Why I returned my PlayStation Vita [Editorial]

Added on by TEK.GADG.

Ever since the PlayStation Vita (it was called NGP at the time) was announced in early 2011, I'd been looking forward to owning it. The prospect of playing PS3 level games in my hands was a true fantasy come true. When the Vita was released in North America, I bought the First Edition Bundle on day 1, but… 

A month later, I returned the Vita. And I'm not the only one falling out of love with the Vita. Amazon US is selling used PS Vitas for $150 - new one retails for $250 - because so many people are returning it. Here's why I was unhappy with the Vita.

CLUNKY 

PS Vita wasn't the sleek portable gaming machine that I imagined. Both hardware and software of the Vita are just badly designed, and this disappointed me to no end.

Vita is just too big, too fat to be a 2012 console. Measuring 7.2 inches long and 0.73 inches (18.6mm) thick, it's hardly a pocketable device. At first, I could look past its chunkiness for the big screen, but I grew more and more discontent with the size. I do not understand why the Vita has to be such a gigantous device. Smartphones with similar specs (quad-core CPU, GPU) manage to pack its content in a sleeker package at half the thickness with longer-lasting batteries. I'm sure there's an engineering limitation as to how thin you can make a Vita, but the consumer in me doesn't care about those things. I want a sleek device that works like I expect it to.

Vita's software suffers from design problems as well. Someone said "good software design is the one that you don't have to think to use it." It means the interface should come as natural to a human being as it can. However, Vita's interface is just awkward. Vita's interface is a mishmash of UI design from smartphone OS that just looks ugly and disjointed. Circular icons, card-based multi-tasking, and page-turning gesture for quitting apps. None of these ideas are original, and none of these work to create a cohesive experience. It boggles the mind why Sony just didn't retool the XMB interface for touch for the Vita. XMB has a recognizable design, and it would work great as a swipe-based interface. Swipe horizontally for bigger menus, vertically for sub menus. Instead, Sony did extra work to make Vita's software look clunky and disconnected.

NOT ENOUGH

Vita just doesn't do enough things well. It failed to become my go-to device for… well, anything. For all the things it does - browse the web, play videos, play music, take photos and videos, and, of course, play games - it just felt like a second-rate device for the purpose.

Vita's web browser is a much-needed improvement from the PSP's, but it still isn't good enough. It doesn't support flash or HTML5, making it useless for web video and other elements. It didn't really load pages that fast, and entering text on the on-screen keyboard is uncomfortable due to its design. Most importantly, the browser can't run alongside the games. Whenever I needed to look up something about the game I'm playing, I would need to quit the game, fire up the browser, look up information, quit the browser, then go back to the game. It's just not an optimal experience.

Consuming media on the Vita is also not a good experience. Transferring music and movies to the Vita is done using Sony's proprietary - and very poorly designed - program. You must make a database of all playable media on your computer, then choose the media files on the Vita (while it's connected to the computer) to sync them to the Vita. Why didn't Sony just adopt a drag-and-drop system?

And the games. Even though Vita attempts to offer a full gaming experience, it just can't be as good as a PS3 or a PC at doing those games. When I was playing Uncharted and FIFA on the Vita, I just wished I could play these games on bigger screens. When I am on the go, I'd rather play casual games with simple stories and no loading time on my smartphone and tablet. I didn't see myself choosing the Vita over other devices.

TOO EXPENSIVE

The price is just too damn high. The PS Vita Wi-Fi is $250, and $300 with 3G. For $250, you can get a Kindle Fire, refurbished iPad, Xbox 360, PS3, or a smartphone (or two) on contract. Most people would choose these aforementioned devices before getting the Vita. By the time they have all those things, they wouldn't have a use for the Vita. A price cut two months after release may reflect poorly on Sony and their newly appointed CEO, but it's really inevitable. It should really cost $99.

Supplementary items cost too much as well. Vita memory cards cost up to $100, and games (that are worth playing) are $40 a pop. Even though games like Uncharted and FIFA look amazing and play great, they should not be priced like home-console games. Smartphone games are $10 at most, and they are quickly catching up to the Vita. Vita games should cost no more than $20. As for the memory cards, Sony should price them close to Class 4 SD cards, which are basically what Vita memory cards are. Reasonable prices are $10 for 4GB, and $50 for 32GB cards.

FINISHING WORDS

Alex and myself had a discussion about portable consoles last month, and I was a Vita supporter there. This was when my love for the Vita was still fiery and passionate, but it has since been extinguished. I still think the Vita is a better portable console than a 3DS, but I just didn't use the Vita enough to keep it. 

My honeymoon with the Vita is over, and I am getting a divorce. You can have the kids, I don't want 'em.

Sean