PS Vita or Wii U?

My Choice Might Surprise You

So here we are again, another E3 is underway. It’s time for the big guns to come out to try to impress their audience this holiday season. But this is one of those special E3s. The type of E3 that comes every few years where we see not one, but two new systems announced.

It would be tempting to say that this is the start of the Eighth Generation of video games, but that would be incorrect. It originally started when Nintendo unveiled the 3DS last February (or March in the US.) As for Kinect, while some may consider it a new system, I feel that it is more of an add-on to the Xbox 360 since it is running off of said system.

But at this year’s E3, we are treated with a one-two punch of systems. The first came during Sony’s press conference Monday night. After sitting through Jack Tretton’s apology about the PlayStation Network shutdown (which I will admit was very heartfelt, and I will give a rare commendation to him for doing so) and demos of PS3 and Move demos, some of which were very bad (the NBA 2K12 Move demo will be worthy of my Giant Enemy Crab Moment award) Kaz Hirai came out and announced the successor of the PSP. What had been known up to this time as the Next Generation Portable (NGP) is now the PlayStation Vita.

From what I’ve seen of it so far, the Vita appears to have removed the problems the original PSP had, namely the inclusion of a second analog stick (a real stick this time, not a nub,) SIXAXIS motion control, two touch screens (though the one on the backside concerns me with the possibility of unintentional movements,) a microphone and two cameras.

I will admit the placement on the front camera, which is above and to the left of the PlayStation symbol buttons, is a bit strange, but it will hopefully work out for FaceTime-like video conferencing. Software will come in the form of NVG cards, which will thankfully remedy that "download or sync only" problem that the PSPgo had. However, if the Vita is going to be backwards compatible with the original PSP, I wish there would be an option to convert your UMDs to a digital format so they can be played.

There was one element I did not like about the Vita, and it could have been an easy positive for the system. It will allow 3G connectivity, but only on AT&T’s network. This announcement resulted in a very resounding groan from the press conference audience, and who can blame them? AT&T is known for having problems with their network connectivity, not offering truly unlimited data (it’s tiered based on pricing) and the fact that the Vita will not support their 4G network. It is also strange to choose AT&T considering that Sony’s Experia PLAY phone (aka the PlayStation Phone) is available through Verizon. When I heard this, although it was said earlier and I missed it, I said that Sony better at least make available a Wi-Fi only version in the same way as Apple did with the iPad.

Thankfully they are, and I have to say the price is pretty darn impressive…$250 for the Wi-Fi version. To get the 3G AT&T version, it will be an additional $50, not a bad price for this item, and if Sony learns from the mistakes of the PSP, the Vita has got some potential…although I don’t like the name much. Reminds me of Windows Vista.

As for Nintendo, this is the second year in a row they announced a new system. Last year it was the 3DS, and this time around with sales of the Wii stumbling for the second year in a row, it was time for a successor. A lot of people wondered what the name would be. Would it be the Wii HD? The Wii 2? Well, we were part right. It was named the Wii, but in this case, the Wii U!

This is another strange name I had to ask "Why?" But what Reggie said to people at the conference made some sense. Wii was about "we," the gamers getting together to play games. But the Wii U also allows the option to play by yourself. While the main console (at least we think it is the console from the sizzle videos we saw) looks like a rounded hybrid of the 360 and the Wii, the heart of the Wii U is the controller.

The rumors were true, as the Wii U controller is touch screen based. It is a 6.2 inch touchscreen, and my first impressions were that it would be like another iPad, but will feature full controls via dual analog pads, a d-pad, four front buttons, two bumpers and two triggers. No more of those annoying virtual controllers that plague my touch screen experiences. The controller will also feature a microphone and camera for conferencing purposes.

But what is really cool about the controller is, despite the screen not being HD in the same way the controller is, games can be switched from the television to the controller, showing off the "U" in Wii U. Seeing the use of actual Wii controls, such as the Balance Board and the Wii Zapper is a good sign, as well as being compatible with the original Wii. However, the lack of GameCube compatibility will turn some people away.

But still, the Wii U concerns me. After all, while the original Wii was a smash hit, over the last two years sales slumped. Third party games were nowhere near the level of what Nintendo published. During the press conference, a sizzle video showed some very impressive third party games running on the Wii U, including Ninja Gaiden 3 which drew huge cheers from the crowd. However, a day after the press conference, Reggie admitted the game footage in the video was from 360 and PS3 gameplay, so it is not indicative of what the Wii U can do yet. There was a demonstration that showed its HD capability, but it’s still too soon to tell.

Reception to the Wii U has been mixed. In fact, this morning, Nintendo’s stock lost a few points on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. I too have to agree. I know the Wii U will sell when it comes out, but it is still questionable. Not announcing a price or date of availability makes it even more difficult to decide on making a purchase. And of course, will the Wii U be readily available at launch, or will history repeat itself and the U will be limited in release?

If I had to choose between the two systems, dare I say it, I would end up getting the PlayStation Vita when it is released. More of it has won be over from what I have seen.

At least I can say the best thing about both of these consoles…they are not force feeding us 3D!

Currently Playing: Red Faction: Armageddon (360)

Waiting For: Duke Nukem Forever (360)

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