Is the PS Vita Really a Social Gaming Revolution?

Have you been keeping up with the portable gaming wars?  What once used to be the exclusive domain of Nintendo is now a rife battleground featuring the likes of Apple, Sony and even Google, and Sony’s latest offering, the PS Vita, is hoping to win some new fans in the space.  In a recent trailer for the device, they hail the PS Vita as a social gaming revolution — but is it?

The two big social services being launched with Sony’s new device are LiveArea and Near.  LiveArea allows users to explore a shared online ‘game space’ for a given game, where there are message boards, trophy comparisons and chat.  This is to easily enable gamers to play with one another.

Near is a location based service where gamers can find other gamers who are active in the area.  We may see this service grow in scope, but for now it seems quite basic, with the ability to give gifts to one another and chat. It’s not clear whether you can use the service to start a multiplayer game easily.  Check the trailer below for a list of all the features of the PS Vita, including LiveArea and Near.

I don’t know if these features really constitute a social gaming revolution, but it’s smart of Sony to put more emphasis on gaming with friends. What I’d like to see are free downloadable games from PSN that easily allow Vita players to engage one another. The Vita is connected to PSN, the PlayStation Network, so that shouldn’t be a big deal, but in the past PSN has been weak with its storefront for ‘apps’ — it’s difficult to sort and navigate their catalog.