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Bleak or Bright: The PlayStation Vita’s Past and Future

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 Bleak or Bright: The PlayStation Vita’s Past and Future
Unread 2 years agoclass of '09 - on now - #1
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Tiko377 1133 heat pts1133 space
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Sony’s new handheld has struggled. What does the future hold?

PlayStation Vita hasn’t had an easy go of it in its first year on the market. For as promising as the handheld appeared to be before its release, it’s failed to light the sales charts on fire both in its native Japan and in the west. As a result, questions about Vita’s future have already arisen in earnest as Sony continues to stand by its machine, seemingly unaware (or simply unwilling to admit) that anything has gone wrong.

Before Vita came out, it had everything going for it. At E3 2011, we expected Sony to tag an unreasonable price on its shiny new handheld, but the company did the exact opposite, pricing it fairly and giving it early appeal to would-be adopters. The vacancy of steady releases that slowly overtook the PSP’s latter years was quickly nipped in the bud, with Sony intent on using both its first-party resources and the power of its third-party relationships to give Vita a promising library of games right off the bat and for the duration of its first 12 months.


The handheld in question.

Perhaps most importantly, Vita was primed to roundly trounce its primary competition in the form of Nintendo 3DS. Its dual analog sticks and high-tech innards seemed to give it considerable leverage, allowing it to play games the 3DS cannot, easily besting it technologically. Likewise, seamlessly hitching Vita to PS3 (and vice-versa) with the ability to play some of the same games over both platforms appeared like it would be too good to pass up. The stars aligned for PlayStation Vita, or so I thought, and I predicted it would be successful as a result. But as I’ve stated many times in the past year, I was dead wrong.


[Vita's] dual analog sticks and high-tech innards seemed to give it considerable leverage...

The question now is what went wrong? How did something so promising fall apart? How did Vita fail to connect to consumers? And perhaps most importantly, can Sony salvage Vita’s out-of-the-gate stumble, call it a false start, and set PSP’s successor on a positive sales trajectory that will allow it to achieve some of the major success PSP found? The answers to these questions are, not surprisingly, complicated and multifaceted, and it’s difficult to come to a positive conclusion that paints Vita’s future as anything but flagging.

Vita’s failure to thrive can perhaps be traced back to the weeks and months before it was released, when the cloudless skies hanging over the handheld suddenly began to look overcast. News slowly but surely leaked about Vita’s capabilities – or lack thereof – including its lack of substantial built-in memory and heinously expensive memory cards that players would have to purchase to download and save games. Depending on the size of the memory card purchased, you'd have to tack an extra $100 or so onto the otherwise affordable price for the Vita itself. Suddenly, Vita wasn’t looking like such a good deal at retail, and the memory card issue persists to this day as a major roadblock barring entry to gamers on a budget.


Sony has also stubbornly refused to drop the price of Vita in the face of prevailing winds from the iOS and Android markets, as well as from Nintendo. The latter company artfully vanquished Vita right out of the gate with a well-aimed price drop partnered with the release of huge games. Sony has yet to recover or prove to anyone outside of the hardcore PlayStation ecosystem why Vita is a handheld worth having, and insisting on “value added” price fixes instead of outright price drops simply won’t solve the problem over the long-term.


Suddenly, Vita wasn’t looking like such a good deal at retail...


And then there are the games that didn’t quite pan out the way we had all hoped they would. With Vita’s portable power well established, gamers were disappointed when titles like ModNation Racers didn’t support online play like its console brethren. Indeed, developers still insist on making baffling decisions with online-centric games, even with smaller titles like Pure Chess and Uncharted: f!ght For Fortune using the outdated crutch of “asynchronous online play.” Such online uncertainty hasn’t helped Vita make a case for “console gaming on the go.” Vita’s online functionality should be a selling point, not something worked around and abused.

The biggest two misses, however, were Nihilistic Software’s two forays on the PlayStation Vita in the form of Resistance: Burning Skies and Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified. The importance of first-person shooters on the very first handheld not only capable of running console-quality games, but one with dual analog sticks, simply cannot be understated. Yet, Resistance was a dud and Black Ops Declassified -- which had the power to be the biggest and most important game in Vita’s catalog – proved to be junk. And incredibly, both games supported eight-player multiplayer, a shadow of that aforementioned “console quality on the go” Sony touts the Vita as in commercials.


