Sony is not taking any chances this holiday season. It just announced a new set-top box to take control of the living room, the PS Vita TV. Currently Apple is making great progress in being a living-room TV device, so how does the PS Vita TV stack up against it?
The PS Vita is a small lightweight device that competes with other video units such as Apple TV and Roku, it will have channels such as Twitter and Hulu, providing streaming, social and entertainment services that are 3rd-party based. It will most likely inherit a lot of the services that the PS3 and PS4 have, including Netflix, Vudu, Amazon Prime and others. The unit has an HDMI port, memory card slot, USB and Ethernet. It also has a card port for Vita games. That’s right, the same games you can play on the PS Vita can also be played on the PS Vita TV. Well, almost all the same games. The portable PS Vita has some features, like a touch pad that will not be available using the PS Vita TV. The unit will support the Sony controller, the DualShock Wireless controller, which does not include the touch pad, although there are many games, especially older ones, that will run just fine on the PS Vita TV. A neat feature is that the device will allow remote play by interfacing with the Playstation 4, it will allow playing games via mobile on a second screen when you are in a different room than the PS4.
The unit is a combo of items — like Roku, Ouya, Google’s Chromecast, and other similar devices, but it may be best set up against Apple TV, as it challenges it for living room entertainment. Apple TV has a refined interface and many streaming services. It can allow second-screen gameplay by using an iOS device such as an iPad, iPhone or iPod, but it does not have games built in. The PS Vita does have games, via the side memory slot, but these will not be console-quality. Perhaps more near-console quality. These games will be made for a 5in screen (PS Vita handheld) and then blown up to 55in or 65in, so it will be interesting to see how it pans out. But like the Roku that supports some casual games (like Angry Birds) with its motion controller remote, the PS Vita TV will play real games, like first-person shooters, sports, RPGs, racing and many more. It could breathe life into the currently somewhat static state of the PS Vita handheld ecosystem.
What the PS Vita TV really needs to do is capture the attention of those looking at streaming boxes. Stacked up against the Apple TV, it could do a lot of the same and as a bonus by also playing games. Otherwise the PS Vita TV will only appeal to those in the Playstation ecosystem — those who already have a PS3 or PS4 and a PS Vita handheld unit. That will be a narrower slice, but it could certainly be enough to keep it going for years. A better bet would be to market it as Sony’s answer to Apple TV. The unit ships in Japan next month and is expected to possibly launch in the U.S. at a later date. Sony may be pondering what its chances are and how it will spin the marketing. But in the end, it’s a low-cost, multi-purpose streaming entertainment box from a major player who is not Apple. And that alone makes it a device to keep an eye on.