In the latest issue of Edge Magazine, Sony Computer Entertainment’s European President Jim Ryan commented on the Vita’s rear touch mechanism.
“It’s a nice, unique feature, but it’s not something that can be used indiscriminately, because obviously you’ve got the issue of not knowing where exactly your finger is, unless you’re gifted with some sixth sense.”
The statement clearly reveals that the Vita’s rear controls aren’t all that they’re cracked up to be, if even Ryan himself is saying so. But why would he want to reveal this, potentially giving the rear touch screen controls a bad reputation?
Ryan then suggests that the touch interface may better suit weaker gamers, as he notes:
“For someone like me, who’s basically a poor gamer, I can play Uncharted using touch functionality. Someone who is a very proficient and accomplished gamer can conventionally enjoy it at a different level.”
Could this suggest that touch functionality will feel awkward and see slow uptake with many gamers? Will it result in more experienced, serious gamers resenting the Vita, making it a console associated with younger, more inexperienced gamers? We’ll have to wait see.
The idea of a capacitive touch panel on the back of a device is new but, to call it awkward would imply it is non-functional and has no place on a gaming device. A user interface which has multiple inputs in a spatial area (compared to the abstract act of pressing a tactile button) is a very useful tool. The game Sound Shapes uses it to scale and set level assets which are intergral to the music. Without the back touch, a user would need to use a different combination of front touch and button combination to scale level assets while obscuring their visual designs.
Personally, I have been a proponent of AR (augmented reality), back touch, and all the features possible on a portable device from the start. The more tools like back touch, the better. The only thing I wish that the PS Vita should have had was z-axis touch technology. Perhaps, in a future iteration the PS Vita will expand its hardware user interfaces beyond the many user interfaces available on the launch models.