Gamers across the UK, Europe, and America, all have February 22nd marked in their diaries. That’s the launch date for arguably the most ambitious mobile gaming platform yet – the Sony PS Vita.
Unlike multi-function devices that have been swept to success on a wave of low-priced casual games, the PS Vita is built around gaming. Yes it will have video playback, media streaming, a web browser, GPS enabled social network features, but let’s not kid ourselves. This is a hot rod of a games machine, with dual analogue controllers, accelerometer controls, field digital buttons, touch screens front and back, and a 16:9 ratio 5 inch screen.
This is a machine for the hardcore gamer, and Sony are gambling that they’ll adopt this machine as their totem.
The questions that everyone have are simple ones. Will people actually buy it? Why would people spend up to £45 on a game when they can get an episode of ‘Angry Birds’ for 79p in the iTunes store? Is Sony reaching too far with the traditional console plus retail games model in a world of subsidised smartphones?

I think that Sony will be able to answer all those questions during the first half of 2012, and the PS Vita will become one of the greatest gaming machines of the decade.
Will it replace Apple iPads, Samsung Galaxies, and Nokia Lumias in people’s pockets? No, and nor is it trying to. It’s not all all-round device, the PS Vita is like Brian Wilson of the San Francisco Giants. He does one job very well (closing pitcher, for those outside of MLB). The PS Vita is also going to do one job very well, by delivering the best mobile gaming experience on the planet.
It’s going to do that through three gaming elements.
The first are the main PS Vita titles, designed for the machine. The launch line-up is immense, with some very strong franchise names and new titles. Sony appear pretty proud of ‘Uncharted: Golden Abyss,’ as Nathan Drake embarks on a graphical Indiana Jones style adventure. But my eyes are drawn to three franchise titles that will show off the capabilities of the PS Vita – namely ‘Wipeout 2048′, ‘Modnation Racers’, and ‘Everybody’s Golf’. I suspect that most people buying a PS Vita will pick up two of these four games, and are unlikely to be disappointed.
But Sony cannot rely on these titles for success. Nor can these dedicated and high priced Vita games be counted on to sustain the platform. Every one of them, because of the price, has to be considered a potential A-list game.
But it’s the B-features that really keep a platform alive, and that’s where Sony’s second strength lies. The Playstation Network – soon to be renamed the Sony Entertainment Network – is their app store. And while the A-titles are available, they also have the ‘Mini’ range of games. Typically priced around the £5 mark (at least in the UK), these titles could be seen as the casual games of the PS Vita, but delivered not to a flat screen and compromised UI, but a handheld with physical, glorious controls and tactile feedback.
Ensuring that gamers make a regular (even weekly) purchase of a Mini is, to my mind, a key strategy that Sony need to work on. With titles such as ‘Super Stardust Delta’ – which uses all the new input methods to provide a lightning fast arcade shooter – they could easily keep gamers excited until the big hitting games come along.