One Month With the PlayStation Vita: What Went Wrong?

Mark's been spending some quality time with the PlayStation Vita, only to find himself bashing his head against a brick wall in despair.

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As listeners to the GameSpot UK Podcast will know, I've had my doubts about the PlayStation Vita. Its size, its use of proprietary memory cards, its price. And now, having had one in my possession for over a month, those doubts have solidified. It is a relic; a product of a bygone era of handheld gaming that has learned little from the mistakes of its predecessors and the direction of the industry as a whole.

Sure, from a purely technological standpoint, it's impressive. The 5-inch OLED screen is something to behold, displaying visuals that would have been unthinkable on a handheld just a few short years ago. It has every input method you could possibly want: dual analog sticks, a touch screen, a rear touch pad, gyroscope, accelerometer, cameras, and a GPS. And it's pretty darn comfortable to use too.

But to view the Vita purely as a technological achievement would be missing the point somewhat--it's all about the software. And I don't mean games (you'll have to wait until next week for my take on those). For any product to really succeed in today's market--whether it is a phone, tablet, or handheld console--it has to be easy to use, have a UI that doesn't make you want to smack your head against a brick wall, and have an ecosystem full of content that's reasonably priced.

The Vita has none of those things. It comes close, but there are so many niggles, so many things that make using one frustrating that I've grown to loathe using it.

Let's start at the top: the UI. It's functional at best. From a purely superficial point of view, I don't think it looks nice at all. It's like someone handed over the UI design to a 5-year-old child with a fetish for Smarties and a penchant for drawing in crayon. It's bright, garish, and lacks sophistication. Start using it and things get worse.

"It's like someone handed over the UI design to a 5-year-old child with a fetish for smarties"

For starters, there's unlocking the damn thing. When you press the power button to wake it up, there's a three to four second delay before the screen comes on so you can peel away the fancy lock screen to access the main menu. It's long enough to make you wonder if your button press registered or if the battery might be flat, causing you to push the button again and inevitably relock it.

Say you want to change some settings. When you tap on the shiny green settings icon, you're presented with another screen that asks you to "Start" settings. Why? I've tapped on settings, so clearly I want to change them; there's no need for another step. There's also a five-second delay while the settings menu loads after click start. WHY? It's a settings menu, not an eyeball-melting polygon fest. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. There are confusing and inconsistent AI elements, a painfully slow Web browser, the fact that the "Friends," "Messaging," and "Party" functions are inexplicably divided into three separate apps…the list goes on and on.

How about charging the Vita over a USB? That's something everything does nowadays, so it should just work right? Wrong. You have to go into settings and enable USB charging. Why? When would I not want my Vita to charge over a USB? Will the power demands be so great that my laptop will spontaneously combust? Do I risk turning the Vita in a sentient being with a thirst for human flesh? Oh, and forget about using all those spare mini/micro USB cables you have lying around to charge it. The Vita uses a proprietary cable. If you lose it, it's off to the shops for another before you can recharge. Hooray for progress.

Then there's multitasking, or lack thereof. Here's an example. You're playing a game and you get stuck. "I know! I'll use the Vita's built in Web browser to look up a guide! Hooray for technology!" Except, you can't do that. If you try to boot up the browser, you have to close any game you have open. "But, hey, I can just boot it up again. Where's the problem?" Sure, you can do that, if you don't mind horrendous loading times.

Some games are worse than others, but by the time you've gotten back to the main game menu, loaded your save game, and got into the action, you've already wasted three or four minutes. That's long enough to make a quick blast on a bus journey immensely frustrating. How in this day and age a device can go without any form of simple multitasking is beyond me. We expect these things. They're commonplace across almost every computer, phone, and tablet we use.

"If the Vita is Sony's attempt to pry people away from their mobiles, then I despair."

