Matt Gemmell Reviews the PlayStation Vita

Aside from a dashing cameo by me, Matt Gemmell has done a fantastic job with his PlayStation Vita review. Frequent readers will know that I have thus far been on the fence about purchasing the device and, while I have yet to take the plunge, Mr. Gemmell has certainly made the proposition that much more intriguing. Matt concludes:

The Vita is a compelling device, with exceptionally impressive performance, reasonable battery life, and a usable, responsive user interface. There aren’t any major down-sides or problems that I’ve noticed.

Further endorsement of the device arrived this weekend in a review by Kevin Sintumuang for The Wall Street Journal.

If anyone needs me, I'll be back on the PlayStation Vita's Amazon product page for the rest of the day.

Aimlessly Thinking About the PlayStation Vita

The Vita has suffered a rapid decline in sales in Japan, it has missed the lucrative holiday shopping window, and there is an evident dearth of content on the horizon. The digital distribution of games is clunky and the cost of storage is laughably enormous. Meanwhile, Sony is undercutting the device's relevance by evidently broadening its PlayStation certification reach in the Android device marketplace.

And yet, despite its failings, the Vita represents an impressive flourish from Sony.

Rather than building a device that perpetuates handheld gaming as we increasingly perceive it in App Stores and Nintendo devices, the Vita exudes maturity, immersive detail, and impressive implementation. Perhaps handheld gaming as we know it is dying, but the Vita is certainly a brilliant piece of concluding punctuation. With a beautiful screen, robust hardware, and virtually every handheld gaming device design and control paradigm incorporated, the Vita seeks to provide blockbuster entertainment akin to its console brethren, but in an attractive portable medium. To build a "third screen" device capable of phenomenal, versatile entertainment that allows you to keep your television open, and your games with you at all times.

But for every emphatic positive, there is a looming and ever-strengthening negative: the modern smartphone. A negative Sony is complicit in.

The Vita is probably the last of its kind, the portable PlayStation brand primed for convergence with the smartphone world. But, for everything Sony has done with the Vita, I am impressed.

Every hour or so, despite the obvious pointlessness of the purchase, I find myself on the Vita's Amazon Store page. There are no games on the horizon and only one or two compelling games for the present, but Sony has done something admirable here, and it makes the idealistic gadget lover in me swoon for such a device, regardless of its flaws.

In all likelihood, I will not buy a Vita - I have no reason to - but just as it was with the Dreamcast, I will feel like I missed out on an important piece of entertainment technology in doing so.

If you need me, I'll be sitting on the Vita's Amazon product page aimlessly weighing my options further.

Sony Sells 321,407 PlayStation Vitas In First Two Days

Sony has reportedly sold 321,407 units of its new handheld gaming system, the PlayStation Vita, in Japan within 48 hours of availability. That roughly constitutes half of Sony's initial shipment of the console, and falls short of the Nintendo 3DS's Japanese launch figures by about 50,000 units.

Having perused Ars Technica's list of 2011 gaming joys and disappointments yesterday, I found it interesting that iOS games have become such accepted members of such lists. Apple has, of course, famously pivoted its iPod Touch marketing to emphasize gaming, but it is interesting that they have been able to penetrate gaming's highest honors in a relatively short period.

With mobile devices -- and tablets for that matter -- gaming has been redefined. Just as Nintendo tapped into a new audience of casual gamers with the Wii, iOS and Android devices have fostered a community of casual, commuting gamers. Rarely do you get on a train, a bus, or a plane, and not see people playing Angry Birds or catching up with Words With Friends (just ask Alec Baldwin). Games are cheaper, accessible, upgradeable, and expandable. Development is even much more straightforward.

As such, dedicated handheld gaming devices like the Vita face an uphill battle.

Although the Vita's graphic prowess may be impressive, are other devices so far away from such capability? Perhaps, with chips like the A5 we're already at a level of parity. I am unsure.

The form factor of handheld gaming devices like the Vita and 3DS have a leg up over touch-only interfaces, but I doubt that's enough to encourage any casual gamers into a purchase. Sony must offer a truly compelling library, and some forward-thinking features to remain relevant. While I think they are working hard to do that, I am unconvinced that they'll have much long-term luck.

Dedicated handheld gaming devices are a dying breed.

The Vita is a compelling, attractive piece of hardware, but I cannot help but feel it might be the last of its kind. With Sony actively pursuing the PlayStation licensing on Android, and with rumors of the company building a larger, seamless, Apple-rivaling media experience, I see the portable PlayStation brand being folded into its mobile offerings, not existing as a standalone piece of hardware.

At the end of the day, people don't want to carry multiple devices around unless they have to, and the luxury of carrying a dedicated gaming device is likely set to die out sooner rather than later.