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Where did Sony go wrong with the PS Vita?

This blog entry takes a look at Sony's dedicated gaming portable, the Playstation Vita, and the things that may have lead to its current predicament.

Gerard Martin Cueto, Blogger

September 5, 2012

4 Min Read

It’s no secret that the Sony’s dedicated gaming handheld, the Playstation Vita, is selling really badly. According to Playstation Germany boss Uwe Bassendowski, the PSP’s successor has only sold 2.2 million units worldwide. To put things in perspective, here’s a chart comparing the sales patterns of the Vita to the 3DS, the DS, and the PSP:

As you can see, the Vita is on track to sell the poorest compared with all the other gaming handhelds on the list. Smartphone gaming has obviously hurt the Vita’s sales and the only other dedicated gaming device on the market, the 3DS, sells exponentially more than the Vita in a good week, or a bad one.  To put it simply, the Vita, which is latin for life, is in the fight of its life.

Sony’s Gamescom 2012 conference showed that they were going to support the Vita through and through but obviously, things shouldn’t have been this bad in the first place. So where did Sony go wrong with Vita? Here are my thoughts: 

1. Sony should have made it a phone, maybe along the lines of the Xperia play with a slider or clam-shell design (a portable device should be easy to pocket!). They’ve had the Xperia Play as a gaming smartphone and I think they should have improved on it. If it wasn’t possible for a PS smartphone to have the same graphical/processing capabilities that the Vita has right now and still have a respectable battery life, then they could have toned down the device’s processing and graphical power. There's nothing wrong in doing so. Case in point, the 3DS hardware is infinitely weaker than the Vita and it has sold over 18 million units in less than two years. Which brings me to the second item on this list…

2. Sony should have changed their strategy completely when it comes to games. Console ports and spin-offs by B-team devs(cross play) are fine but people will always buy handhelds for games that are exclusive to the handheld. It’s all about the exclusives. This should have been their primary strategy in terms of software. Why would people buy a gaming handheld when most of the handheld’s games are just ports or spin-offs of games people already own on consoles? Sony should have followed Nintendo’s blueprint and have their top teams develop “mainline” titles in their franchises exclusively for the 3DS (the team that developed Super Mario Galaxy 2 also developed Super Mario 3D land). Instead of Sony Bend developing Uncharted: Golden Abyss, they should have had Naughty Dog develop Uncharted 4 exclusively for the Vita. Or maybe Infamous 3 developed by Sucker Punch exclusively for the Vita. Bold moves obviously but they were launching a new hardware, they really needed hard hitting exclusives.

3. PS1 support and PS Mobile (for android/iOS type games) should have been present from the start. These types of games are what most casual audiences look for in terms of smartphone gaming. With PS Mobile games and big Vita exclusives, Sony could have covered both the core and casual audience. As it is and from what I understand, PS Mobile is still in its early/launch phase.

4. Losing Monster Hunter exclusivity. Sony should done everything to make Monster Hunter a Vita exclusive. It worked wonders for the PSP. Capcom’s Monster Hunter games sell gangbusters in Japan and is now helping drive the 3DS’ sales in the region.

5. Extremely high memory card prices. Sony, being Sony, again decided to use a proprietary memory card for the Vita and then priced them exorbitantly: the 4GB card sells for $19.99, 8GB for $29.99, 16GB for $59.99, and the 32GB for $99.99. I can’t believe how expensive these memory cards are in this age of cheap SD and micro SD cards. The Vita’s initial price of $250 was well received considering the tech the device has, the memory card prices however have kept more than a few people from actually buying the handheld.


For more of my views on games and game development, you can head over to thegameglitcher.com

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