More discouraging Playstation Vita details revealed

We're just two weeks out from the Japanese launch date for the Playstation Vita, but details about the handheld gaming device continue to trickle out. Shouldn't we know all this stuff by now?

The latest report, from Andriasang, talks about Flash support, video resolution and why Sony is going with proprietary memory cards.

Let's start with Flash on the Vita. As you probably know, Adobe has discontinued further development of Flash for mobile devices. Nevertheless Sony is still in negotiations with Adobe to get a version (presumably Flash Mobile 11, the last version Adobe is making for smartphones and tablets) on the Vita.

I'm really not sure this is a big deal, honestly. Almost all video on the web these days is available via HTML5 (thanks to the popularity of Flash-free iOS devices) and most Flash games wouldn't work well on the tiny Vita screen (I base this on my generally unsatisfying attempts to play Flash games on an Android phone and tablet) anyway. Sony probably wants it there as a marketing bullet point more than anything. If they convince Adobe, great, but if there's no Flash on the Vita I don't think many will miss it.

Next up, the news that video is limited to 720P. This seems like another non-issue. The Vita doesn't have video-out, as far as I know, and the 960x544 screen doesn't have enough pixels to support 1080P so it would have to downscale the picture anyway. 720P seems sufficient for a 5" screen.

Now let's talk about those memory cards. Sony says its using proprietary memory cards both for security reasons and to ensure a consistent experience for all users. While I can believe that, it doesn't explain why they're charging such enormous sums for these cards. The caveat here is that we haven't seen official pricing for the cards, but game retailer Gamestop lists them at $120 (!!) for a 32 GB card, $70 for a 16GB, $45 for 8 GB and $30 for a 4 GB. Those prices are insane, and not in a good way.

I hope Sony isn't planning on selling many downloadable games on the Vita. If so, they're shooting themselves in the foot by charging such premium prices for storage, right? But there's one last hope, and that is a rumor from ThriftyNerd, which says the downloadable versions of games will be offered at a 40% discount over the hard copies sold at retail. If you buy a lot of games you might save money by going digital even with the big upfront cost of the storage.

If ThriftyNerd is wrong, then I just don't know what Sony is thinking. A 32 GB generic SD card costs about $40 at Amazon. I can't see how Sony is going to get away with tripling that price. One other possibility is that Gamestop's figures may turn out to be inaccurate. Let's hope there's something we don't know going on here.

The last bad news is that there won't be a Mac client at launch. The Vita requires special software to move files on and off the unit from a computer (it doesn't just show up as a storage device like most phones and cameras do) and that software won't be ready for the Mac at launch. That's a real head-scratcher: has Sony just assumed every Mac owner will be sticking to their iPad? Why wouldn't they have this software available at launch?

I've got a Vita pre-ordered and the hardware really excites me, but I'm getting an uneasy feeling that Sony is about to totally botch another console launch. I'm reserving judgement until we get closer to the North America release date (February 22nd), but the cost of the memory cards and the lack of a Mac client both seem like huge issues to me.

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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