And that's the Vita's biggest problem. It's not competing with just specialized gaming devices like the 3DS; it's competing with every single Android, iOS, or Windows Phone device on the market. I'm sure Sony knows that, but if the Vita is its attempt to pry people away from their mobiles, then I despair. It's not as easy to use; lacks basic functionality such as multitasking; doesn't have a library of Apps to expand its functionality; and--most importantly of all--the games are far too expensive.

Mobiles have changed how we consume portable games and how much we think we should be paying for them. The new standard is 69p ($0.99), with £4.99 seemingly expensive. And while it would be remiss of me to compare the likes of Angry Birds to something like Uncharted: Golden Abyss (£40), Angry Birds is a great game. It's cheap, can be downloaded anywhere, and provides more than enough entertainment for the morning commute. There are more than just cheap thrills available on the App Store too. Just look at the likes of Infinity Blade II, Grand Theft Auto III, or the recently released Ghost Trick for evidence of that.

I'm not convinced that the lure of big names like Uncharted or Wipeout is enough for people to drop £40 on a portable game anymore--at least not at the levels that the DS and PSP sustained. Especially when it's tied to a device that starts at £230, without a memory card that costs an extortionate £30 for a mere 8GB of space. They're proprietary of course, so you can't go buying cheap SD cards to fill with games. And forget about sharing your Vita with the family because each is tied to a single user account, as are the games. It's like Sony's been screwing us for so long that it just expects us sit there and take it.

Except, we're not. We've been wined, dined, and given a gentlemanly kiss goodnight by the likes of Apple, Google, and Amazon, and you know what? It felt pretty darn good. Things aren't perfect with those companies, but they're a damn sight better than they are with Sony, which has completely failed to respond to where the market is going and where consumers are spending their money. It has resulted in an overpriced, gargantuan piece of hardware that--while impressive at a technical level--just incites anger at every turn.

Unlike my phone, I don't need to carry a Vita around with me. And, given my experience, I don't want to either.

Discussion

875 comments
Ceocold
Ceocold

The way I see it is you get what you pay for. Sure angry birds is only 99 cent but if you sit down and play it you can complete the whole thing in about 3 hours. Mourning commute is about 45 minutes long. I just downloaded FF8 for $10, if I played that for an hour and a half each day the game would last for would last for months. I would say im getting more for my money with the vita. 

managerz
managerz

I think sony just has some bad marketing. It's not that they've failed to respond to where the market is going, but they don't know how to make their devices enticing. Apple succeeds because they don't necessarily respond to the market as much as they lead it. They introduce new devices no one cares about and then lead everyone to want them.

managerz
managerz

Sony isn't trying to screw its customers. If they are then so is apple. Proprietary memory cards are better than no exchangeable memory. Apple's been charging some extra $100 for just 24GB of more memory for years and Apple also ties its mobile devices to one Itunes account just like sony ties the PSVITA to one PSN account.

I can understand that some people are satisfied by the likes of angry birds and temple run, but if people are willing to drop £40 on a console game, why wouldn't they for a console quality VITA game?

imprezawrx500
imprezawrx500

Oh and anyone who says touch controls don't work haven't played a real game on one.  They work better than psp for most things on games built for touch.  gta3 is a bit iffy but that's not surprising considering it pretty much as just put on screen buttons for everything.  A true touch game like shadowgun works just about as well as a x360 game. 

imprezawrx500
imprezawrx500

Phones really are going to take over, just look at Mass Effect infiltrator or Shadowgun if you say phones don't have game that compete with the vita, funny thing is it seems companies like ea are more interested in ios and android than vita or 3ds.  Why do I need to carry two devices around when my phone has amazing games that look almost as good as some console games and actually fits in my pocket. The space the vita would take up would be better used for some spare batteries.  $3 vs $40 for games I know which I would pick when both offer almost the same experience. 

ale_gamr
ale_gamr

This guy is a freaking nutjob. I call BS. I've never had any of these problems with my vita and you don't turn the damn thing off everytime, simply put it on sleep... all his time duration estimates are clearly exagerated. What console has a billion titles a few months after release. There was a USB charge option on the PSP and just like the PSP you only have to enable it once. You can't compare simple games like angry birds to Uncharted, blazblue, ninja gaiden etc. That's a dumb thing to do. You have the option to download games online or buy physical copies.

