Monday, March 11, 2013

Forward thinking - 9 points the Vita II needs to win

My blog is back! Since my last blog entries back in the sands of time I have been thrown into the world of post-university real-life work, and so other interests took a back seat. But here we are on that same old road again and I hope you enjoy my scriptures on the video-game industry. Let's start today with a large issue at the moment - handhelds and the Vita.

When Sony released the Vita I practically drooled looking at it. For any self-confessed geek there is no denying it looks beautiful. I mean, look at it.

I've looked at envy at all 3 guys I've seen using it

I raged against websites such as CNet who slammed it. I won't go into detail but in a nut shell they stated that the iPod Touch was better for gaming. Supposedly they thought that Angry Birds and swiping represents the peak of games. Rather than go into a hulk-esk rant, the nice little blog here (come back after!) will give you a run down as to why smartphones are unable to replace handhelds.

This close.
You should know, I was that close to buying one. And by close I mean the picture to the right. Given the lack of game developers I am now sadly glad I didn't buy one. This is a huge shame because I know I would enjoy holding this on the many train journeys I seem to take.

In my infinite wisdom Sony made some serious design omissions. Try working for a huge multinational company and the reasons quickly become apparent. Big companies are HARD to change. We live in a time when change is happening increasingly quickly. If you try and break a freight train at 30 miles per hour, and change is 30 yards ahead of you, you're going to have a bad time. And probably get fired.

So without further ado, here is what Sony need if they are ever going to make a Vita II. I say need because, given the rate of change, these are now requirements and not options.

NO 1. Akin to Apple's store on the iPhone, open up the indie platform to make it easy for anyone to develop a game for the Vita. Why? Such games are the sort that are ideal when waiting 5 minutes at the train station and can be resumed at a moment's notice without lengthy loading times. Avoid the trash by make it superior to Apple's platform by having stricter checks, thereby maintaining the image of a quality gaming device. This platform would also speed up the number of games available at or soon after launch.

Note: this is to complement the high-spec games of the Vita, not to replace them. The more people who buy and use the Vita for whatever reason will attract the major game developers.

NO 2. Create a very intuitive online marketplace so that you can easily discover and download content. This cannot be stressed enough. We live in an age where for the majority of people User Experience is prime. Don't simply copy Apple though, we want a trailered gaming experience from the moment we turn on the device. 

NO 3. A very good battery. This goes without saying really. A key advantage over smartphones.

NO 4. Fit it within the next-gen PS4 ecosystem. Sony's recent PS4 announcement has hinted at this, and good for them. The possibilities are limitless but I personally love the idea of watching a friend play a game on your Vita screen and then joining in through the power of streaming. Needless to say using the Vita as an extra controller would be a middle finger to Nintendo's efforts to the Wii U.

NO 5. Also play media and include streaming from your computer or Playstation. I would happily also use the Vita for on-the-go music and film; although I use my smartphone for these the battery is always an issue. This links nicely to my next point...

NO 6. Create a platform to allow third-party media developers. Microsoft's Xbox hit the nail on the head with this and everyone I know who regularly plays games on their 360 also uses the likes of Netflix, Lovefilm or Sky. I can almost hear 'pure' gamers angrily arguing that this in turning the Vita into a glorified smartphone, but if I could use Spotify on my Vita while playing games then I would be a very happy bunny. By limiting yourself to your own closed platform then in consequence you are limiting how your customers use your product. It stands to reason that the more customers use your product, the more developers you attract.

NO 7. A great 'friends' platform. This is closely linked to No 4's eco-system but it deserves a point of its own. Gaming has and always been social and we live in a time where you expect the same experience online with your friends as actually going over to their house for a gaming session. I am convinced that Xbox Live's excellent social features is what ultimately drove the Xbox to success.

NO 8. Make a financial loss on the Vita when you release it. Why? If you want something to sell well then it must be affordable. Everyone reads reviews before they buy, but if said review states a product is great yet overpriced then this will no doubt sway potential buyers away. Successful gaming devices will make their money through games (and let's not forget third party media apps where Sony would get a nice cut). 

NO 9. Understand your market when advertising. I am almost cringing writing this. The Vita's advertisements were awful. In summary they represented their target audience as anti-social and sexually repressed teenagers. Comparing the Vita to a woman with four breasts is just one example of many. I risk coming off as a Microsoft fanboy, but here is one of the greatest gaming adverts I have ever seen. Smart, funny and underlines Live's social features.

Having 10 points would be nice, but this concludes my weekend musings. Are there any other points you think this blog has missed?

Until next week!

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