Golden Abyss was a great launch title for Vita. More, please.

To be completely fair, the one rumor that persists to this day about Vita that’s categorically false is that it has few games to play, and even fewer good ones. As anyone who owns a Vita knows, that’s simply not true. Persona 4 Golden, Dokuro, Sound Shapes, Escape Plan, Super Stardust Delta, LittleBigPlanet PS Vita, Gravity Rush, Unit 13, Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack and Uncharted: Golden Abyss are some examples of games worthy of anyone’s time. Those games could easily keep you busy for a full calendar year.


...it’s impossible not to acknowledge that Vita’s sales must improve markedly for it to be viable long-term to Sony...


Still, the games that are available now don’t solve a conundrum very much on the horizon as we enter 2013: the stunning lack of upcoming games for PlayStation Vita. From where we stand right now, there are roughly a half-dozen Vita games in development (that we know about) that are worth being excited about. k!llzone: Mercenary, Soul Sacrifice, and Tearaway are the cream of the crop in this regard. Games like MLB 13: The Show, Dragon’s Crown, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time and Guacamelee! will also be available on PlayStation 3, significantly diminishing their power as Vita releases specifically (bringing up another problem; the overutilization of cross-play that entices PS3 owners while removing reasons for Vita owners to get in on the act).

With sales of Vita hovering around the 4 million mark worldwide, it’s impossible not to acknowledge that Vita’s sales must improve markedly for it to be viable long-term to Sony and, just as importantly, the publishers that are expected to bring games to the handheld. PlayStation Portable, considered a success at retail, has sold roughly 75 million units in about eight years on the market, or more than 9 million per year since release. Vita lags significantly behind PSP, which itself was trounced by Nintendo’s DS (just as 3DS is trouncing Vita). At this rate, Vita’s sales are on pace for 32 million sold over an identical eight-year period, and the math used to arrive at that sum is generous. The numbers speak for themselves.

So the real question becomes easy to identify: with an underwhelming install base with no signs of improving, will third-parties even bother putting their games on Vita in 2013 and beyond? In this sense, Vita’s failure will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, regardless of if Sony itself intends on supporting Vita well into the future with its own studios. They have 12 exclusive studios, a new console on the horizon and PlayStation 3 still to support. The first party can’t carry Vita on its back, and even if it did, their offerings are unlikely to lure a drove of new customers through the door.


Part of me feels that Sony has something up its sleeve with Vita, something unexpected. The most obvious thing would be that it somehow connects with the next PlayStation, perhaps as a second screen solution similar to what Nintendo has done with Wii U’s gamepad. This would explain Sony’s blasé attitude towards Vita’s poor sales; under this hypothetical, the company’ll have a chance to “relaunch” Vita. Perhaps it will even be bundled with the new system from the get-go.


Part of me feels that Sony has something up its sleeve with Vita, something unexpected.


But another part of me feels like Vita is on the path towards spiraling to a slow, PSP-like death, but without the years of PSP’s success behind it. It’s this latter scenario that truly concerns me going forward in 2013. If Vita doesn’t sell, it’s not a viable platform for third-parties to put games on. But if third-parties won’t support Vita, it won’t sell. It’s a classic (and unfortunate) catch-22. Third-parties want to test the waters and see what Vita’s all about – just look at the subpar Madden port from this past summer – but without all cylinders firing, Vita won’t make business sense to anyone a.ssociated with it, from Sony all the way down to the smallest developer and everyone in between.

As I’ve said time and time again, PlayStation Vita is the handheld I’ve always wanted. It’s a stellar example of what's possible in the realm of gaming on the go, and with the 3DS selling so steadily, the market itself isn’t against dedicated portable gaming. But Nintendo has games that sell, a rapidly expanding install base and feverishly dedicated consumers. With Vita, PlayStation doesn’t have any of that, and without the a.ssistance of rose-colored glasses, 2013 isn’t looking great for Sony’s handheld that could, but hasn’t.

