I managed to get my hands on a PS Vita last week and while I'm very much impressed with the kit (more detailed thoughts to come) one thing that has been apparent in my early days of using it is how DRM centric it is. Read on to find out how Sony's response to the piracy woes encountered with the PSP and PS3 will affect the thousands of honest customers that invest in the new machine.
Much was made of the announcement that it would use propriety memory cards, with many thinking this was a sneaky way of artificially boosting the price of the PS Vita, as it's pretty much useless without one.
To a certain extent that's definitely true, and contrary to what most people’s opinion is, I'm not completely outraged. It was commonly accepted by pretty much everyone that the RRP of the PS Vita was incredibly generous given what's inside it, so Sony have made a bit of a recoup with the memory. So far, so acceptable. But then I find out that Sony have built in an absolutely scandalous need to be connected to the internet and use PC software before transferring games/savedata, rather than good ol' drag & drop. In doing so, Sony has created a walled garden setup that even Apple would be proud of. The inaccessible battery is another thing Sony seem to have done to tighten security - fine in itself, but when you have to have the unit turned off to USB charge it would be nice to be able to carry a spare battery for a machine that only runs for 5 hours.
Proprietary memory means no card reader in the world is going to accept the format unless it's inside the Vita, and then having to be connected to the net and use special software means you are inherently inhibited if you want to file transfer anywhere outside your own house. PS Vita games are about 3-5GB, and 16 GB is the biggest card you can buy on these shores. That means 4-6 Vita games max on a card, and if you want to swap between them you have to be connected to the internet. Whether it's downloading from the PSN Store or copying a backup from your local machine, it still means extra hassle. That might not be a huge problem for a lot of people, but ethically it just feels wrong that Sony want to check up on you every time you want to put a new game on your system. For a portable machine especially, it smacks of paranoia over piracy to the point where it damages the legitimate user's experience, something that Ubisoft has rightly been hounded over in previous years. I understand Sony want to keep the platform unhacked for as long as they can after the whole Geohot debacle last year, but really they should know better than that.
As sure as a 16 GB memory card isn't really worth £40 at market value, hackers will find a way into the Vita eventually. They've already found back doors that allow them to run homebrew emulators, and a full exposure is always just a matter of time. Whatever you think of hackers, they're pretty good at that sort of thing. So, until that day, and probably even after, all of the people using the machine legally will be ever so slightly hamstrung, purely for the sake of protecting corporate interests via unnecessary DRM restrictions. Given the widespread piracy on the PSP it's understandable why Sony had to be more careful on their latest handheld, but they performed admirably in shoring up the PS3 again after we were told it was completely jailbroken without hope for recourse, and I just wish they'd used that experience to solidify the PS Vita through regular PSN updates and new games requiring newer firmware versions, rather than these draconian measures.