Today at Sony’s pre-TGS press conference in Tokyo, Sony Computer Entertainment head Andrew House took the stage in the final minutes to announce “one more thing”. Sony had already announced a new, thinner, lighter version of the PlayStation Vita portable to go on sale in Japan on October 10th this year. That model features improved battery life, an LCD screen (instead of the current OLED technology), 1GB of storage built in and a standard microUSB connector instead of the current proprietary one. They also announced a new 64GB Vita memory card which will be exciting to those of us with more Vita games than we can manage easily.
But Sony was not done announcing Vita hardware, and House shocked everyone by producing the PlayStation Vita TV. This new micro-console is essentially a small streaming box like a Roku or an AppleTV, except is features the Vita’s core chipset and can be used with a DualShock 3 controller to play Vita, PSP, and PS1 games on your TV.
Scheduled to launch in Japan on November 14th this year, with the rest of the world to follow, it is priced at a mere 9,954 Yen. Based on the usual translation of price one would expect it to retail for $99 in the US. The device includes a memory card and game slot for existing Vita storage options, and HDMI port for connecting to HDTVs, an ethernet port for wired networking (in addition to the WiFi standards the Vita already supports) and a USB 2.0 port with opens the potential for using USB drives instead of expensive Vita Memory Sticks, though that functionality is not currently confirmed. The port could simply be for charging and pairing DualShock controllers, or using a PS Eye for video chat, etc. The full specs can be seen here.
Additionally, like a normal Vita, the Vita TV will support Remote Play with a PS4. This will in essence allow you to buy one PS4 that you can play in more than one room, anywhere you have a Vita TV set up. For the same price as a Roku or AppleTV, (or an Ouya) PlayStation Vita TV provides a pretty compelling value between support for all the biggest streaming services, including Hulu+ and Netflix, access to a great games library AND unprecedented inter-operability with the PS4.
With this move Sony have effectively kicked the stool out from under Ouya by providing better hardware, better games and (ironically) better support for the indie community of developer. They’ve also gotten the jump on Google, Apple and Amazon who have all been long rumored to be working on micro-consoles of their own. If this market segment proves to be lucrative they are well positioned to lead there, even as they have the high end console market well covered with the PS4. It is also a canny preparation for the roll-out of Gaikai next year which should happily stream games to the Vita TV just as easily as the PS4.