Sony vs Nintendo - Console Gaming w/o a TVJun 8, 2011
It was pretty clear that one of the messages that Sony and Nintendo were trying to push was TV-less console gaming. Sony had the PSV-PS3 linked games (ex: Ruin), and Nintendo had the Wii U with its dedicated controller. Both systems offered a similar experience: turn the TV off and play the game on a portable console.
As a fan of portables, this E3 caught my attention. I can't explain it, but hate being stuck in front of a TV playing a console game. I rarely play my PS3 or Wii because of this.
This trend isn't new. Sony has had remote play for awhile now, and Nintendo had some GBA/GC tie-ins as well. Nothing has really taken off. Nintendo hasn't allowed the linking of the DSi or 3DS to the Wii for remote play, and only a few Sony PS3 titles are PSP remote-play enabled. Even now, with the ability to unlock remote play for every title via PS3 backup loaders, people don't use this feature. (Either it doesn't work for a game, or it's crippled and laggy.)
These past console links never took off because of the technical hurdles or because the publishers chose not to support adding a feature only usable by a select few.
Sony is trying their PS3-PSP remote play approach, but instead of a PSP-PS3 streaming link, they are trying a multi-SKU approach. The PS3 and the PS Vita (PSV) both run a version of a game, and the saves are stored in the 'cloud'. The player can swap between game consoles using this 'cloud' save. Take Ruin as an example. This game was demo'ed for the PS Vita and PS3 at E3. It allowed the player to stop play on the PSV and resume play on the PS3. It has an advantage in that you can take the experience anywhere, as long as you have the ability to transfer saves.
Is this a successful approach?
No. I think it will fail.
It comes down to cash. A developer would have to spend X resources implementing a link between PS3 and PSV versions of a game, and a customer would have to buy both game SKUs. The developer would have to gauge how many customers would likely buy both SKUs and allocate resources accordingly. Yes, game tie-in is an incentive for a customer to purchase both SKUs. The problem, though, is that cost can quickly become a deterrent. Customers might also see the setup as being double-billed for content they already own.
Again, take Ruin for example. If you can get a similar experience on the PS3 as you can on the PSV, why buy both SKUs? You'd be paying $60 for the PS3 game and $40 for the PSV game. That's $100 total for both SKUs. The customer may look at both SKUs and just buy the one that meets their needs most.
The developers have to support this remote play setup, and the customers have to be willing to pay for it. Both ends look dire.
Is there any hope?
Possibly... The ball is in Sony's court. They have the ability to lessen the impact of this setup to both developers and customers.
They can make things easier for the developers by designing a cross-compiler SDK for the PS3-PSV, similar to what Microsoft does with the XBOX 360 & PC. If you create the content for the PS3 and make it easy to cross-compile for the PSP, developers would be more likely to create linked games.
Sony could also make things more appealing to customers by enforcing a bundle strategy on 3rd party developers, similar to how Disney sells their DVD/BluRay/Digital Copy movies. A PS3 game could include the PSV copy on-disc, and the customer could then load the copy onto the PSV. The customer would be more likely to buy one SKU versus two.
Nintendo's Wii U approach is more like Sony's PSP remote-play setup. You have a game that can either be played on the TV or on the new tablet controller. The difference, though, is that the Wii U controller will likely be packaged with the system. Nintendo has also had more time to whack at the remote-play limitations, specifically the lag issue.
The tech demo's shown at E3 indicated that gameplay would be supported on the controller. The Zelda demo could be played on the controller screen (albeit with a loss of resolution). It's a good bet that unless you had a game mechanic solely dependent on the screen for something other than viewing (throwing ninja stars, showing golf balls, etc), you'll see the remote-play feature implemented.
The setup still has limitations. Nintendo hasn't specified what communication protocol would be used to transfer images. (Bluetooth? WiFi? UWB?) Also, even though you have the feeling of portability, you're still chained to your house.
Is this a successful approach?
Possibly... It all depends on how hard Nintendo pushes 3rd party developers to allow the screen to be used to display game footage. (It also depends on how robust Nintendo makes their SDK libraries that support this feature.) There is more incentive for developer support for this setup than Sony's old PSP remote-play, though, because a developer coding for the Wii U system would know that the customer already has a tablet controller.
Nintendo would also need to continue to push the idea of TV-free, and they would need to carry this beyond E3 and the initial Wii U launch. (Sony failed to do this with remote play.) It would need to remain a driving feature and console selling point.
Nintendo is taking a risk; the Wii U home portability could conflict with their other portable offerings. Why play your 3DS in bed when you can play your Wii U? Nintendo and other 3rd party developers would have to be cautious and differentiate the gaming experiences for both consoles.
The proof is in the playing... I may pick up a PSV, and I already own a PS3. Would I buy a linked title? I'd do so only if the price was right and the content was different enough between the two.
Would I buy a Wii U? I like the concept, but I simply don't know enough about the console yet or what support it would get. It's currently the most promising remote-play system... on paper.