PlayStation Vita: What’s in a Name?

PlayStation Vita: What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name? As far as a video game console is concerned, history, power, brand recognition, and at least six months worth of Internet-bound puns and jokes. The “Nintendo Entertainment System” was specifically branded and engineered to squirm its way into North American family entertainment centers and take its place among the VCR’s of the age: The term “video game system” induced too many flashbacks of sub-par Atari games. When video games were accepted back into North American homes, they progressed with the “Sega Genesis,” a console name held connotations of something new, sleek, and more sophisticated than the dumpy old NES.

Console after console blinked into life across the years until Nintendo’s “Wii” gave everyone a good laugh. When the Wii became a household term, however–thus fulfilling the prophecy of its name by bringing families together to play–Nintendo was laughing hardest.

So Nintendo proved that an unorthodox console name is certainly capable of selling systems (the company even discouraged coupling of “Nintendo” with “Wii,” unlike, say, “Nintendo 64” or “Nintendo GameCube”), but we’re still curious how the rumored name of Sony’s Next Generation Portable will go over, if it turns out to be true: The PlayStation Vita, or the PS Vita.

It’s an odd moniker, to say the least. “Vita” translates into “Life” in several languages, including Latin and Italian, which insinuates that the portable might borrow a page from Nintendo and encourage people to walk, run, and generally be healthy via a built-in pedometer that offers in-game rewards for a certain amount of steps taken. In an age where video games are taking on a bigger role in monitoring players’ health and exercise habits, the name “Vita” implies a multitasking device that’s well-suited for work, exercise, and play.

The name also sounds like a grocery chain’s name for off-brand Ovaltine. In the same vein, it’s hard not to think of pills, vitamins, tonics–stuff for older people, not the audience that’s generally interested in the newest video game technology (though teens and young adults can also benefit from a daily vitamin–this has been your obligatory health moment).

If the name “PlayStation Vita” holds true, however, does it really matter how “weird” it sounds? In the end, no. Barring a completely bizarre name like the “Sony Stupidhead Machine for Jerks,” it’s already been proven that an unusual name can help a game system stand out in a tech-saturated society.

It’s also interesting to consider how quickly the Internet gets us used to a new console’s name. In the days of print media, the name of a new game system was a rare thing to read, and we had less time to take in that name. Now, grazing through one message board thread will hammer a console’s new moniker into your brain repeatedly, thoroughly. In no time at all, “Vita” will be at home on our tongues alongside “3DS,” “iPhone,” and the rest.

Just remember: It’s “Vita,” not “Pita.” Fun, but not delicious.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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