The PS Vita TV, a compact, low-cost Vita-compatible game system you connect to your TV set, comes out Nov. 14 in Japan. It's an unusual console from a company that puts out a lot of unusual console variants (anyone remember the PS2/DVR-hybrid system that came out in Japan, too?), but to system software designer Toru Yamamoto, it's just Sony Computer Entertainment making the most of its hardware.
"We knew from before its release in 2011 that PS Vita was a platform capable of all kinds of things," Yamamoto told Famitsu magazine in an interview published this week. "So I proposed the idea that, instead of restricting the PS Vita system software to a single portable console, we could spread it out in other forms as well. That's where the idea of making a PS Vita you connected to a TV came from."
It took a couple years of development to bring the Vita TV to release, in part because the design staff wanted to retain all of the Vita's features while making the new console as tiny as possible. "The first open question we had to tackle was how to allow players to use the PS Vita's touch panel controls on their own controllers stress-free," platform designer Yuji Nakamura told Famitsu. "The process of figuring out how to work the touch-only controls seamlessly into the PS Vita TV interface was a difficult one. The PS Vita's system software is pretty quick and responsive, and it's been tuned further for the Vita TV, giving you a sense of speed and lightness that should be surprising for a home console."
"From a design perspective, the system used to have a larger profile," added co-designer Taichi Nokuo. "Really, if we wanted to get everything in the PS Vita system into the box, it had to be larger than what it is now. We worked hard with the designers to get it as small and thin as possible. We also thought about making it black, but we went for a simpler color so it wouldn't stand out too much next to the TV. It's not pure white, but white with a slightly grey tone, so it'll blend right in with the room interior. Not many homes have pure-white walls, so we had it match with that."
Some sacrifices had to be made for the system's tininess: The PS Vita TV requires a DualShock 3 controller to use and is compatible with most, but not all, Vita games (titles which rely heavily on things like the rear touch panel or microphone aren't supported). Still, you get a pretty slick-looking package. "We wanted the hardware itself to seem as invisible as possible," Yamamoto said. "The PS Vita logo's only visible by the Vita card slot, and the box doesn't even say 'PS Vita TV' on it. It was a pretty bold design, one that builds on the PlayStation design and expresses it in a new way."
The system's main market advantage in Japan could be its price: 9480 yen, or about $95.50, making it a cheap way to play Vita games and access content like downloadable PSP and PSone Classic titles. "Keeping the price low allows us to have lots of people give it a try," Yamamoto said. "Without the PS Vita's LCD panel and controller, we figured we had to strategically price it below 10,000 yen. That's the baseline we used as we discussed components and specifications. The result is a system anyone can enjoy, whether they're beginners or PS Vita or PS3 owners."
While Sony has discussed a PS Vita TV release in mainland China, no U.S. launch has been announced.