The PS Vita – An Under Appreciated Handheld Console?
The PS Vita brought many new innovative features and a handheld that looked like every geek and gamer would have dreamed of – home console quality graphics, front touchscreen and rear-touch panels, front and rear cameras for augmented reality and games, the sought after dual analogue sticks, a sharp and vibrant larger screen all packed with a new ‘Bubble’ OS that’s user-friendly. Having had the console since launch, its a console that has still kept me company and much valued that I never considered selling at all compared to other early adopters I know and hear about.
The reality of the console’s performance is much grimmer though as sales in Japan have rocked the 10,000 region for much of it’s time on the market. Sales seem to be much better across the EU and US however the adoption rate is still pretty low and much below expectations of Sony. So where did it go wrong? Why isn’t the PS Vita seeing as much success as the quality of the handheld should be getting? With one of, if not the best launch line-up in history and a better structure of the PSN store for supplying digital downloads upon release, the ecosystem Sony aimed to establish looked all and well.
In the UK, retailers and e-commerce websites fought competitively on pricing that made pre-order bundles very compelling – a chucked in 8GB memory card for good measure and even with a discount on the base unit price. Where the model was originally £230, I picked up a pre-order pack, 8GB memory card, WiFi model and Uncharted Golden Abyss for £242, saving £58 pounds. We even wrote an article saying why the console could be a worldwide hit – here’s how we thought the system could be improved
Outside of the console itself, we’ve thought about major factors that has lead to the disappointing progress of the console. Ready?
Although it’s had around 30 titles available at launch, it had plenty to pick-up and keep you playing until something new came up. However, the lack of games flowing after launch has been pretty dry with Unit 13 the only main title to arrive early April and 1-2 PSN games being released to date. The flow of games has been pretty slow with games not arriving till late April, early May for some hard hitters.
Big titles like Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Wipeout 2048 and FIFA Football steered up popularity in the West though appeal to the Japanese market was quite low – the brands are much stronger in the US and EU. I felt the marketing campaign wasn’t penetrating enough and that’s been a problem for Playstation for a long time. The cost of the games are also priced too close to home console prices and in the economic climate, consumers will be wary how they spend their money and move to alternatives where gaming is cheaper to afford. The console price itself was priced too high and it was up to Sony to show the value of the console through its features.
People compare it to prices of phones and how they cost £400-£500 pounds. That’s true. However, we never really pay that price – in the consumer’s minds, they pay the monthly tariff on contracts and never pay that in bulk. Unfortunately, the PS Vita is a victim of the economic downturn and wasn’t really given the chance to shine. Taking that into account though, the PS Vita has had decent success in relative terms. I feel a price cut will be imminent on the console that will see it sold for around £160-£180 which is a lot more affordable – it’s not just that though, the proprietary memory cards are priced above capacity. If they really want to encourage digital downloads, firstly, they need to make the 32GB available worldwide and priced a bit more lower.
So you see the trend here – cost has a factor. I’m usually not one about price as I look at the value but there’s not denying any rational consumer will think about the price and any substitutes to the PS Vita. What about the PSP? The transition in moving over to the PS Vita is costly and with the huge library of great titles, there’s little to bring them over at the moment as the exclusive titles are small. The cost of hardware and no compatibility of bringing their paid investments onto the PS Vita has disjointed the transition of PSP gamers, thus isolating the current install base. Is there a future? Definitely. Gravity Rush an exclusive title is arriving and is looking great and so is Mortal kombat and it’s exclusive PS Vita modes and features. Call of Duty has been rumoured to arrive this year and LittleBigPlanet will spur those creative minds.
There’s enough to sate your taste now but if nothing appeals to you, the long term investment promises plenty of exciting games and value you get over the course – E3 is on the horizon and let’s hope that the PS Vita keeps strong with plenty of developers behind it. After all, the piracy system in pace that has had it’s controversy protects the prospects of games being sold for the platform, one would hope.
The audience for the PS Vita isn’t as large as that targetted by the 3DS. Though, as the software gets more diverse and the PS Vita cheapens through technology, I believe that the trend will only get better.
For me, there’s plenty of things going for the PS Vita as long as you see it can blend into your lifestyle. I’m not always stuck to the TV, studying and all or on the go and having the PS Vita as a portable break device is great – I feel I can get into a deep game rather than those bite-sized games on the smartphones. PS3 users may find it hard to split time between the 2 platforms (as I have) though you’ll find that iron out as your true gaming and multiplayer experiences will be housed by the PS3 (or any other home console). The PS Vita is slow to get going but there’s always hope for the Vita to succeed in numbers and feedback – if Kaz Hirai can turn Sony’s Fortunes around, the Playstation brand will definitely be a driving force. As for the PS Vita? Don’t say it’s Dead whilst it’s still alive.
What do you think about the PS Vita so far? Let us know in the comments below