Sony, readying to dish out its first new major gaming console in eight years, just announced a doozy of a device: the PlayStation Vita TV. Don't let its uninspired name and small stature fool you—the PS-branded gizmo could make big waves.
The PS Vita TV Chats Up Your Living Room
The teensy device, measuring 2.56 by 3.94 inches—about the size of a deck of cards—has considerable potential. By acting as a conduit between a television and a PS Vita, the PS Vita TV means that Vita owners can play small screen games up on a big TV screen.
And in true set-top box style, the PS Vita TV also enables streaming services like Hulu, just like a Chromecast or a Roku. The PS Vita TV can also pair with a PlayStation 4 to stream gameplay to a different television if the screen the PS4 is hooked up to is otherwise occupied—a feature that could end some living room cold wars. It's a chatty little thing, that's for sure.
With no screen to speak of, the PS Vita TV acts as a conduit to other PlayStation devices. The device boasts Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and an Ethernet, USB, and HDMI out port. Your eyes can get a break from the scrunch of a PS Vita's 960x544 screen size with 720p and 1080i support for the larger gaming screen in your life, though that will likely come at the cost of some degree of quality.
An Exclusive Club ... For Now
The bad news? Sony made no mention of a North American release for the PS Vita TV, though it'd be hard to imagine that the tiny set-top box won't eventually find its way to Western shores, pending content deals with streaming juggernauts like Hulu and Netflix. The PS Vita TV is priced at 9,954 yen in Japan (roughly $100), where it's set to launch on November 14—one day before the U.S. launch of the PlayStation 4.
Sony also revealed a lighter version of its PS Vita handheld console, which will come in six bright colors and launch in Japan on October 10. The company also announced that the PlayStation 4 won't be launching on its home turf until February 22, 2014—a full three months after the console's big U.S. debut. It's possible that Sony may have staggered the release of the PS4 and PS Vita TV to avoid cannibalizing (or just straight up confusing) its own market.
Sony PlayStation Vita Vs. Nintendo's Little Goliath
Sony's PS Vita is the hardware adversary of the Nintendo DS handheld console family. But in spite of its superior hardware and graphics, the device never caught on like the Nintendo DS, which vies against the PlayStation 2 for the title of the all-time top-selling gaming console. The PS Vita's dearth of good games is often to blame for the handheld's lackluster sales. Competing with the Mario franchise ain't easy.
Still, the PS Vita TV is a compelling step in the right direction, and a stepping stone that gives gamers more flexibility to play how they want, where they want. In the meantime, we just have to hope that the little white set-top multitool makes the long swim to U.S. shores.