My frustrations with mobile gaming are well documented. Despite the impressive technology and awesome UI built into smartphones nowadays, finding an iOS or Android game that’s worth playing when you aren’t on the crapper is nigh impossible. I haven’t given up on my Quixotic quest (which Psydra could easily end with an iOS port of Dark Scavenger), but my frustrations lead to the purchase of a handheld device built specifically for mobile gaming: Sony’s PS Vita.
An attractive piece of technology, the Vita is sleek, it’s light, and it fits easily in my hands despite my long fingers and the touch panel on the back that requires a looser grip. It’s got one of the crispest screens I’ve seen on any kind of handheld. The touch functionality is accurate and easy to reach without having to shift your hold on the unit. The home screen is an intuitive imitation of iOS that scrolls vertically rather than horizontally. The PSN store is organized in a logical fashion, separating Vita games, cross-play games, PSP games, and free demos into separate categories. There’s a Netflix app and a Skype app.
My only complaint with the Vita was the difficulty I had trying to give Sony my money. Neither of my credit cards worked in the PSN store. I know the information I entered was correct because I saw the $1 test charges hit my accounts. For whatever reason, something between my banks and PSN just didn’t jive. And when you try to purchase something in the store unsuccessfully a few times, PSN locks out your account for 24 hours. Support can’t unlock it for you, which is flat out stupid. I’ve resorted to purchasing PSN cards at 7-11. It’s an annoying extra step, but it doesn’t ruin my overall experience.
Sony recently announced that the Vita has sold 1.8 million units, a paltry number compared to Nintendo’s 3DS and its 10.5 million sold. Many analysts are also comparing its sales numbers to those of the iPad, which is just stupid and unfair. We’re dealing with two completely different classes of device here. If you want an entertainment center, you get an iPad. If you want a gaming machine, you get a Vita. The cross-section of people who have to decide between the two would seem to be pretty small, given the aforementioned dearth of quality iOS games for those of us who want something deeper than launching birds at rickety houses inhabited by green pigs.
The difference in quality between Sony’s handheld and bigger console games is negligible at best. So the Vita has a smaller screen than that massive TV to which you’ve hooked your Playstation or XBox; the games are just as good and the controls are just as comfortable and responsive. I really wish smartphone gaming would get its act together so I only have to carry one device around, but for now I’m content to throw the Vita in my bag whenever I want to game on the go.