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PS Plus for Vita Offers Instant Game Collection Blowout

No, seriously, six free games right off the bat, plus a whole bunch of new firmware features.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: November 13, 2012
Let it not be said that Sony was messing around while working to bring PlayStation Plus to the Vita. The subscription service saw a massive boost when Sony introduced their so-called ďInstant Game CollectionĒ (so-called because despite naysaying to the contrary, their marketing department knows a thing or three about verbage) around E3 of this year. Suddenly, the service that had already been providing cloud storage of game saves (a paltry 150MB that was thankfully upgraded to a full gig at that same E3), discounts on games and, yes, completely free games had a sort of tent pole moment: you were getting free games, and they were big ones.

There was talk at the Tokyo Game Show a few months later, however, of PS+ coming to the beleaguered Vita, a move that was, to put it mildly, needed to help stir up momentum. As our very own reviews have pointed out, the Vita library is actually fairly decent (if typically lean for a PlayStation system in its first two years), but itís still been something of a trickle -- or at the very least a semi-steady drip of games to keep Vita owners happy. With the Holidays fast approaching and no plans for a price drop, Sony needed something to light a fire under potential buyersí asses.

That fire, it would appear, is PlayStation Plus.

When the service finally goes live on November 20th (yes, that means youíre going to have to wait another week), it will bring with it not just firmware 2.00 (more on that in a second), but six free games to kick-start the Instant Game Collection on PS3. Thereís no additional buy-in here; if you have PS+ on your PS3, you have PS+ for Vita -- even if you donít yet actually have a Vita. Given that there are quite a few Vita owners that also own a PS3, itís clear Sonyís trying to entice more PS3 owners to stay in the family rather than heading for GamePad-friendly waters with the Wii U launch a day before PS+ Vita does.

The six games are among the best on the system right now, and a decent mix of first- and third-party offerings. Come November 20th every PlayStation Plus member can download Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Gravity Rush, WipEout 2048, Jet Set Radio, Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack and Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions. Thatís a rather impressively wide array of games right out of the gate, and though some of us already Platinumed Uncharted and Gravity Rush during the slow summer months, thereís no denying that these are some of the best games on the system. Mutant Blobs Attack was described by our own The Aram. as ďthe best value on VitaĒ when it was originally released and ďa must-buy for most owners.Ē Looks like now you wonít have to. Throw in WipEout, which got free versions of WipEout HD and itís Fury expansion tracks to enable PS3/Vita cross-play, and a PSP classic in the form of Final Fantasy Tactics (slowdown and all) and you have a pretty good cross-section of what makes the Vita slick right now.

"The PlayStation Plus Instant Game Collection is such an incredible value, providing PS3 and now PS Vita owners with a library of 18 games for less than $5 a month," boasts a clearly proud John Koller, veep of marketing home consoles and portable platforms at SCEA. "Ultimately, we know that gamers choose platforms based on content, and with the addition of PS Plus and a stellar lineup of exclusive games launching for the platform by this holiday season, now is the perfect time to purchase a PS Vita."

Itís a smart marriage of full-blown retail releases (just like the PS3 has), downloadable-only entertainment in the form of Blobs and the still-growing library of PSP hits that demonstrates what the Vita can do right now, but that doesnít mean what it can do has stagnated. Along with the PS+ launch, a new firmware download will be posted, bringing the system up to 2.00. Though, confusingly, Sony doesnít typically separate incremental and major firmware updates with a full-blown version number, this oneís certainly no slouch. Among the updates (shamelessly copied and pasted for maximum accuracy and laziness):

-Gmail- and Yahoo-account-owning users will be able to check, read and send e-mail directly from PS Vita

[Content Management]
-Users will be able to wirelessly transfer content between PS Vita and PC in addition to browsing folders on PS3/PC and copying them to PS Vita

[Settings for PSone Classics]
-Users will be able to assign controller buttons to touchscreen, rear touch pad and buttons with select games on the PS Vita system
-Custom screen mode option for flexible screen size adjustment

[Web Browser]
-Enhanced performance of the web browser along with improved support of HTML 5 and JavaScript
-Users will have the ability to Tweet web page addresses

Right, so thatís native e-mail support, better PS one game scaling (nice to have with FFT), wireless transfers to/from PS3s and PCs (finally), a better browser that uses the GPU for rendering annnnnnd close-captioned 1080p video -- a bullet point at best given that OLED screen tops out at the less-than-720p resolution of 960x544 -- plus basic PS+ features like a gigabyte of cloud storage (separate from the gig offered on PS3), automatic demo, patch and firmware updates, and Trophy syncing. Not too shabby, Sony. Coupled with one of the many holiday bundles out there, itís not quite the price drop most are waiting for, but itís definitely one hell of a start.