This year has been all about the budget media device. Independent open source console Ouya rocked Kickstarter in 2012 due to its promise of a Android-based gaming system on the cheap. Consoles like the GameStick and the Nvidia Shield followed with debuts at CES, and assured the same core tenants: great experience for a fraction of the price. All of them made it to market with varying degrees of success, but the budget console battle may have just been won by an unlikely giant — Sony.
During a press conference in Tokyo yesterday, Sony made a hard left from its predictable talk about its handheld console, the PlayStation Vita, to talk about a really exciting box in a tiny package. The PlayStation Vita TV is just a 6.4-centimeter-by-10.5-centimeter (2.1-inch-by-4.1-inch) device with its handheld brethren’s guts and two tiny slots for a memory card and a game.
But despite its small size, it’s got a lot of potential: not only does it play 1,300 games offered in the current PlayStation library, but it also allows streaming media — much like an Apple TV, Roku or Chromecast. And, when the PlayStation 4 makes its debut in mid-November, the PlayStation Vita TV can be synced for “remote play,” meaning that the PS4 can send a game to the Vita attached to the TV in the other room.
And it offers all of this for just $100.
The only downside to the device is that it will only be released in Japan, but if it does manage to make it to the U.S., the PlayStation Vita TV is likely to become the console to beat. Automatically, it trounces current budget devices because of its astounding games library: While Ouya may have Android on its side, Sony has never skimped on developing for the Vita. There will be plenty of games for every kind of gamer to enjoy, and likely at a serious discount due to the Vita’s current sales. It’s also that library that makes it a rich competitor against an Apple TV or Chromecast — although lack of PC support is a trade-off. Finally, its price tag makes it an attractive alternative to next-gen consoles that some in an three to four times the price, and a welcome add-on for PS4 fans.
In an effort to save the Vita’s flagging brand, Sony may have stumbled upon the budget console everyone has been waiting for. If it is able to execute what it has promised, then it’s only a matter of time before gamers around the world are begging the Japanese company for a worldwide distribution campaign.