The lights are on
Earlier this week, when Sony announced the Vita TV, I was vocal in my skepticism. The device has a number of shortcomings that even its price (approximately $100) can't overcome. The biggest problem though, is that the messaging around the new hardware has already been framed in the wrong way for consumers outside of Japan.
Sony has created an interesting conundrum for itself. By launching the PlayStation 4 in Japan after the Vita TV (and after 32 other territories will have the new console), the company can't use the tiny box's most impressive feature as a key selling point. Sure, playing Persona 4 Golden, Soul Sacrifice, and oodles of PlayStation 1 games on my TV is a bit appealing (especially when you can just pop out the memory card and continue on the go). That's not enough to motivate my purchase, though.
No, what might get me to open my wallet again for Sony is the promised PlayStation 4 remote play feature. My office, where my PS 4 will eventually live, has seating for one in front of my television. If I ever wanted to play with someone else, the console would need to travel downstairs to the family room.
Assuming that the remote play features work as advertised (something I'm skeptical about given the current state of PS3/Vita remote play performance), being able to access the PS4 from my family room would be of significant benefit to me and many others. It might be enough to get me to spend another $100.
The design of the Vita TV is sleek. The feature set is about convenience rather than competition (it tops out at 1080i and 2ch audio). Sony's first marketing volley with the Vita TV is designed both to fit within its hardware rollout for the PlayStation 4 and for an audience with different tastes.
Sony will have work to do if it decides to bring the Vita TV here. The conversation has already been framed in a way that doesn't fit the North American market, and it will take considerable effort to reposition the device. The marketing message will have to show the Vita TV as a PlayStation 4 accessory with standalone features and not the other way around if Sony is to make a splash on our shores.