PS Vita Designer On Perfect Screen Size And Battling Engineers

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PS Vita Designer On Perfect Screen Size And Battling Engineers

Last December I attended the Tokyo launch of PlayStation Vita, which is going to be in your hands just about one month from now. While I was there, I got to chat with Takashi Sogabe of the Sony Corporate Design Centre, head of the team in charge of the aesthetic of the console. Sogabe-san has 27 years of experience working with Sony, in which time he has designed the Walkman, VAIO notebooks, the current slimmer model of PS3 and many other electronic devices.


We spoke about the look and feel of PS Vita and the eternal tug of war that goes on between the designers wanting to create something as sleek and compact as possible and the engineers whose job it is to cram as much technology as they can into that shell.
PS.Blog: A lot of people seem impressed by the five inch OLED screen on PlayStation Vita. How did you decide on that particular size?
Tokashi Sogabe: When we first saw a prototype of the beautiful OLED screen we used on PS Vita, we felt it deserved to be bigger than the 4.3 inch screen on PSP. It’s almost as if we settled on five inches in order to really maximise the same impact that we felt when we first saw it.
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking bigger is better when it comes to screen size but it isn’t. There was a great deal of discussion and we even talked about using an even larger screen.


PSB: How much development has gone into the dual analog sticks and what design challenges did they present?
TS: The engineers have been working on the PS Vita analog sticks for quite some time and it is a much greater technical challenge to build sticks this small than you might imagine. We learned that you need that physical response of tilting the stick to feel like you have total control.
For me as a designer they have presented a huge challenge, partly because it much easier to design products with entirely flat surfaces. We also discussed the position of the analog sticks at great length: I didn’t feel that they were in the perfect position from a design perspective but Worldwide Studios were adamant that they were in the best position for comfortable gameplay, and in the end they won out on that point.


PSB: How do designers and engineers work together to ensure all aspects of the device, such as performance, form and comfort of use are all just right?
TS: There is always a battle between engineers and designers and I’m not just talking about PlayStation Vita when I say that – it is always there. To give you an example, I originally intended for the final machine to be thinner than it is now. From a designer’s point of view thinner is always better. However, the engineer has to cram all of the technology into that case and so they’re going to be fighting back on that point.
A designer is always looking to create that magical first impression aesthetically and an engineer’s job to bring the working device into reality; neither side wants to make any compromise whatsoever.
Also, it’s not just designers and engineers who have a say. When we started work on PS Vita, the shape we had in mind was very similar to the final product, but in the testing phase we tried many different designs. We settled on the final model after many discussions with the game development teams in Worldwide Studios.
PSB: Who usually wins these battles between designers and engineers?
TS: Many years ago I would have said that it was the designers, at least here at Sony. In fact, when we were developing the Walkman I remember coming to the office with a block of wood and saying that it needed to be this size and shape, and it was up to the engineers to make that happen.
It’s hard to compare then and now because Sony has become so much bigger as a company. Of course, your question also depends on personalities – some designers are very stubborn and will never budge, whereas others are easier to convince.
Talking about PS Vita specifically, I was pushing through this idea of ‘thinner is better’ but I had to be reminded of things like the feature set, processing power, battery life… the overall package.
There are times when you have a design idea that you love but then the engineers see a major flaw straight away. I actually wanted PS Vita to be entirely made of metal but then it was pointed out that this was impossible due to the internal Wi/Fi, 3G and GPRS antennae.
So yes, I’m afraid designers do lose on some occasions!

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  • Bring out some more games and I shall consider buying it. Work with Nintendo on a handheld and I would buy it day 1.

  • I think this console should be abit cheaper…It’s more expensive than a PS3 with games!
    Yeah, the touch screen and rearpad are great, but £230 is so steep. I’m hoping sales are low like the 3DS, maybe Sony will be king and decrease the price or ofer something in the UK! I’m willing to wait til the summer to see how it fares…

  • I’m taking this to mean there will be an eventual Vita lite, although I’d suggest a different name at least in the uk. Is really like to hear details of the Vodafone packages though, can we get vita with a 3g contract?

  • Comparing the price of a cutting edge gaming portable with a five year old console..
    Why can’t gamers be reasonable and intelligent?

  • Great interview, it’s cool to find out how the model itself actually gets designed. I’m glad they get more opinions on stuff like the type of analog sticks they use and their placement, when it comes to inputting combos button and stick response is incredibly important, which is kinda why I’m not keen on having L1 and R1 being pressure sensitive for a lot of games (and thank god the d-pad doesn’t have that issue).
    Overall it looks fantastic, I’m looking forward to getting one of my own :)

  • 2# You are comparing a totaly new device with a 5year old system? The price is great and most of us thought that it would be £349.
    It’s a bargain for what you get in the system.

