This holiday season brings with it the launch of Nintendo’s new tablet-centric console, the Wii U. The system’s innovative controller aims to once again revolutionize the way we play games, much like how motion control changed industry when the Wii was first released. While Nintendo’s new console likely won’t see the same explosive launch its predecessor received several years ago, there’s no denying the fact that the Wii U GamePad opens up a range of possibilities for new gaming experiences not currently seen on other consoles.
But then there’s Sony and the PlayStation Vita. The company’s new handheld is not only a technological beast, it also supports interconnectivity with the PlayStation 3. As such, there’s plenty of potential here for Sony to suck the wind out of Nintendo’s sales by emulating the same type of experiences thought to be possible only on the Wii U. With a gorgeous OLED screen that supports multi-touch, there’s no doubt that the Vita could provide a significantly more compelling control option.
One of the greatest strengths of the Vita/PS3 combo is the fact that you can take the Vita with you, unlike the Wii U GamePad. Having the ability to save to the cloud on your PS3 and then resume your experience on the go with the Vita is something that only Sony’s gaming platform can offer. Not only that, but the recent announcement of Cross Buy support, allowing gamers who purchase select PS3 titles to download the Vita version for free, is yet another major bonus that adds significant value to the overall PS3/Vita gaming experience.
That said, the Wii U has a major strengths of its own, namely the fact that the tablet will be included with every console. We still don’t know the price of the console, but it’s safe to assume it will be cheaper than purchasing both a PS3 and Vita. Because of this, more developers will be apt to create game experiences tailor made to the Wii U’s control scheme. Conversely, it will be difficult for developers to justify the creation of PS3/Vita cross connectivity since not every PlayStation 3 owner necessarily owns the handheld. And if they do, it’ll be an add-on to the main PS3 experience, and not a core aspect of the game. Ubisoft is already on board with stellar games like Rayman Legends and ZombiU for the Wii U, but we still have yet to see very many compelling instances in which using a Vita enhances one’s PS3 gaming experience.
You also can’t count out the fact that Nintendo possess some of the most creative and talented minds in the industry, so you can be sure that we’ll see some unique and outside-the-box kinds of games that won’t be available anywhere else. These crazy concepts aren’t particularly new to the company either, as experimentation with GBA/GameCube connectivity in games like The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords has undoubtedly taught them some valuable lessons.
Still, you can’t deny the crippling limitations of the Wii U. The GamePad itself doesn’t have any built-in processing power, serving as simply a remote of sorts that streams the content from the console. As such, you have to be within a particular range in order to use the GamePad, ruling out the possibility of taking the experience on the go. Not only that but because the device is dependent entirely upon the console, it limits the power of the Wii U. In the case of the PS3 and Vita, you have two completely independent devices working together, so the capabilities of the PlayStation 3 are not constrained or compromised in any way. This level of freedom is undoubtedly a significant strength of Sony’s.
In the end – as is almost always the case – it comes down to software. The PS3 and Vita combo will likely allow for better experiences compared to the Wii U, but due to the lower install base, won’t be. Nintendo has a strong chance at selling millions upon millions of units of their console, while Sony is facing a strong uphill battle to sell the Vita.