What is it, and why should I care?
With the price announced, and the PS TV set to arrive on these shores in less than two months, here are the key points about what it is, and why you should or shouldn't be interested in buying one.
What is the PS TV?
Originally dubbed the “PS Vita TV”, it is in essence a micro console from Sony, designed to sit under your TV.
It’s been out in Japan since 2013, but in the transition to the West it’s now garbed in a black shell (black’s back!) rather than white, and the “Vita” moniker has been dropped; the latter seemingly to help differentiate it as standalone system in its own right, rather than merely a partner device to the company’s current handheld console of the same name.
However, the insides are still essentially a Vita, complete with a game card slot for Vita titles. Via ethernet cable or wifi, it’ll also connect to the online PlayStation Network’s store, where you can choose to download any number of Vita, PSP or PlayStation One titles to the onboard memory or a memory card.
When is it out in the UK and how much will it cost?
It’ll hit UK shelves (as well as European ones) on November 14th, at a price of £84.99.
For that princely sum you’ll receive the PS TV itself and three free Vita games for digital download - OlliOlli, Worms Revolution Extreme and Velocity Ultra. Details of extras and bundles are as yet unconfirmed.
Who is it aimed at?
Even though the cost to British consumers is above what the exchange rates tell us we should be paying, the machine is still considered at the budget end of the gaming spectrum.
Essentially it’s a step up from the multitude of lacklustre android machines that’ve failed to gain a foothold in the living room, whilst obviously still being less costly than a fully fledged next gen console such as the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.
The relatively low unit cost, and the abundance of titles of varying priced software - starting from just a few pounds - to choose from, makes it an intentional pitch to those who’ve perhaps been console gamers before, but slipped into the realms of other, more casual - nee affordable - gaming habits.
Perfect for those who may want to delve into the gaming archives of PS One titles, or migrate from the pervasive low quality free-to-play model that encompasses much of the mobile sphere.
It’s also of interest to those who either own, or plan to perhaps buy, a PlayStation 4. It has the ability to stream your games from that console to the PS TV and the screen it’s therefore hooked up to, effectively offering an easy way to gain access to your next gen console in a separate room. This should be of particular use to those who have to find the right time to play on a TV in a family living room.
What about apps?
There’s still little in the way of confirmation about media apps. Some have posited that Sony would prefer to push consumers towards their own Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited services. However, they put Hulu on the Japanese PS TV, which indicates that it may just be a matter of time, rather than a dogmatic stance.
The fact that these services aren’t at the forefront of their strategy indicates that if you were hoping this would be the one streaming box to rule them all - with better games than the likes of Amazon can offer, but with all the media options - then at least in the short term that looks unlikely.
The main app Sony will definitely be hoping to get people using is PS Now. This is the games streaming service that the company now have in beta, whereby you can rent titles from previous Sony consoles (hopefully expanding to all three prior PlayStations) to play for a period without having to buy them outright. You’ll have to wait for that service too though, as it’s not due to launch in the UK until next year.
In the short term then, the PS TV is very much a micro games console, with the promise of hopefully more functionality to come.
What are the drawbacks?
Well, depending on what content you plan to view, your screen size / resolution, and your opinion on what device should handle the majority of scaling, from a tech point of view the fact that the PS TV only outputs at a maximum of 1080i / 720p should be noted.
Cost wise, right now it looks like the UK won’t be receiving the attractive bundle deals of elsewhere, meaning that we may have to factor in a few additions, making it less of an appetising deal.
It’ll need a control pad in order for you to, well, control it. You'd assume one would be included, but we do live in a world where Nintendo released a portable console without a charger, so anything's possible. A DualShock 3 or DualShock 4 - from the PS3 and PS4 respectively - will work, and the former can be found for a fairly low amount.
It’ll also need more than the onboard memory to store the multitude of games you no doubt want to download. Unfortunately, in line with the Vita DNA of the device there’s no SD card slot, meaning you’ll have to buy Sony’s own proprietary memory cards designed specifically for the Vita. They have come down in price considerably since the portable console launched, but it’s certainly not as welcoming as the idea of being able to use one of those old SD cards you’ve had lying about the place.
There’s also the potential confusion factor of certain games and their compatibility. Because the Vita has a capacitive touch screen on the front, and a touch pad on the back, a few titles utilise these for important gameplay mechanics. This means that not all Vita titles will work with a control pad on the PS TV. The online store will no doubt make it abundantly clear which titles are fully compatible, but as the PS TV also has a physical slot for playing Vita games from cards bought at retail stores, there may be some confusion.
Should I be interested?
If you're looking for a comparatively low cost console, that'll offer you a suite of relatively cheap games in the short term, and in the longer term gain you access to a further array of PlayStation titles, then yes.
Similarly, if your living room TV, with a PS4 underneath, is monopolised by family members, then the ability to stream games to another room could prove be vital.
If, however, you're looking for an all encompassing media streaming box this Christmas, then you may be better served looking elsewhere.
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