Too much BS for one guy.

The only valid point this douchebag made were about the web browser.

crazydavey
crazydavey

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

bakagami
bakagami

@GertFroop yeah, something similar happened to mine too but the power button hold worked for me. took longer than 20 seconds tho. I blame Uncharted which was buggy as hell as it hasn't happened on any other game, including the Unit 13 demo. you must be in the UK tho since we don't have Stardust demo. sry to hear about your Vita, that sucks. seems like some units are more reliable than others. I have a friend in another forum had all sorts of craziness going on with his, took it back & exchanged it & has had no trouble since.

GertFroop
GertFroop

Hmmm I had a system crash on the Vita last night which rendered the device useless until the battery had exhausted (as there is no means of a hard reset). Real shame as I had updated FW to 1.61 via CMA ok, setup PSN, setup WiFi ok with WEP, configured a ton of settings, played Uncharted no problem, downloaded Unit 13 and StarDust demos ok. Problem came running Unit 13 Demo when the sound cut off, I quit the game ok, no notifications, powered down the system, then the PS key started flashing blue and that was it, nothing worked after that (did the 20s power hold). Really bummed as I can't trust it with my downloaded data or saves now, so I got a refund.

bakagami
bakagami

@wcwj26 BTW, I research products for a living, I don't need lessons from the likes of you. there is nothing anywhere about the difficulties of development for the PSVIta, it does not exist on pages 1, 2 or even 10. you are full of s hit but you keep trying to defend your lies. Give it up already What is your deal anyway? Why should you care? Do you get some sort of perverse pleasure in trying to convince people that the things they love are crap? Are you that petty, or is it jealousy? What a sad pathetic cretin you must be. This will be my last response to you. grow up

bakagami
bakagami

@wcwj26 the PSP didn't fail, its still selling. It doesn't matter if it makes Sony money or not, what matters is if I have fun playing the games & my PSP game me years of fun. I'm not a fanboy like you. I actually look for points of failure in the systems that I buy. you still haven't given me sources about how the Vita is hard to program for you liar. fess up, you're just talking s hit. you don't actually have any facts. I read the 1up article, its about the sales in JP & the projected sales here in the US has some devs spooked. says nothing about the difficulty in programming. so try it again liar. ~edit: you'll not that I don't even care enough about you to thumb you down. nothing but a joke that keeps telling itself over & over again

wcwj26
wcwj26

@bakagami maybe you should try looking further than the first 2 pages of Google then! But being a PS fanboy your probably avoiding it on purpose. As for PS3 having it best year ever. That's like a AIDS victim saying last year was better than the year before. It doesn't matter, its dying anyway! Also you say Sony have never made a failed system, then explain PSP? It never recuperated its hardware and software development costs which in business terms means its a FAILURE! And the VITA won't be far behind it (http://www.1up.com/news/sony-denies-vita-losing-support).

wcwj26
wcwj26

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

bakagami
bakagami

What I don't understand is, why so many people seem to want the Vita to fail. not wanting to buy it yourselves I can understand, its not for everyone (as much as Sony would like it to be, lol) but some people here are making s hit up trying to convince everyone that it has already failed, why would they want to, its not like their lives would be effected one way or the other. Just for the record, Sony's gaming systems have never failed yet, and they are not going to this time either, not with a device that is this awesome.

bakagami
bakagami

@wcwj26 we'll see wont we, not that you'll ever admit that you were wrong. I actually own both systems, The PS3 just had the best year ever & is poised to top it this year. Only thing that you said that is right is that there is no killer app for the Vita . that's what a launch line up is typically like. How many "killer apps" did the 3DS have at launch but it's still doing pretty well now, huh? you still haven't quoted any references to the Vita being hard to program for & my search results keep coming up with zilch, so yeah I think you are talking out of your ass. So, put up or shut up

wcwj26
wcwj26

@bakagami Im pulling facts out my ass! You are joking right?? If you don't even no the basics mate its seem to me there's only 1 fool in this conversation! Keep dreaming things up in your head pal, and enjoy the overpriced, under achieving, short lived handheld!

