La Vita Loca

So yesterday I did a short write-up of some thoughts on the new Nintendo system. Today, I wanted to remark a couple of things on Sony’s Vita. Right off the bat there is an obvious similarity between the Wii U and the Vita.

WiiU vs Vita

I’m sure this is just an awkward coincidence.

In this comparison, Sony could be in a weak position. The Vita has a smaller screen, is less flexible and I doubt it will be able to compete with the Wii U as far as the processing power goes. Sure, it’s portable but the kind of high-end games it seems to be going for rarely work on-the-go anyway. Will you be REALLY playing Uncharted in a crowded bus? Or will you rather recline on your couch and play it like the PS3 version?

Pesonally, there are two things I outright hate about the Vita: the name and the system interface design. The name sounds like a brand of anti-aging moisturizer. The system interface looks like a Fischer Price toy from the 90ies. It’s seems like a tacked-on effort to make a geeky high-tech device sell to the Wii and DS crowd. That’s not how you out-Nintendo the Nintendo. That’s just how you alienate the only audience you had in the first place.

But those are rather minor gripes. Because what impresses me most about the Vita is the OLED screen. It’s supposedly a pretty amazing new technology. Again, Sony’s ineptitude for communicating the features of their systems shows. Compare the Vita with the 3DS. Both feature innovative screens which produce an experience that can’t be conveyed in any other way than by experiencing it live. Nintendo realized that this is a difficult feat and focused their entire PR strategy on bringing this across. For Sony, the Vita screen is just a inconspicuous bullet point.

Granted, the OLED is perhaps not as pivotal for the Vita as the 3D screen is for the 3DS. But then again, what is pivotal for the Vita? It’s pretty much a beefier PSP. Considering how poor the PSP worked out for Sony, is this really a good idea?

But what really blew me away was the price. 250 EUR for that kind of expensive technology isn’t just aggressive. It’s desperate. It isn’t that long ago when Sony was selling the much less sophisticated PSP GO at 250 EUR. I guess they had to learn that lesson too often now. Sony is claiming that they aren’t losing money on this. Either they are lying or the PSP was more over-priced than I thought.

I have the impression that Sony is really trying to brute-force the Vita into the market after the weak impact of the PSP. But the console lacks focus and their non-existent communication strategy doesn’t help either.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad console. In fact, I might be there at launch day. The PSP didn’t sell among the masses and it was the last console I got in this generation. But I soon found out that it was a neat system with a selection of some very good, somewhat hidden titles. Beefing it up and fixing some of the problems is not a game-changer but it might just turn out to be an acceptable deal for me, especially at that price. And yes, Monster Hunter may have to do with this as well. ;)

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

4 responses to “La Vita Loca”

  1. sirleto

    > The Vita has a smaller screen, is less flexible and I doubt it will be able to compete with the Wii U as far as the processing power goes.

    where do you get the informations for your assumptions?

    to me the vita is more flexible (i can go outdoor with it if i wanted to),
    it seems less bulky and less heavy than the wii u (just from images),
    the screen resolution will most likely be quite identical,
    and there is no reason to assume that the performance is significantly slower … as sony claimed the ps vita to have the ps3s performance power (which seems quite possible to me), and nintendo did never claim to have more power than ps3/xbox 360.

    so in fact, sony presenting the next generation portable month ago, makes nintendo look quite week now just having “the same thing” as sony.

    i never was a sony fanboy, but nintendo truly just looks stupid to me right now.
    also whats the problem about their gui? its just round buttons instead of rectangles and they are hexagonal alligned instead of rectangular. both makes a lot of sense, and seems just like the reasonable step to go from the general iOS many-many-icons browsing to a less-icons game console.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      where do you get the informations for your assumptions?

      They are not assumptions. The screen is smaller by 1,2 inches.

      to me the vita is more flexible

      Perhaps a misunderstanding with what I meant with “flexible”. I meant the kind of games developers can develop for this system. The Nintendo video showed a lot of very different ideas for what you can do with the system. The only really new thing about the Vita is the touchpad on the back – which I am excited about. Still, the Wii U allows for a wider variety of game ideas.

      (i can go outdoor with it if i wanted to),

      That’s my point. You won’t. Please read my post. The PSP was already too big and too fragile for portable gaming. The Vita looks even less portable.

      less heavy than the wii

      The weight hasn’t been specified for neither system. But since the processing is not done on the Wii U controller itself I bet that it will be actually lighter. Let’s wait and see.

      and there is no reason to assume that the performance is significantly slower

      Nintendo never releases processing power specs anyway. But since Frostbite is running on it we can assume it’s at least comparable to 360 / PS3. Haven’t heard any similar announcements concerning the Vita. Portable systems are usually slower than stationary ones.

      its just round buttons instead of rectangles and they are hexagonal alligned instead of rectangular.

      Round icons don’t work well with text. The screen is square not round or hexagonal. But I’m not talking about layout. I’m talking about the styling. Bubbly, faux-3D, lots of colors. And it’s not even consistent – each screen seems to use different style and colors. Exactly the opposite of it’s industrial design – sharp, geometric edges, monochrome. That’s why I said it lacks focus.

  2. yougenius

    By all accounts coming out of E3, the Wii U controller is very light. Almost too light, in a ‘boy this thing feels like it might break’ kind of way. But it’s still at the prototype stage, it may still change a bit before it is released.

    I’m glad that you’re being honest about Monster Hunter, of course it is the best reason to buy anything! :)

    I’m imagining Monster Hunter for the Wii U…

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Ah, good to hear that. Of course, the demo units I saw at E3 were mostly tethered so I imagine they lack the battery – a major factor in weight. I think they will be heavier than what we hear from E3, but not nearly as heavy as an iPad.


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


follow Krystian on Twitter
follow Yu-Chung on Twitter
follow Daniel on Twitter