PS4 developer: Sony mandates Vita Remote Play for all games

UPDATE: Sony confirms: "It will be great to play PS4 games on PS Vita."

A Photoshop mock-up of Killzone: Shadow Fall running on PlayStation Vita. By the end of the year, we could actually be playing the PS4 exclusive on Sony's handheld system.

UPDATE: Sony has confirmed our exclusive report about Vita Remote Play and PlayStation 4 games.

"Yes, it's true unless the game requires specific hardware like the camera," Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida wrote on Twitter in response to a question from a follower. "It will be great to play PS4 games on PS Vita."

ORIGINAL STORY: A trusted PlayStation 4 developer source with a proven track record for accuracy has told Digital Foundry that Sony has mandated Vita Remote Play for all upcoming PS4 games - except those that require the use of its bundled stereoscopic camera, the PS4 Eye.

The news is a shot in the arm for the beleaguered PlayStation Vita, which has failed to attract commercial success in line with Sony's hopes for the system, and sets the stage for the handheld to provide the same kind of off-TV play that makes the Wii U GamePad such a useful gadget for gaming around the home (and indeed elsewhere).

Remote Play works by downscaling the 1080p framebuffer to the Vita's native 960x544 resolution, using the PS4's in-built hardware h.264 video encoder to compress the image. This is then beamed out over WiFi to the Vita, which decodes the video and sends back controller inputs to the PlayStation 4. It's effectively OnLive cloud streaming technology relocated to the home - the difference being that image quality issues can be resolved through much higher-bandwidth video, while input latency is cut down considerably owing to the localised nature of the network.

"Downscaling the native 1080p image for the Vita screen will lose some detail, but on the plus side we should get some great 'built-in' SSAA from the downsampling effect."

Remote Play itself is nothing new of course - PSP and Vita had lacklustre, laggy support for a handful of PS3 games - but Vita itself has seen virtually no additional support, despite the introduction of a higher-quality 480p protocol. Indeed, those running hacked PS3 firmwares have had access to the most games. The problem is that PS3 Remote Play is based around software video encoding via the Cell's SPUs, and developers are not keen on sacrificing that CPU time for Remote Play support, while the technology itself is slow to respond, with dodgy image quality.

It's all change for PlayStation 4, which features bespoke hardware video encoding for Remote Play, gameplay recording and screen-sharing support with all the benefits of the Gaikai streaming technology. It's a feature built into the operating system itself, incurring no performance penalty to developers. Up until now, the question has been to what extent publishers would want the feature enabled - conceivably, opening up a new library of software for Vita could steal sales from games designed for the system. The news that Sony is mandating support for all titles that don't require the camera takes the choice away from the publishers and ensures a level of consistency in the features that the majority of games offer.

The lack of support for titles using the PlayStation 4 Eye isn't particularly surprising. While the Vita has its own cameras, they lack the resolution of the bundled PS4 camera (not to mention the stereoscopic elements), plus of course any video data acquired would need to be beamed back to the PS4 for processing - not at all friendly from a platform perspective. It can't be easily supported at all, so games utilising the PS4 Eye - which we expect to be a minimal amount - are exempt from the new mandate.

We're particularly eager to get hands-on with PS4's Vita Remote Play features and to put image quality and latency to the test. The news that the vast majority of titles should support Remote Play means we'll have an enviable library of test games available on day one once Sony's next-gen console launches later in the year...

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