Please, pardon that title. I have been out of this game journalism loop (at least on the writing side of things) for a few months now, so I might be a tad rusty at dreaming up clever headlines.
At the recently-held Develop Conference 2011, Sony discussed some interesting features of their forthcoming handheld, the PlayStation Vita. It would appear that the Vita can interact with a PS3 to create an experience not unlike that provided by Nintendo’s Wii U. As this Eurogamer article details, the Vita will be able to receive visual data from the PS3 and display it. And, yes, it will be possible to use the Vita – trackpads, touchscreen, gyroscope and all – as a controller for the PS3.
Now, this is hardly surprising. Personally, I called this myself some months ago, before the Wii U had even been revealed. It makes sense that Sony would see the innovations and benefits that such compatibility could make possible. And, Sony has been more than happy to quietly emulate Nintendo’s ideas in the past (rumble and motion controls immediately come to mind). So, if they have the means to challenge Nintendo’s newest gimmick – and perhaps improve upon it – then why not go for it?
What immediately comes to my mind, though, is this: if Sony really can imitate the Wii U experience through the Vita, Nintendo does not have a fresh, exclusive gimmick to sell the Wii U with. I mean, to my knowledge, nobody really went wild over the Wii U’s unveiling in the first place. But now, as a piece of gaming technology, it is even less unique than it was initially.
I doubt I need to remind anyone, but when the original Wii was launched, its motion-sensitive controller was one-of-a-kind. Yes, Sony and Microsoft did follow suit eventually with the PlayStation Move and the Kinect, but for four years, the Wii was the only kid on the block with the waggle controls. And oh boy, did people love those waggle controls. Nintendo was in a class of their own now; they did not need a piece of the core gamers’ pie, so they left Sony and Microsoft to battle over that while they baked their own pie out of grannies, fad-following Christmas shoppers, and other representatives of the “casual” crowd.
But then, something happened. Nintendo ate their entire pie. Or… the pie went bad. Or the pie figured out that Sony and Microsoft now offer the same experience as the Wii, but with shiny hi-def graphics. Oh yeah, and the pie also figured out that they could play games for cheap on the go with their smartphones. Nintendo is now realizing why it was a mistake to put all their eggs in the basket of the casual crowd: they are not a particularly brand-loyal demographic.
Now, Nintendo wants to make things right. They want their core fans back. Hence the Wii U, a hi-definition console with a potentially intriguing control scheme that promises to deliver graphical experiences on par with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. They even showed us a demo of Link fighting a giant spider in HD, just to get us all pre-salivating even though we probably will not see such a game for a number of years.
But, speaking personally, it is difficult to become excited over the Wii U, because, well… it kinda just feels like Nintendo playing catch-up. The fact that Arkham City, for example, is coming to the Wii U is certainly intriguing, but hardly exciting; I will buy and play the exact same game on my PlayStation 3, which I have owned for years. With the Wii U, Nintendo is clearly trying to re-claim their old piece of pie. But it does not seem genuine, it seems forced, a tad desperate, and above all else, uninspired. The tech is not new. The gimmick is not unique. By all appearances, neither the core nor the casual fad-crowd that made the original Wii such a success have any reason to become excited over this thing.
The PlayStation Vita, however, is in a far more favorable position. In fact, it looks like Sony’s new handheld is poised to offer PS3 owners significant new features and advantages. The ability to use the device as a PS3 controller is only one example; the Vita looks to have several intriguing features such as cross-platform play, remote play, and cloud saving. I like the idea of being able to seamlessly transfer game saves between my PS3 and Vita via cloud saving, and being able to play PSN games on either on the couch or on the go. Also, while I have not held either of them in my hands, it is worth noting that the Vita looks a lot sleeker than the Wii U’s controller.
Now, in fairness, I should point out that we certainly do not know how ambitious developers will be when it comes to integrating cross-platform compatibility in PS3 and Vita games. As has been noted by Sony’s President of Worldwide Studios, Shuhei Yoshida, the Vita was not built from the ground up with cross-platform play in mind. Presumably, when used as a controller, the Vita would interface with the PS3 through a wi-fi connection, which surely could present latency issues. However, another interesting thing that Yoshida reveals in that particular article is that cross-platform play between the Vita and the PS3 was first introduced by developers and that “going forward our design will allow developers to make connectivity easier between platforms.” The point being, I think Sony will be able to make the thing work. They are crafty like that.
My intent is not necessarily to bash Nintendo, but I do think Sony is in a more comfortable place these days. I know it is early in the game, but I have a difficult time seeing the Wii U as much more than an attempt by Nintendo to win back their old fans, many of whom have long since moved on. Sony, on the other hand, is selling the Vita to their very sizable base of core gamers – and simultaneously beating Nintendo to the punch with their own gimmick. What are your thoughts, readers? Do the possibilities of a PlayStation 3 interfacing with a Vita intrigue you? Or are you holding your breath for more info on the Wii U?