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Opinion: PS Vita TV poised to shake up the 'microconsole' race

No-one could have expected that Sony would be a microconsole contender, especially when the company has its own PlayStation 4 launch to deal with. And yet a microconsole is exactly what Sony has revealed.
With the rise of the low-price, plug-in-and-play "microconsole," we've all been wondering which company is going to emerge victorious. Will the Ouya come out on top? Will GameStick rise to the occasion? Maybe Apple, Google, Amazon et al might blow the competition away. No-one could have expected that Sony would be a contender, especially when the company has its own PlayStation 4 launch to deal with. And yet this morning, a microconsole is exactly what Sony revealed. Microconsoles are a new form of compact games console, sold as a ready-to-go, plug-in-and-play console that gives the user a "10-foot" couch- and TV-friendly experience. These sorts of new breed of console usually have some form of app store to connect with as well. The PS Vita TV is essentially a cheap, home console version of Sony's Vita handheld. You can take this tiny box, plug it into your TV, and then play PS Vita games, PSP games and select PS One games without the need for a PS Vita handheld. There's a few fairly remarkable points to note about this device. First off, at around $100 it's inexpensive, especially compared to the Vita handheld, other games consoles, and even other microconsoles. Of course, you'll have to factor the price of a DualShock controller or two into that equation, but realistically, a good portion of the people looking to purchase one of these boxes are going to already own at least one controller. This puts the PS Vita TV in line with the price of an Ouya. Now consider that the box will have available over 1,000 titles across PS Vita, PSP and PS One at launch. Notably, many of the Vita games that rely on the touch-screen will apparently not be supported, Sony says, and a large portion of the overall total will be PSP and PS One titles -- but the company still puts the total games supported by the box at over 1,300. No matter how you look at it, in comparison to other microconsoles on the way and currently available, that's a rather hefty number of titles to be dishing out at launch. ps vita tv 1.jpgAnd then there's the console's power. The PS Vita TV will adopt the chipsets and system software of the PS Vita, including the ARM Cortex-A9 core (4core) CPU and IMG SGX543MP4+ GPU -- meaning that straight off the bat, it'll be the most powerful microconsole available (though you can expect regular hardware updates from the Android mobile-based competition). The main issues with microconsoles such as the Ouya up to this point have revolved around a lack of games, and limitations to the potential power that developers can utilizes. With the PS Vita TV, Sony may well have all these bases covered. And where other Android-powered microconsoles have been criticized for essentially offering what the majority of smartphones can already provide, the PS Vita TV will offer not only what the PS Vita currently offers, but potentially also PlayStation Mobile, Sony's own Android platform. PS Mobile allows developers to sign up and launch their Android games via the platform for free. If PS Mobile is also supported, as per a regular PS Vita, then not only has Sony just launched its own PlayStation microconsole, but it's also just launched its own Android-OS console in the same breath. Of course, Sony has another trick up its sleeve too -- the hordes of indie developers that it has brought on-board. I said earlier this year that Sony was building an indie army for its PS4, and now it comes to light that this was only half the truth. Sony is about to launch a cheap microconsole, that is relatively cheap and easy to develop for, with numerous indie devs no doubt clambering to be a part of. The Ouya, the GameStick et al have been positioning themselves as "the indie game console", but the PS Vita TV may well swoop in and steal the title with relative ease.

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