The early 2010s were a weird time for Sony. As the PS3 started gaining some real traction and the PS4 was around the corner, the PlayStation Vita launched. This little handheld that couldn’t served as Sony’s last major handheld before the company shifted all its focus onto console games.
It’s a sad story of a console with unfulfilled potential because I think it’s one of the best handhelds ever. It’s also one with a creator who had no idea what to do with it.
When the Vita was alive but floundering, Sony had the baffling idea to launch a micro-console using Vita hardware. Mircoconsoles were a phenomenon that only sparked the interest of various companies as the public did not care. While Nvidia’s Shield still exists, the Ouya became famous for failing, and Sony’s machine was forgotten. Unfortunately, this was the case because the PlayStation TV deserves remembrance.
PlayStation TV is baffling.
The PlayStation TV is a little goblin of a console that is a Vita’s guts in a tabletop form. This thing came out in Japan on November 15, 2013, and exactly a year later everywhere else. By the time the international release came, the Vita was on life support, and the Ouya had long become a laughing stock. Booting it up felt like venturing through the husk of a building abandoned early in construction.
To get one thing out of the way, I took pictures on my phone because my screenshots wouldn’t transfer, and taking pictures of curved monitors is wonky. After trying to work with the PlayStation TV on this, it didn’t want to work with me. 2023 just doesn’t suit the PS TV.
It’s also clear the PS TV lacked support. The Vita’s last release was in 2021, and the newest release on the PS TV is from 2017. It’s not like the store is chock full of all releases from before then, either. A controversial part of the PS TV is that it supported a fraction of the Vita’s already limited library, and it shows. I never thought I would shop at a digital store this barren, and it was disheartening.
The lack of support and limited use is honestly embarrassing. It also says so much about how badly the PS TV flopped when the Vita continued to receive support for several years, and the handheld is famous for failing.
Even more egregious is that this literally is a Vita with an ethernet port and HDMI connectivity. The UI is the same, and the system even refers to itself as a Vita on several occasions. It did launch in Japan as PS Vita TV, which is honestly what it should have been called internationally.
I still love this thing.
Frustrations aside, a charitable description of my experience with a PS TV is what my Vita was like in 2012. I have many complaints, but I love my PS TV. This is probably because it’s playing a Vita on a TV.
Many who know me know the Vita’s my favorite handheld. It’s where I first played Persona 4 and discovered my love for all the otome on Vita. I spent hours playing on it as a teen, trying out anything that came to it. Niche titles were pretty much all the Vita was home to post-2015. Sony gave up on it, but RPGs and visual novels flourished.
It’s charming playing the original version of Persona 4 Golden on a big screen along with Persona 2: Innocent Sin‘s PSP remake. I spent a while scrolling through the purchases I made when I was around 14, redownloading many old games to have ready at a moment’s notice.
The PS TV didn’t receive support, but I’m coming in with a decade of digital purchases. Since many were PSP and PS1 titles, the lack of actual Vita software doesn’t matter much to me. I can play Parasite Eve again on a screen bigger than 5 inches. A PS5 still can’t do that.
This is undoubtedly the most comfortable way I have played these games. I have an unending love for the Vita, but my hands have gotten bigger since 2012. A DualShock 4 meanwhile fits comfortably in my hands, and I can lay back at a comfortable angle.
Nostalgia is no doubt why I love this thing. It’s been a while since I felt like a kid again, but this somehow gave me that. The past is comforting to return to, and the PS TV brought me to mine.
Do I recommend the PlayStation TV?
No. I don’t recommend this thing unless the person is comfortable modding consoles. Rose glasses aside, the PlayStation TV isn’t great. It could have been that, but being a more niche Vita was a death sentence. Microconsoles were also short-lived, as most people would rather play on a traditional console.
I know I’m critical of it because the PS TV could have been more. Even if it were doomed, so was the Vita after some time, and it still received eight years of support. Both could have grown, and if full parity between systems was there, it would have been a console/handheld ecosystem predating the Switch.
Despite that, I don’t think the PS TV would have succeeded even if the Vita did. It may have been a pretty sweet deal at $100, but its library consisted of games primarily played on the go. That’s even if a game has support on it.
I love my PlayStation TV, but it’s difficult to say many genuinely nice things about it. Exporting media sucks, there’s a limited library, and it’s UI is from a mobile device.
It’s also the last device where PS1 games released on PS3 are playable, physical Vita cartridges are usable, and using a DualShock 4 beats the Vita’s tiny buttons. So there are genuine compliments I can give it.
I’m unsure what tone I wanted to take with this retrospective of sorts, but I feel a little reflective writing about this. I think about what could have been with the PS TV, and its placement makes me think about the girl I was at 13. Seeing the initial Vita setup blown up 12 years after she did on its tiny screen made me wonder what she felt. I just remember it looking much bigger back then.