The lights are on
Early this morning, Sony conducted a press conference for its Japanese customers. Among the announcements was the reveal of the Vita TV microconsole for living rooms.
The device will be offered at less than 10,000 Yen and is small enough to fit in a pocket. The device measures 6cm x 10cm (2.36 in x 6.93 in), and will access media services like Hulu and play select PSP and PlayStation Vita games. When the PlayStation 4 launches in Japan, the Vita TV will also be able to remote play PS4 games (like the Vita).
The device will be released on November 14, 2013 for 9,480 yen ($95.31) or in a bundle with a white Dual Shock 3 and 8GB Vita memory card for 14,280 yen ($143.58). There are currently no announcements about whether Vita TV will come to markets outside of Japan.
At the press conference, Sony also announced the release date of the PlayStation 4 in Japan. The console will be coming to that market on February 22, 2014, for 39,980 yen ($401.97). This is significantly later than the November 15, 2013 and November 29, 2013, release dates in North America and Europe respectively.
Update: A press release from Sony includes the specs for the Vita TV.
It's also worth mentioning that the release does mention the DualShock 4, but only in relation to remote play features for PlayStation 4. There is no direct statement that the DualShock 4 controller will be usable with PSP, Vita, or PlayStation 1 titles.
[Source: Sony Computer Entertainment Japan]
Our TakeWhenever a new gaming hardware device is introduced, I ask myself one question: "Who is this for?" In the case of the Vita TV, I'm not sure. There are a number of reasons that it hasn't been announced yet for the West, including a mismatch between market desires and product.
Sony, a Japanese company, is launching PlayStation 4 later in its home territory than in the West. There is room for the Vita TV this fall in Japan, but Sony would be foolish to introduce it in the West this year (if it is planned at all).
The Vita TV would compete for mindshare with the PlayStation 4, even though they are devices with different intent. It would also confuse those outside the core (read: parents) who will only know to ask for "the new PlayStation" when walking into a retailer this holiday season.
I don't expect the demand for a device at that price point to play PSP and Vita games on the TV exists in enough volume in the United States to warrant release. Sony's Gaikai service could conceivably fill the same role here.
Sony has created a problem for itself with the Vita TV. Either it pushes the hardware with developers, forcing them to make a choice between using the Vita's baked-in features (touch screens, gyroscopic control) and designing for universal play, or allows the Vita TV to exist merely as an afterthought. The marquee Vita game of the fall, Tearaway, is a perfect example of the conundrum Sony has just created.