MLB TV Review

MLB Title

App Title: MLB TV
App Type: PlayStation Vita
File Size: 33 MB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Currently Unavailable
PSTV Support: Yes

It’s not every day that a new app hits the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita.  Every so often, a new Vita app will pop up on the store with a lot of stealth.  Many times apps do release, I find out because someone else in the user-base saw it listed in the New Releases section of the PSN Store.  Sometimes, the PlayStation Blog doesn’t even list or mention these apps when the app creators do mention them on their own sites.

Along with just apps, streaming apps have been popular on the Vita, as of late.  There were lots of streaming apps before, but since the release of the PlayStation TV, there has been more focus on streaming apps for Sony’s handheld system and micro-console sibling.  While some of the Vita’s current streaming apps don’t work on the PSTV, like Netflix, all of the newer streaming apps have come with PSTV support.

This week was a week that not only got some releases, but also got a new app for the PS Vita.  The app in question is something that we knew was coming, but didn’t know what day it was coming.  After having looked through the app with a lot of details, I’m ready to write about it.  Coming in to sit right next to the newly-released MLB 15: The Show, here is my official review of the MLB TV app!

Functionality

MLB Function

MLB TV is a service that is already known and around on many other devices.  If you’re a fan of Major League Baseball, you likely already know that MLB TV is a subscription-based service that allows you to stream MLB games of the current season at any time you wish.  If you’re new to this, imagine that it’s like Netflix, but for watching the latest games from the Cincinnati Reds or St. Louis Cardinals.

What you can do in the app is search around and view feeds from games.  You can search them by date or just view the games that had happened today and go into the feeds.  You can view a Home feed, Away feed, or a Recap that is recorded and shown later.  I went into the app on Tuesday night and it already had feeds from Tuesday’s games, so it is very up-to-date with its content.  Miss the game this afternoon?  No worries.  It’s probably already up and ready to be viewed.

Other things you can do in the app are set your favorite teams for quick access to their games as well as looking at some extensive stats for all of the teams and players, like Home Runs, RBI, and more.  There is quite a bit of stuff to look at in the app, aside from just the streams of the games.

The big kicker with MLB TV is the subscription.  You have to have a subscription to view the content.  Even further than that, you have to have Premium Membership to view everything.  I have normal membership, which is $19.99 a month and I cannot access most of the game feeds, outside of recaps.  To view every feed that’s available, you have to pay $24.99 a month for Premium.  There are other benefits to doing this, but it is a bit of a downer that you can pay for normal membership and are stuck watching recaps for games that aren’t designated “Free Game of the Day”.

One thing I will note about this is that the app does not allow you to register for an account in the app.  When you try to log in, it will say you need a registered account, but don’t have a link in-app to do that registering process.  You’ll have to navigate to the site outside of the app to register and then go back to sign into the account.

Interface

MLB Interface

The interface and design of the app works really well.  When you first boot up the app, it’ll take you to Today’s Games, and it will be a list of square tiles that you can quickly cycle through.  With this, you can use the directional buttons (there are no touch controls) to move from game to game as well as using the triggers to change the date and Triangle to go into settings to change settings or adjust the view to Calendar Mode.

All of the menus are shown with large icons and text so it’s easy to read and see everything as you’re going through everything, trying to find a specific game.  I went in to first see the Cincinnati Reds’ Opening Day game and I found it very easy to tap the triggers to get to April 6th and jump in to see the game’s recap feed.

When you’re in the middle of a stream, you will have a menu available to you at the beginning and it will automatically hide itself so you can see everything on the screen.  Due to stats during a game’s feed being everywhere on the screen, you will want to see things without the HUD from the controls as you watch your game, be it on the little Vita screen or on the PlayStation TV.

As soon as you tap a button, though, the interface will pop up on the bottom of the screen with clear button directions to show you what does what.  You will know exactly how to pause, search the stream, go back, and anything else you may need or wish to do.  While some of the options can get hidden when you pause, it is easy to read, for the most part.

Performance

MLB Performance

Many streaming apps on the Vita and PSTV are known to have technical issues regarding navigating menus.  Hulu Plus, Netflix, and even PlayStation Now have menus that have a lot of lag and glitches to them, even though the streaming actually runs really well on all three of them.  The biggest thing to note about MLB TV is that it doesn’t have these problems with its menu exploration.  From the moment it loads, things transition very easily and very well.

The main issues can come from doing things during a stream, itself.  First of all, it’s worth noting that the HD streams for games and recaps look really nice.  As long as you’re on a fast internet connection, you shouldn’t have any problems viewing the streams in quality that’s just as good as watching it on an HD TV Station.  The app also is clever and modifies video quality based on your Web connection.  However, sometimes if you’ve got a slower connection, it will lag and freeze on your for a few moments.  I run a 10 Mbps connection and I had this happen in almost every stream I came across.

The other issues are load times and sound quality.  I found that the app took at least 20 seconds to load a stream once I selected it.  The stream played fine once it loaded, but it took quite a bit of time to get things started.  The sound issues came from seeking through a stream.  If you play a stream from start to finish, there aren’t any problems.  However if you seek to a specific point of a stream and resume playing, the first 10 seconds won’t have any sound at all and then it will kick in for you.

A final issue I found, which may be due to my Web connection, is that I would get regular error messages when trying to access streams, saying that it is temporarily unavailable.  I’ve not seen issues about this with other apps, so I assume this is secluded to the PS Vita app.  I would go and watch part of a stream and try to go into the same stream 5 minutes later and get the error message.

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As a note, the MLB TV App has gotten a patch update since this review went live.  This patch improved the app in the following way:

  • Load Times for Streams have been halved and average around 10 seconds instead of 20 seconds
  • There are no longer breaks in audio when seeking in the middle of a stream

As such, I am updating the score appropriately from a 6/10 to an 8/10 due to these issues being fixed but will keep the original information in the review, so you know you need to download the update for the improved performance.

Summary

MLB TV is the Vita’s first app that brings the MLB 2015 season to the handheld gaming world.  On the downside, it doesn’t offer in-app registration and there are errors when accessing streams.  Apart from this is a competent app that the MLB fan will surely enjoy.

8/10