  • Yeah, fair enough the PS3 is getting on abit now, but the only main aspects of this ‘cutting edge’ technology is the touchenabled parts and the 3G…
    At least IMO that’s all that stands out. The memory cards cost alot too, plus the games are going for around 40£ now…
    This costs more than the Wii release date back in 2006…The 3DS cost the same and IMO has much better aspects than the PS Vita…3d visuals are much more on the up now

  • @kivi95
    Well I certainly didn’t think it would be £350 lol
    Why people thought that i don’t know…touch screen was done with DS, 3g done with mobile phones…not much new going on IMO

  • seriously! ppl that say this wee piece of kit have to do their homework on what u are getting for your money,compare the hardware specs & what it can & will be able to do in the future.its the 3ds that’s still overpriced I couldn’t believe when I looked up how bad the specs on that handheld are.yes it is expensive,but not when u compare it against its competitors & what the machines can do save up like most ppl.

  • also looking foward to it! had it pre orderd for a while now.

  • I have no need to save up, that’s not the issue here.
    It’s just expensive in my eyes, the 3DS was expensive too, hence the price drop. But hey, this is my opinion, there’s nothing ‘new’ about the vita, whereas Nintendo always pull something, which hasn’t been done with gaming, out of their bag.
    Of course I still believe the Vita will be a great console…just the price…lol =]

  • When memory cards do not cost 400% of what is the normal pricing I might be interested.

  • i can’t understand the compacency on price. I mean ps3 was dead expensive when it released and yet millions still bought it and still consider it a great purchase. Just seems hypocritical to me if you fact the price into it. Surely the deciding factors are decided by the Vita and if it meets you needs etc.
    Anyway pre-order at the ready, am just hoping Game have a midnight launch. In the mean time, please hurry up and release details of the 3G costs.

  • Things can fit your needs or not, but that doesn’t take away the feeling of dread when you think the price is too high.
    PS3 was disgustingly expensive and so I waited for a year til i found it alot cheaper. But the system has BluRay, Hd visuals, DVD player, WiFi etc etc compared to the Vita it is worth the price.
    This, in some ways, is like my Xperia Play, just better visuals and Vita games

  • @KylieDog
    I agree and I don’t think the system comes packaged with a card, so I’m put off even more

  • I hope it sells well;) If not we will be stuck with playing Mario 7/8/9/10 etc etc & just using cr*p touch controls for mobile games(i.e using Mobile phones) LoL + Tokashi Sogabe is a GOD;)

  • If the extras weren’t so blatently overpriced, or it would be possible to buy a non-sony memory card, ie normal price, then i think i’d pre-order, But it’s a launch price and i don’t really need a handheld that badly.. also the part of the interview where slimness of the vita was set kinda gets me thinking that it is the marketing branch involved, ie make it to thin now and it will be more expensive for us to produce future slimlines, so good luck to all who are letting their hearts rule their heads, it’s allowed occasionally, and i hope you’s have many hours of gaming fun, personally i’m waiting a few months.

  • people thought that becuase it has a quad-core version i the iphone 4s’s processor and has a 5″ OLED compared to 3.5 on the iphone (conapring to the iphone as spec wise the vita is vastly superior and costs half as much

  • The new ps2 classics are their any plans tot have then compatible with vita mush the Assembly”’ vut npy a devetective :S

  • I’d like to have seen how the old prototypes of Vita looked like.

  • @Carl-G
    Sales don’t look healthy at all in Japan, even the PSP is outselling PSV at the moment…
    Nintendo 3DS – 100,668 (240,819)
    PlayStation 3 – 30,332 (74,459)
    PSP – 22,538 (71,033)
    PS Vita – 18,361 (42,915)
    Wii – 14,179 (49,525)
    Nintendo DSi LL – 1,515 (3,971)
    Xbox 360 – 1,519 (2,738)
    Nintendo DSi – 1,206 (3,565)
    PlayStation 2 – 766 (1,323)
    (Source Media Create Japan)

  • That’s a 95% drop on week one sales!
    Maybe this will force SONY’s hand like Nintendo’s & cause a rapid u-turn on price…

  • Why is everyone complaining about the Vita? Jesus.
    I think it’s looking like the best handheld console to date, and it is seriously cheap for what you’re getting. I paid £225 for my PSPgo and thought it was worth it. And to think, the Vita will only cost me £5 more is seriously amazing stuff. The technology behind this device is INCREDIBLE, anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t researched their stuff. I don’t game often at all on the move, but I seriously can’t wait to get my hands on the Vita. The reason… it offers so many new ways to play games, with the gyroscopic controls, front and rear touch pads, analogue sticks, cameras and traditional buttons. It also allows me to play PlayStation 3 quality games anywhere in the house or at a friends if I decided I wanted to. Wipeout 2048 is looking like such a quality title, and is my most anticipated game of the year, so I especially can’t wait for that.
    February 22nd needs to hurry up!

