Sony Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:SNE) plans to launch a microconsole later this year. The PS Vita TV, which retails for about $95, will go on sale in Japan this November, ahead of the PlayStation 4’s release.
With its ability to both play games and stream online content, the PS Vita TV should be a worthy competitor to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)‘s set-top box. At the same time, the device is symbolic of a major shift taking place in the video game industry.
PS Vita TV should be a hit in Japan
So far, Sony Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:SNE) has only announced the release date for Japan, though the device will almost certainly make it to other major markets in the near future. Buyers of the Vita TV will instantly gain access to a large library of games, including previously released Vita, PSP, and original PlayStation games.
The Vita and PSP are Sony Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:SNE)’s handheld video game consoles that compete with Nintendo’s DS line. Both the PSP and Vita have lagged Nintendo’s handhelds in terms of global sales, and by Sony Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:SNE)’s own admission, their handhelds have not lived up to expectations. Yet, the Vita has done fairly well in Japan, briefly outselling Nintendo’s 3DS for a time.
With cramped cities and widespread reliance on public transportation, handheld gaming is huge in Japan. It’s really no surprise then, that Sony Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:SNE) will release the Vita TV in that market four months before the PlayStation 4.
More than a gaming device
But as its name implies, the Vita TV is as much of a set-top box as it is a video game console. Initially, it will launch with services aimed at the Japanese market (Tsutaya TV), as well as Hulu. When it makes its way to the US, Amazon Prime and Netflix seem like a lock, given that they’re already available on Sony Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:SNE)’s PlayStation 3 console.
Of course, this could only be the beginning. There have been reports that Sony is currently in talks with content providers for its own Internet-based cable alternative. A Sony paid-TV service combined with a cheap Vita TV could be a potent combination.
iOS 7 and Apple’s gaming efforts
And as Sony blends gaming with TV, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) could be planning much the same. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s mobile operating system, iOS, is already a fairly strong gaming platform in its own right; still, its reliance on touch-based controls, and its restriction to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s mobile phones and tablets, means many continue to write it off.