Bleak or Bright: The PlayStation Vita’s Past and Future - IGN
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18 comments for "Bleak or Bright: The PlayStation Vita’s Past and Future"

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Unread 2 years agoclass of '12 - away - #2
Games Addict 13 heat pts13 space
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Let's see what happens when the price drops sometime this year...
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '04 - away - #3
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We all know the price drop won't save this system, people keep holding on to false hope. Sony needs to quit the BS and re-up with the PS4. That's where they should focus their energy at.
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '11 - away - #4
Jesszman 2200 heat pts2200 space
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Just like the price drop didn't save the 3DS right?
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '04 - away - #5
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Jesszman said:
Just like the price drop didn't save the 3DS right?
Cause Sony doesn't know how to make a proper handheld
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '11 - away - #6
esneffoelgnairt 60 heat pts60 space
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meh, im typing this on my vita, i use this thing for everything. i like the games and dont regret the purchase at all.
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '04 - away - #7
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esneffoelgnairt said:
meh, im typing this on my vita, i use this thing for everything. i like the games and dont regret the purchase at all.
nobody cares



































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Unread 2 years agoclass of '11 - away - #8
esneffoelgnairt 60 heat pts60 space
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Explicit said:
nobody cares



this is boxden, i never expect anything less.
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '04 - away - #9
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esneffoelgnairt said:
this is boxden, i never expect anything less.



smart man
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '09 - on now - #10
Tiko377 1133 heat pts1133 space
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the games still suck even with the price drop, the memory sticks are still expensive and the games are expensive as well.

i had one never played it and traded that sh*t.

i rather game on a tablet to be honest
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '11 - away - #11
Jesszman 2200 heat pts2200 space
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how do you buy a console and never play it?
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '09 - on now - #12
Tiko377 1133 heat pts1133 space
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Jesszman said:
how do you buy a console and never play it?
its called a playstation vita
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '11 - away - #13
Jesszman 2200 heat pts2200 space
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Tiko377 said:
its called a playstation vita
So you wasted $250 + whatever memory card you purchased and didn't have any games you were interested in? Do you always waste money like that?
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '06 - on now - #14
coolio 57 heat pts57 space
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Explicit said:
Cause Sony doesn't know how to make a proper handheld

there's nothing wrong with the handheld itself from what I hear
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '09 - on now - #15
Tiko377 1133 heat pts1133 space
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Jesszman said:
So you wasted $250 + whatever memory card you purchased and didn't have any games you were interested in? Do you always waste money like that?
no i fell in love with the oled screen ( from samsung )

i got uncharted nothing else interested me.

plus it felt awkward carrying it around
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '12 - away - #16
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the games are expensive?

they're 40 bucks each except for the occasional 50 dollar game like Uncharted was when it launched and CODBOD... but games have been 40 bucks since the PSP launched... The price could be lower but I really wouldn't call them expensive if you're willing to drop 60 on a home console game.... I'm not UNLESS it was a game I knew I would love like MGS Ground Zeroes...

I'll give you that about the memory sticks though. That's total bullsh*t and they're part of the reason why I didn't dive right in when the Vita launched. Honestly, Sony should've just stuck with an established mini mem stick like the MicroSD...

I mean, I've got a 4gig but what when I finally upgrade? What the hell do I use my 4gig for then? I think this format ONLY works on the Vita so unless I sell it...

I can't see myself gaming on anything but a dedicated portable gaming machine like the Vita or PSP... maybe even the 3DS once that thing gets hacked for real.
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '05 - away - #17
TattooedMPsz 31 heat pts31 space
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Jesszman said:
how do you buy a console and never play it?
ask yourself that question
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '09 - away - #18
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Price drop coming soon

Once the system price drops and they stop trying to r*pe people with the memory card prices, then I'm getting one.

Edit: Actually i'll wait for some other games to drop as well.
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '11 - away - #19
Jesszman 2200 heat pts2200 space
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TattooedMPsz said:
ask yourself that question
I'll take RROD for $1000.
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