So, the Vita has launched today and some of our writers and readers are playing with theirs as I type. While I do not own one myself I have observed the biggest part of the Vita that may play into its future growth: The Twitter app.
“Aha!” you say. “A twitter app is pointless on the Vita; almost every electronic device known to man can tweet these days”. That is true, and I too had initially dismissed the inclusion of a Twitter app on the Vita; why would you tweet from your Vita when you have an always-on phone in your pocket, or the official site on your desktop? Well, as I very quickly learned, the Twitter app, LiveTweet, on the Vita combines perfectly with the screenshot capabilities of the Vita (activated by pressing Home and Start together). As those I followed played around with their new shiny toys my Twitter feed became a constant stream of Vita screenshots.
Next came the requests for further screenshots of various games, what are they like, how do they run, ooh shiny. Sony had, possibly inadvertently, created a powerful form of marketing that comes along with email verification that goes right into their device at zero expense to them. Any Vita gamer could easily snap a screenshot, switch to the Twitter app, post, then get right back to their gaming.
This is not the first platform to offer such features. A year ago Valve introduced a screenshot feature to its Steam client, allowing gamers to easily capture and share their gaming moments with their Steam friends and beyond. OnLive also comes built right into the controller, with the feature for “Brag Clips“, allowing you to quickly record small snippets of gameplay and share them with other members of OnLive. The PS3 itself has included the features to record video within its firmware, though it is rarely used. As social becomes a large part of gaming, these tools of sharing become a vital part too; involving friends and followers with your gaming experience.
Unfortunately, the Vita does allow developers to disable this feature if they wish. Though they restrict it at their own peril, this is a free source of marketing. I wholly expect to see the next generation of consoles to come with these features. Crummy smartphone photos are no longer an acceptable alternative; a seamless capture and upload process day one is an absolute must. Achievements and Trophies are last gen. We don’t want to know just that you have killed 100 enemies in multiplayer, we want the capture of you firing that last bullet through their skull. A picture tells a thousand words, and you can cram a couple into a 140-character tweet.