Why Are Handhelds Becoming so Locked Down?

PS Vita Lockdown

Okay, I have to rant a little. We’ve just found out that Sony’s recent Vita update – firmware 1.80 – contains a little secret that has not been advertised: Memory cards will now be locked to a specific PSN ID so switching between multiple accounts is no longer an option. Up until this point it was possible to back up your data to a PS3 and restore the system, before signing in with a different account.

What kind of move is this? (Answer: a dick move). For a start, we should have been able to use multiple accounts from the start – every other system I own allows multiple sign-ins, and content purchased on one account can be used by the others. As someone who moved from the US to the UK this is quite important – I need a UK account to buy things (without the hassle of purchasing foreign point cards online), but need access to my US account because of all the stuff I already own.

With this new update, instead of opening up the system and allowing people to use more than one account on the Vita, Sony have moved in the opposite direction, requiring the purchase of another expensive, proprietary memory card if you have accounts from multiple countries. And what if this is only the first step? The next update may bring even more lockdowns, giving folks further hassle when they want to jump between IDs.

Nintendo have gone down a similar path with their latest handheld. I always loved the fact that when vacationing abroad I could pick up games for my portable, be it Gameboy, Gamegear, PSP, or DS. Not anymore. The 3DS is region-locked, so the American system I brought with me can’t play any of the games I find in UK stores. Why would they do such a thing?

Okay, I know I may be heated, but I can still consider this rationally. I suppose that in this day and age importing is easy – just a few clicks away. Since games are not always released in all regions, or not at the same price, companies need ways to keep sales local. Looking at the PSN store, I can see that American games are generally far cheaper than their UK equivalents, so making it too easy to purchase them could bring a serious revenue drop in the UK store.

But why now? The fact is, people who wanted to use the inconvenient “trick” of backing up their Vita and switching accounts needed both a PS Vita and a PS3. In other words: loyal Sony customers. Is this the right way to treat people who have paid hundreds of dollars for your products? Just let us use multiple accounts!

I like my Sony products – I really do. I even have an expensive Sony TV to play my systems on, but this pisses me off. It was only the other day that I wrote an article about the Vita coming into its own and showing a lot of promise for the future, but this is a step in the wrong direction. Sony (and Nintendo) have a lot of competition in the mobile space these days, from Apple, Google, and even Microsoft, all of whom sell titles for much cheaper. Is this the right way to entice gamers to shell out $250 on a handheld then spend $40+ on games? Maybe I just don’t understand business….

Okay, I’m feeling a little better now that I’ve got that off my chest, but I know this feeling won’t last. I was looking forward to signing in to my US account and re-downloading all the PS1 classics I’ve purchased over the years – FFVII, Symphony of the Night, Silent Hill, Abe’s Oddysee, and so on, but I guess I’ll need to shell out another £35 in memory card fees before that privilege is restored to me. Maybe if enough people are upset by this decision, Sony will correct their mistake with the next Vita update. I’m not holding my breath, though.

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Author: Oscar Langford View all posts by
Deputy Editor