wcwj26
wcwj26

@bakagami I can't afford 1?? Good thing I don't want the pile of crap then!

da_nibbler
da_nibbler

good points Mark. thanks for the insight. am definitely waiting to hear the mainstream users' reactions to the Vita before buying one myself. especially with the price tag this is a piece of hardware one needs to think about..... cheers for the article ;)

grbolivar
grbolivar

Why would I want to game on a smartphone?

xDARKGUITARISTx
xDARKGUITARISTx

Gotta love how not even a month into the launch period these so called editors are making assumptions that because Angry Birds caters to the retarded, the Vita is going to fail. I mean really guys? Take the best the iOS has to offer and pit that against even the launch lineup of the PSV. Woo Infinity Blade, Angry Birds, and Fruit Ninja. The iOS platform is not designed for gaming, I don't care what anybody says. Touch controls are too sloppy for shooters, and for any type of "real" game close to the likes of say, Uncharted, Dragon Age, or even Call of Duty. You cant get the precision out of a touch screen that you can with a true control pad. Granted the Vita uses alot of touch screen control options. However it isn't relying solely on them as the means to run everything. Its just another option. And that my friends is where any iOS or Droid device fails. They are at their limits. Granted processors and graphics chips can only get better, but in the end you are still stuck with broken controls that no matter how you configure them do not work for a true gaming experience. Casual gamers are important and maybe thats all they want is to fling birds at pigs, but true gamers are the ones that have paved the way for video gaming as we know it. And that is how I feel it will stay.

bakagami
bakagami

@wcwj26 forgive me if I don't reply to you right away (or ever) I'm too busy enjoying my "poorly designed nightmare" must suck not being able to afford one :)

bakagami
bakagami

@wcwj26 I might take you seriously if you weren't just pulling you so called facts & stats out of your @$$. what you wrote has no more weight than my statement, just a lot of conjecture. trying to pass it off as fact only makes you look foolish

akiramaycry
akiramaycry

Gamespot, biased against Sony... once again. I guess this is the trend since MS is a Gamespot sponsor hey? So how much did your superiors pay you after reading this article, Mark? You pleased them? Made some extra coin? Ya did well for the propaganda machine my good man.

bigtruckseries
bigtruckseries

@xLittlekillx the only thing that sets the Vita ahead of smartphones is that the Vita has physical controls. A BUNCH OF THEM. If Apple had done the smart thing and released a clip on game pad for the iPhone with dual analog sticks a Dpad and 4 action buttons the iPhone would easily be superior to the Vita. Thing is, the iPhone has forced the entire industry to focus on touchscreen gaming (and its reinvention) rather than physical controls. Physical controls make all the difference though.

bigtruckseries
bigtruckseries

Kids are gonna FORCE their parents to buy this for birthdays and Christmas. It doesn't matter how ridiculous its pricing is or how ridiculous the pricing of the proprietary peripherals are. When the holidays and occasions pop up and those commercials for Call of Duty hit, every parent you know is gonna be on line for one. I personally resisted the urge to buy the PSP because it didn't have a dual analog stick and I never bought a PS3 because I preferred 360. I abandoned SONY entirely and I did my best to downplay the PSPGO. Thing is - I recognize this Vita is gonna be a big winner this year.

rbereczki
rbereczki

Nice review. Just what I expected from Sony - the product of a by-gone era, a dinosaur in the game of evolution, a waste of technology.

ticklemonster1
ticklemonster1

everyone seems to disagree with you, but i whole completely agree. we WILL lose our power cords, try to mod or emulate, shop for cheap used games and quickly run out of memeory space. i got rid of my psp months ago because of a year or no use and a trickle of pricy lame games, and minimal third party support. thats why the ipad is more popular than any android..millions of apps and hacks that look and play great for cheap with more daily...

