The Consumer Electronics Show has brought forth more information regarding the Vita: It has been revealed that AT&T will be providing 3G plans at monthly prices of $14.99 for 250MB and $25 for 2 GB. These are non-contract plans. AT&T President of Emerging Devices Glenn Lurie gave a statement regarding the plans:
The data plans for the PlayStation Vita will give gaming enthusiasts a convenient and seamless path to connect to a nationwide mobile broadband network while gaming on the go. We are looking forward to providing PlayStation Vita users the ability to experience a new era of portable gaming through wireless integration. This introduces an entirely new gaming experience, with access to popular social networking sites, right on the device.
Access to these 3G plans allows use of the Near application wherever a signal can be achieved. This application allows the user to check out who’s using a Vita nearby, what the most popular game in the area is, and share virtual item gifts that are usable in various games. The service also allows access to the various social apps on the Vita without requiring connectivity to a Wi-Fi network. Among the applications confirmed for the Vita are Facebook, Flickr, foursquare, and Twitter. In addition to these applications, Sony has announced that Netflix will also make its way to the Vita in time for the North American launch. Much like the PS3 application, this will allow the user to stream TV shows and movies as long as an Internet connection is available.
The system is set to launch in North America on February 22nd. The Vita has been on the market in Japan for nearly a month but has only managed to sell just over 500,000 units in that time. We reported that the second week the unit was on sale showed a decrease in sales from 324,859 to 72,479 units despite being the week before Christmas. The week following that saw an even further decrease, with only 42,648 units selling. The current week’s sales have not been reported yet, but Sony claims that over half a million units have been sold.
Analysis: The pricing is outrageous when compared to the inevitable size of DLC and games. Granted, the intended use of the 3G network is probably not to download entire games, though I wager that it will likely be used for DLC at least by some. But even DLC could easily surpass that 250 MB cap with a single download. Honestly, if you own a smartphone and a Vita, you’re better off wirelessly tethering your Vita to your phone. This is what I intend to do, and it renders paid 3G service useless. Also, keep in mind that 3G isn’t nearly as good as 4G, so a 4G model will likely be the first hardware refresh. Not to mention that if you can wirelessly tether to a 4G smartphone, you will gain much higher speeds, further rendering a paid 3G service for the device useless.
The Near application seems interesting. It’s essentially Sony’s answer to the 3DS’s StreetPass. However, what I want to see is either Near or StreetPass integrated into a social network, so that when you pass someone, you can friend them online via account name, keep in touch, and expand your networks. I think this would be the greatest portable console revolution and would certainly make applications like this more fun and fruitful.
Finally, the Vita is sorely underperforming. Netflix may help sales in the U.S., given that watching movies on that OLED display will be much nicer than the tiny 3DS display. Having this ready in time for the U.S. launch was a good idea, but the console needs to really take off outside Japan to avoid suffering the fate of the PSP or worse.