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Like candy from a baby: PS Vita takes freedom from new generation

SONY’s new hand-held console is riddled with Digital Restrictions Management (DRM). Both hardware and software are built to control what consumers can do, requiring large and frequent payments to SONY in order to experience the features the PS Vita advertises. As the SONY marketing machine focuses its powers on children and young adults in their homes and schools through the usual multi-million dollar advertising onslaught, I thought I’d highlight the ways in which a new generation of gamers will have their freedoms taken from them. Will PS Vita owners grow up to assume digital media will only ever work on a single device? Will they come to see cross-platform, cross-device compatibility of applications and protocols as a historical ideal?

Some of the restrictions below are well established in SONY products. Disproportionately priced, product-specific removable flash memory with inbuilt DRM has been a company staple for more than a decade. Some of the measures are new however, like the various systems which enforce a strict single user per device policy. This initiative is eerliy familiar to anyone who has read Richard Stallman’s short dystopian story from 1997 ‘The Right to Read‘. Furthermore it is amazing to me that on top of these restrictions, SONY still hasn’t added support for Free formats and standards like OGG and HTML5 video – these are well established within the industry, and free of both copyright and patent concerns for companies like SONY. The combination of willful product restrictions, and the lack of Free and Open elements results in a consumer product that is as anti-consumer as anything SONY has produced.

Anti-freedom components of the SONY PS Vita:

  • New proprietary operating system
  • App store purchases / prices restricted by region via ‘PlayStation®Network’ (PSN) ID
  • Games and media only work with the single PSN ID account with which they were purchased, prohibiting sharing
  • Only one PSN ID per machine, enforcing single user devices
  • App store (‘Playstation store’) purchases only via sony
  • Built in chat systems (text, voice) only compatible with PSN – no communication with non-SONY social networks
  • ‘PS Vita cards’ are proprietary physical form and format (purchased games and movies come on these)
  • ‘PS Vita memory cards’ are proprietary physical form and format (saved games and downloaded apps are stored on these)
  • All existing memory types of memory cards (micro-SD, MMC etc.) are unsupported
  • ‘PS Vita memory cards’ are currently ten times more expensive than Micro-SD
  • Games which support the use of alternative firmware are removed from distribution by SONY
  • Incompatible with iTunes movies and TV shows
  • Incompatible with blu-ray movies
  • Video player only accepts a single patent encumbered video format (MPEG4)
  • Open media Standards are not supported (Ogg, Theora, WebM); no HTML5 video support
  • Advertised backwards compatibility with Playstation games only available via redownload from SONY (versions may be different, old purchases are no longer anonymous)
  • Using an alternative firmware to protect your freedom or privacy would void device warrantee
  • Using an alternative firmware which does not enforce DRM and region-blocking may be illegal
  • Official website uses proprietary Adobe Flash
  • Games more expensive than ever RRP £35 – £45 (consumers pay for all that DRM)

So, what do you think ?