Published on April 17th, 2012 | by Shawn Long, Features Editor
Is The Vita Failing Right Before Sony’s Eyes?
The Vita is probably one of the most interesting systems released in recent memory. With console-like graphics, 3G capability, touch screens, and a large crisp display, the Vita looked poised to dominate the handheld gaming market. While initial sales were decent, the system has plummeted in Japan and is now being outsold by the PSP, now nearly 8 years old. In the US, the Vita started strong but has now faltered, moving a paltry 28,000 systems for the week ending April 7, 2012. So what is wrong? Well, a couple things.
First and foremost, the price is unacceptable. The 3G model is $300 USD. The base model, with no memory card, is $250, making it the most expensive system on the market. While I understand that the technology is expensive, you cannot expect gamers to fork over that much cash for a handheld that comes with nothing. The games can reach up to $50 as well, and Sony has a hard grip on the memory card market for the system. No third-party memory devices are out yet since Sony used another format for memory, meaning prices are absurd. So really, the only people who are buying this system are people who can afford new technology, or are trading in their other games to purchase it.
Another problem is that while the Vita does do a lot of things, such as multimedia, tablets and smartphone do it better and cheaper. You can get an Android-based tablet that supports Netflix, browses the web, and does a lot more than the Vita can for under $100. Smartphone users are also a part of Sony’s intended audience, but once again these phones do all that and more, and for a cheaper price. The Vita has 3G, but that technology fades as 4G internet takes over. Plus, once again, phones and tablets do it at a cheaper price. It’s nice that the Vita has the ability to do a lot, but it is really just a jack of all trades, master of none.
Finally, we have to look at the library of Vita games. While it’s nice to see Uncharted and Ninja Gaiden at launch, I can play these games on the PS3. The Vita has not released a game that fully takes advantage of the systems capabilities; instead it feels like a weaker, portable PS3. If I want to play PS3 games, I can play them at home. Handheld systems are supposed to be different and unique, offering an experience that you either can’t have in the living room, or are better suited to play on the road. Besides Little Deviants which was a tech demo, the Vita just feels like the PSP all over again as Sony tries to pump out franchise games that are better suited on a console. I mean, how many Metal Gear Solid games did the PSP get? It was so oversaturated that consumers lost interest.
There are other things that bother me about the Vita, such as short battery life, small button layout and no clam-shell enclosure to protect the screen, but all of these things are nothing new for a Sony handheld. The PSP had the same issues, and you would think that Sony would learn, but obviously they haven’t. I’m not saying it’s all doom and gloom for the system, and there are some good games out there that are very enjoyable. I just find it very hard to justify dropping such a large amount of money on a handheld when I could pick up a tablet and a 3DS for the same price and do more. I honestly hope that at E3 the Vita has a great showing and re-instills faith in the consumer, but we will have to wait and see. For now, the Vita is a severe underachiever, and hopefully Sony can realize this and help the system succeed.