xLittlekillx
xLittlekillx

As an owner of an ipad 2 and a Galaxy s 2, I understand the allure of mobile gaming. But, come on Mark. Let's stop being sensationalist here and start talking like adults. Mobile gaming apps come nowhere NEAR handheld games the likes of which we'll be playing on devices like the Vita and the 3ds. I don't know what it is with you journalistic types insisting that all portable gaming should be dumbed down casual browser games on the go, but it's got me worried about the future of my favorite hobby with people like you cranking out your retardedly sensationalist articles for the masses to eat up.

bigtruckseries
bigtruckseries

The answer is very simple. People have been dummed down to gaming on Smartphones. Smartphones are far more efficient and the games are less expensive. Vita WILL SUCCEED because smartphones don't offer the control that the Vita does. Dual analog sticks and a D-Pad alone are gonna make the Vita a winner. Since Sony has access to big named titles like CoD, Crysis, Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, etc - you can bet everyone is gonna want one. Excellent control is gonna make those games stand out and the touchpanel functionality will help differentiate them from their console counterparts. The major hurdle will be getting gamers to spend $40 on Vita games while simultaneously spending $60 on a PS3 game. What sony needs to do is offer you a free download for the port when you buy the PS3 version.

wcwj26
wcwj26

@bakagami I would argue alot of your statement is wishful thinking. The PSP only has a handful of decent games but no ONE single killer 'app' that can sell the system. Sony tried selling it as a multimedia device as opposed to a gaming handheld. The problem with Vita will be the same as PS3.... a bad, bad OS. If developers are excited about Vita then why are alot of them complaing about the OS being a nightmare. Sony have only ever had one decent OS and that was on PS1 which wasn't even made by them, it was made by Nintendo! As for PS3 going strong, I think you can chalk that down to consumers wanting a cheap decent Blu Ray player. Multi-format sales of games like MW3 and FIFA clearly show that PS3 software sales are not what the majority of owner are using there systems for!

oldschoolvandal
oldschoolvandal

@ emfan457, really? Your iPhone goes from OFF (not stand by) to ON instantly? You are right I don't have an iPhone (but sure heard about it :) )....but my iPad 2 takes the same 3 to 4 secs to show the logo...I assume it's pretty much the same. The problem is not if someone is a fanboy or not...everybody who buys a dediceted portable gaming device regardless of brand at this point knows that he/she will have to cary it side by side with a phone and that the phone can provide some gaming as well. It's jsut a matter of liking better crafted and deeper games than those offered by phones....after all....even you have to admit that nowadays infinity blade is a rare exception.

kriggy
kriggy

Somebody will hopefully get fired... Mark, you don't fit in here no matter how much you want it to be that way. Speaking about Apple in a review for gamers is like taking a piss in the public swimmingpool. It's just wrong...

thegroscon
thegroscon

@HershelYL Sony changed the price of the vita in europe its true to 250 euros and I got my vita at official price of exactly 162 us$ in Taiwan. Yes in here we got more privilege then u in USA and its even cheaper than japan. Sorry i know its frustrating.

DeadlySquall41
DeadlySquall41

Well, here's ANOTHER Gamespot reviewer I won't pay attention to.

anticusho1984
anticusho1984

@krazken I'm with you, they should lower the price more since they only have psn games on servers they save a lot of money vs hard copy games, I would be way better if every vita comes in a bundle with memory headphones like the psp when it was release plus and a downloadable game

krazken
krazken

@anticusho1984 True, but earlier in the conversation we were talking about Uncharted, which retails for $50 for a hard copy. That's more than any other portable game that I am aware of. I think $40 is probably fair for a physical Vita game, but $50 is pushing it. I'm glad Sony is finally dropping the prices of digital versions, but they could probably drop them even more, since they aren't paying shipping and shelf space costs. They make way more money off of digital games than physical games. They could probably decrease the price by 50% and still make the same profits, not to mention the profits made from buying unnecessary proprietary memory cards to hold all your digital content.

