As more details come to light about Sony's upcoming PlayStation Vita handheld gaming system, our hopes of a (as Sony put it) "Social Gaming Revolution" are fading fast. EuroGamer has gathered new details about the console's online capabilities, but honestly, there's nothing truly revolutionary here.
First, there's the feature called Near, which is comparable to the Nintendo's 3DS StreetPass, with a gifting system built in. It tracks your location, and allows you to learn a bit about the Vita owners that are nearby you (what games they've played recently, for one). You can leave gifts in the locations you visit each day, and as other Vita owners visit those same locations, they may be able to pick up said gifts and use them in-game. While it's a novel concept, let's not forget that check-in applications like Gowalla have had item drop-and-pick-up features for quite some time. Besides, the entire virality of Near is dependent on having people within your geographical area that have purchased a Vita, so if you live in a rural neighborhood, your interactions will likely be limited.
Another feature is called Party, and it will allow you to talk with up to three of your friends in a "platform-wide" party, regardless of what you or your friends are doing elsewhere on your Vitas at the time. Again, this is fairly self-explanatory, as Xbox Live's Party Chat and Skype offer two major examples of similar systems.
Finally, there's the LiveArea and Activity trackers, which bring a bit of a Facebook-like setup to the system, as you'll be able to see activities listed in a sort of feed, including posts for when users unlock trophies or reach new leaderboard rankings, and will allow you to comment on them. LiveArea will also allow developers to interact with users, as they can push through announcements of updated content, or even DLC that has been released, and will track users' locations for as-of-now unannounced location features.
As individual systems, these don't really leave much for us to get excited about in the "revolution" column. Sure, cross-game chatting is great, and the Near gifting system should allow users in very active areas to earn in-game items otherwise unavailable to them, but revolutionary? While these combined packages are likely to please many fans, I'm not so sure the adjective fits. We'll make sure to keep track of how Sony further develops the Vita's online and social capabilities, and we can only hope it has more hiding up its sleeve.
Are you excited for the PlayStation Vita? Are you hoping that more social features are added to the system before it launches, or is this a nice round-up of features as-is? Sound off in the comments.