Sony launch the service, with plenty of first-class catalogue classics.

© Sony

Retro infusion

Sony doesn’t need to just rely on its own hefty backlog of PlayStation titles from its vast system libraries – why couldn’t it pull a Nintendo and launch its own virtual console that also features classic games and systems too? Just because Sega’s systems and games are on Nintendo’s digital download service doesn’t mean they have to stay there – how about some arcade classics as well, while we’re at it.

Open up apps

Many gamers have ditched handheld consoles in favour of smartphones but what if the Vita was opened up for even more apps aside from games, video and social networking? Video streaming is one of the top uses for the Vita, as it’s capable of running Netflix, Hulu and CrunchyRoll to name a few, but why not add other apps too? We’d love to see apps like Spotify or Shazam roll out, or even Skype gaining messaging functionality, or even something like a Translation app that could make the most of the Vita’s camera, just like Google Glass does. Heck, we’d love to see an app store of Google Play or Amazon scale. C’mon Sony – you can make it happen.

Use standard memory cards

When you want to expand the storage of your Vita, you have to use Sony’s own proprietary memory card – and it’s not even any of the sort that Sony has used before, such as its irksome Memory Stick Duo. Nope, you have to shell out for Sony’s expensive Vita cards instead of a microSD, for example, which not only would be cheaper, but would also help would-be customers get onboard too – some people may be confused as to why a microSD card won’t work. Nintendo’s on the right track with its 3DS, as it takes a standard, full-sized SD card, which is as commonplace as a USB thumb drive these days, and almost as cheap. It makes you wonder why Sony is taking the more user-unfriendly approach when it comes to boosting storage, especially when you consider the company makes it easy to switch out hard drives yourself on its home consoles.

More colours

More colours
More colours © Sony

The PlayStation Vita was recently refreshed with a slim and light model, and it arrives in any shade you fancy – as long as that’s black. Unlike over in Japan, the West is only treated to a single dark hue for the Vita, while it’s rolled out in six different colours on Sony’s home soil. White, blue, yellow, pink, grey and black hues are available to be snapped up, and we’d love to see Sony roll those colours out elsewhere across the world aside from Japan. It simply screams individuality, and would do well to set each Vita apart from the plain black colour each one currently comes in.

Better PlayStation Network game support

There are some incredible indie digital downloads on the PlayStation Network that don’t tax your PS3 at all, and would be perfect for the PS Vita – thought provoking puzzlers and ambient adventure games like Braid and Journey, to name but a few. Right now though, a Vita version has to be handled as a proper port. Sony needs to bring more of these classics to life on the go, through a better software developer kit, outreach to developers and firmware updates to the PS Vita. A pipe dream? Possibly, but one that would give the Vita’s game catalogue the kick it so sorely needs.

How would you fix the PS Vita? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments below...

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