  • The Vita is awesome but the games are just way too expensive!!! Bring them down to <£30 then I would buy a Vita without hesitation!!!

  • it costs to much yes you may think its cheap at 250 but it not its a hand held for christ sake i can get a iphone for that and play gta 3 this is tanking and will do so in the uk and the usa until sony realise that you can sell this at no more than 149.99 and i have a touch screen phone why do i need one on my portable game console i want to play cod and battlefield gt and gta if i want a quick game i will pull my phone out good luck sony but again its gonna fail

  • there seems to be a lot of kids with parents wallets!!
    the vita will drop in price after 6 months, vita sales fell by 78% on the second week of launch. prices will drop to about £175 after the first 6 months, i can already buy vita on the net for £100-£200.
    no way on earth is there a legitimate reason for the high price except that its a perk/novelty that the kids want to occupy there tiny mind, even though the ps3 is old it still has better functions yet it costs less. i suppose with some comments on here you are happy to pay £1000 for the ps4 as that is meant to be even better but i can tell you now it will only cost around £400 on launch!!!

  • LOL the PS3 has better functions? Seriously? The only thing it has over Vita is connecting to your TV (a shame but not that critical for a handheld gaming device) and it plays Blu-ray.
    Except Sony’s own Blu-ray players do far far better, faster, with a better picture and using less electricity than the PS3 does.
    On the other hand the Vita has double the RAM of the PS3, has better multitasking online features than PS3 (cross game chat anyone?), is portable and has more control schemes than the PS3 does.
    Okay Vita can’t replicate Move style games, but few of those are popular anyway. With classic controls and touch screen/panel and motion sensors, its the perfect handheld games console, period.
    However much I like the 3DS, its nothing compared to Vita. Its poorly designed, its too small to hold comfortably and its VASTLY underpowered.
    Okay so the iPhone can play GTA 3, badly (the touch screen controls suck) yet the Vita could play GTA V, well. Hardly comparable is it?

  • Vita is well worth the price, the ONLY thing that I find insanely stupid is the memory cards. If I am going to buy games digitally I need 32GB minimum to start with and 64GB, 128MB need to be an option later on. But hopefully the prices will come down on the cards, I can’t imagine the Vita price coming down any time soon however.
    The 3DS came down in price because Nintendo overpriced it, the new price is nearer to the manufacturing cost. The Vita is going to be priced well below the cost to manufacture it, phones half as powerful cost twice as much – so how much did you think Sony could lose on each Vita? Even if we all buy the largest memory card and a game with out Vita they will be losing money on that sale. I think that is pretty reasonable of them personally.

  • Can you please put up a competition to win

  • Uncharted 3 dlc, GTA V , The Last Of Us and Resident Evil 6 are just 4 of the reasons id rather play my trusty PS3 than buy a PSV.

  • Please please please can we have some information on a realease date if any ? for choplifter HD on PSN EU ? many thanks.

  • The thing looks pretty much perfect.. I was worried about seeing a sliding model like the PSPGO, I’m glad it turned out like this..
    I love Playstation design (PSPGO excluded), in fact the Dualshock or the Playstation controller in general has such a perfect design that I don’t ever want it to change (the boomerang design for the ps2 controller almost gave me a heart attack, thankfully they kept the old model), it’s so perfect and iconic that I can’t think of playing Playstation with another controller..

  • Reading this kinda makes me pity the PS Vita.
    I already didn’t like it, but now I forgive them a little.
    I don’t really get the whole hardware versus aesthetics thing here.
    They really didn’t need the pinpoint, sub-pixel precision on the touch screen. Don’t need 3G. Don’t need the rear touch panel.
    Could of reduced the hardware easily with all the unneeded stuff in there.
    Honestly the first time I saw the Vita I was disappointed. Didn’t have that appeal most new gaming hardware does.
    It looks too similar to the original phat PSP. I feel like by buying a Vita I may aswell go back to 2005 and buy a device that I KNOW has a really crappy web browser, that I KNOW has no games and that I KNOW will have a revision model.
    and the system menu looks too much like the iPhone’s, or another smart phone.
    Doesn’t “feel” new enough. Nothing about it.
    and why are the buttons so small & close together? It makes the device look even bigger than it is. Plus there’s been complaints that it’s hard to use with the buttons so close together.

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