Sony has announced that it will cease support for the Vita’s maps, Youtube and Near services in a forthcoming system update.
No reason has been given for the move, though it seems likely that the requirement for Sony to pay licensing fees to Google for its Youtube app may be behind that decision. Users will still be able to view Youtube videos via the handheld’s built-in web browser, though Sony has warned that they may experience some loss in functionality as a result.
The possible reasons behind ending maps and Near support are less clear. While neither function is likely to be high on the list of most-used features for the Vita, they were still nice to have. It’s possible that Sony felt the costs of keeping the services going simply couldn’t be justified.
Support for the Youtube App will officially cease as of April 20th, though the app will no longer be available to download as of today. There’s no confirmed date for when map and Near support will end.
The Vita has had a choppy ride since it originally went on sale back in 2011 (Japan)/ 2012 (rest of world). While many had predicted the handheld would dominate Nintendo’s 3DS – which was widely expected to fail at the time – the reverse turned out to be true. After a rocky start, Nintendo’s handheld was bolstered by a string of popular releases, while software support for the Vita dwindled outside of Japan. This is despite the Vita enjoying superior technical specs, dual analogue sticks, and a higher-resolution screen. Still, the system has been home to a number of bona fide classics in the last 3 years, such as the excellent Gravity Rush and the popular Freedom Wars. It’s also become home to a large number of indie titles, such as the wonderful Thomas Was Alone and Fez, as well as seeing its available library bolstered thanks to re-releases of classic PS1 and PSP games (I especially recommend that you check out the wonderful Vagrant Story, which many sadly overlooked when it came out during the twilight years of the PS One).
Despite its ongoing struggles, Sony has positioned the Vita as a key part of its ongoing strategy for the PlayStation 4, which supports second-screen play on Vita and a number of games going on sale with cross-buy promotions.
If you want to know how the removal of the features might affect you, Sony has published a pair of FAQs outlining what to expect in the coming months. You can see the guide for Youtube here, while changes to the Near and map functions are outlined here.