PS Vita Going Region-Free, Less Intrusive Firmware, PSP Game Support

PlayStation VitaShuhei Yoshida, Sony’s President of Worldwide Studios, confirmed last week via Twitter that the PS Vita would be region-free.

Earlier this year, Gaming Bus reported the PS Vita’s being region-free was a possibility. This was unsubstantiated at the time because Sony Worldwide Studios Europe Vice President Michael Denny made what sounded like a confirmation but then added at the end, “to the best of my knowledge.”
 
 
Over the weekend, Shuhei Yoshida talked to Gameinformer about the PS Vita. The interview talked about many features for the unit and specifically about a sore spot with the PS3 and PSP owners:

Gameinformer: Speaking of security, can we expect the Vita to need as many updates as the PSP and PS3? Are there plans to make these firmware updates less intrusive?

Shuhei Yoshida: I agree, it’s very annoying when you only have one hour in your busy life to play a game, and when you have to spend 30 minutes out of that one hour to update the hardware. So it’s not necessarily the frequency of how we update, it’s like you said – intrusiveness – of the current processes that we have on PS3 and PSP. I cannot talk about specific plans, but we are very aware of the issues, and we’d like to address those issues on PS Vita going forward.

In the same interview, Shuhei confirmed that PSP games will be given a new opportunity to live on the PS Vita:

Gameinformer: What options will there be for owners of original PSP games to play them on the Vita?

Shuhei Yoshida: Downloadable PSP games will play on the Vita. We are going through the process of testing that, so we can’t say there will be 100 percent compatibility, but we are looking at a very high compatibility percentage for downloadable versions of PSP games on PS Vita. In addition, because PS Vita has a much larger, nicer-looking screen, and the existence of dual analog sticks, we will provide from a system level that some games benefit using the right analog stick. Like FPS or third-person action-adventure games. We will provide options to remap the control from either face buttons or the action buttons to right analog stick. So the control would be much better on PS Vita.

Unfortunately, it was also confirmed that Sony is currently not working on a UMD solution out side of Japan:

Gameinformer: So is there a chance that owners of the physical UMDs will have a way to play the game on the Vita?

Shuhei Yoshida: We just announced that we are working on something like that for the Japanese market. We are still working on the details of the program, so we will inform the details of the plan for the Japanese market. But we haven’t decided if we’re going to do something similar outside Japan.


Analysis: This news about the PS Vita is bittersweet. Too many times have we heard Sony say a feature would be supported and then back peddle on it, like OtherOS and UMD. I have little doubt that the PS Vita will remain region-free for games, but UMD provided region lockouts with movies. Sony will quickly axe a feature if they feel it gives the consumer too much flexibility, and this region-free feature will likely be the first to be cut.

I know too many friends who got burned on the whole UMD thing, and I was almost one those poor saps as well. I believe Sony should bring a UMD solution to the general market, not just to Japan. We know media comes and goes, but we heard them say over and over that they wouldn’t drop UMD, but then they quickly and silently killed it, positing the PSN to be the PSP’s new preferred choice for Sony.

I also feel that this whole memory card situation for the PS Vita is just a cash grab for Sony. It seems like they’re following Microsoft’s lead with the 360 HDD, starting low in size but making the price very high to generate demand, and then they’ll release higher capacity cards at a much higher cost.

The potential for abuse here is huge once we consider past and present information. All I can say is that I’m looking at the PS Vita with a microscope before I commit to purchasing that platform from Sony.
 
 
Correction: A line with some mistaken information was removed from the article roughly five hours after the original posting. We apologize for the error.

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