People love to say that the PlayStation Vita has no games. I'm the guy who tells them they're wrong. Though Sony's handheld hasn't been a huge success, it's one of my personal favorite devices. I love the form factor and the diverse line-up of games, from the charming Tearaway to music games like Sound Shapes and Hohokum. It's amazing that I can take classics like Vib-Ribbon or Final Fantasy VII with me wherever I go.
In theory, my love of the platform makes me the target market for PlayStation TV, Sony's tiny new box that lets you play Vita games on your television. (You can also use it to stream PS4 games to a second television set.) But after playing around with the PS TV for the past week, I'm not sure why I'd ever really use it. It takes one of my favorite systems, removes a number of its best games, and adds in features with limited appeal.
This may be a device that can play Vita games on your TV. But it's not a device for a Vita fan like me.
Of course, the PS TV is more than just a Vita for your big screen. If you have a PS4, you can use the PS TV to stream games to a second television set. It's a handy feature that works reasonably well, though for most people it's far from a necessity. I imagine the number of people willing to spend $100 so they don't have to move their PS4 to a different room is small. The PS TV also works with PlayStation Now, a service that lets you rent and stream PS3 games, though it's not a particularly great value with uneven streaming quality and ridiculously high prices.
Not every Vita game works on the PS TV
Neither of those features holds much appeal for me personally, though — I was much more excited about the idea of playing some of my favorite games on a big screen. As an existing Vita owner with a big library of titles, the first thing I did was start downloading some of my favorites. That's where the problems began. Not every Vita game works on the PS TV (you can find a list of those that do here). In some cases the incompatibility makes sense: a game like Metrico, which uses many Vita-specific features like the back touchpad, simply wouldn't work with a controller. But why can't I play the beautiful remake of Another World or the fantastic skateboarding game OlliOlli? Both games use buttons instead of touch for controls, so there's little reason they can't work with a regular PlayStation controller. (OlliOlli is even available on both the PS3 and PS4.)
Wipeout 2048 is just one of the many excellent Vita games you can't play on PlayStation TV.
It doesn't always make a lot of sense why a game isn't compatible, and some of the device's most notable titles won't work on the PS TV. Worse, when you visit the PlayStation Store from your PS TV, it includes a section for games that are compatible with the device, but it doesn't prevent you from installing those that aren't. I managed to download multiple games from my purchase history even though they weren't compatible, and only realized I couldn't play them after trying to load them. If you have a big library of Vita games, you'll definitely want to keep that list handy.
If you own a PlayStation console, there's little new for you here
Once you actually start playing things work seamlessly. Titles like the brilliant space-shooter Velocity 2X and the classic platform game Fez look and play great. The just-launched Vita version of Minecraft feels especially solid, and as a bonus, you can share your save data with the PS3 and PS4 versions of the game. There isn't really a killer app, though. In fact, the best Vita games that you can play on your television are mostly already available on either the PS3 or PS4, and with Sony's incredibly useful cross-buy feature, you only need to buy them once. If you are looking at buying a PlayStation TV, chances are you already own at least one Sony console. And if that's the case, there's little new for you here.
So what you're left with is a tiny box that plays a number of Vita games reasonably well on your television. As an existing Vita owner who already owns a Sony console, I can already play most of those games on my TV without the extra hardware. And for those who don't already own a Vita, the PS TV lets you play many of the handheld's games, but you'll be missing out on some of the biggest and best titles. When someone asks me what to play on their new Vita, I usually say Tearaway and Wipeout 2048. PlayStation TV isn't compatible with either.
Imagine a SNES that couldn't play Super Mario World or Super Metroid. That's the PlayStation TV.