anticusho1984
anticusho1984

@krazken, actually most vita games are $40, for a limited time you can get vita games for $36 on the online store

anticusho1984
anticusho1984

there are two things in this review missing 1. we no longer live in the 90's that the UI that ships in the one that will stay forever in the game UPDATES are the main thing, even apple has updates before IOS 4.0 the was no multitasking and the same with android devices, besides theres no turn of usb charging in ios devices as far as I know, correct if I'm wrong but I haven't seen that in IOS5 in my iphone. 2. people spend $300 for 32gb ipod or even more for iphone/ipad, then they realize they can play angry birds. if you are a hardcore gamer your first though is about hardcore games, wich is primary use, if you think is worth the money you will buy it, it's like some people will spend almost $1000 for a pc computer instead of $200-300 for a console just to take full advantage of games, I have both PC and xbox 360, so if you are a hardcore gamer and you like this I don't see why not getting it

Yulaw2000
Yulaw2000

@krazken Yeah, that would be more like it.

scubafinch
scubafinch

I'm going to start by saying that I love the Gamespot UK podcast and the professionalism of those who create it. With one caveat, Mark's general downer on Sony. In the past Mark has been pretty negative towards Playstation Plus, with incorrect statements one week and corrections the next. He has also had a pretty negative approach to the Vita since it's announcement as the NGP. Whilst I do respect Mark as a games critic, I was quite surprised to see that it fell to him to review the initial batch of titles objectively. He seems decent and professional, however some of the controversy may have been avoided had the reviews fallen to someone other than Mark, who's article here seems to be about re-affirming his preconceptions over the past year. I hope the Vita succeeds, just as I hope for success across all studios and platforms. The more competition, the more companies compete for our dollars and pounds, the more quality titles for all of us. Keep up the good work Gamespot UK, and let's stay positive Mark!

thiagofali
thiagofali

I will never forget this name: Mark Walton... #b*itchplease

GertFroop
GertFroop

Mark Walton has started reviewing Vita games as well ... ;p

Blake135
Blake135

This article is pathetic, it's unbelievably one sided, nothing more then a well written "vita is doomed" Plez stop writing articles..

GertFroop
GertFroop

Amazon - Vita + 8GB Card + Thrustmaster S.P.F Case for 225 GBP sweet :D

blink-jfg
blink-jfg

Also, I forgot to mention, a three to four second wait for the Vita to turn on, that is extremely impressive. Nothing I own turns on that fast, including Apple products which you seem to be so fond of, hell, even my TV takes longer than that :P

blink-jfg
blink-jfg

I'm sorry, but nothing you said rang true or even made any sense. Now I read your review with an unbiased opinion, but it sounds to me that you don't understand the gaming industry. Angry Birds is so cheap because it was so cheap to make, if other companies sold games such as Uncharted, Halo, Star Wars: The Old Republic for so cheap then they would go bankrupt. Also, the Vita starts at £215 not £230, the games are not all £40, they start from £15, with the most expensive I've seen being sold for £32, do some research. On a side note though, if you hate the Vita so much, and you 'don't want to' carry it around with you, then I'll trade you for an iPod, I'll even throw in Angry Birds too.

shantd
shantd

@stevieweiser - You're saying the Vita and the iPhone are in competition because they both...fit in your pocket? I don't buy it. The fact that they're both small and have touch screens is pretty much the only thing they have in common.

Stevieweiser
Stevieweiser

Video game nerds are all the same...if they sweat Sony, they'll love and defend anything Playstation. If they have feelings for Microsoft, then anything Microsoft makes is gold. You all might not like it, but for this device to succeed, it has to convince ordinary people to carry it and a smartphone so comparisons between the two are legit. Sorry, that's just the way it is, no reason to get mad because you didn't agree with the review that was published. Besides, if you like it, who cares what reviews say?