Happy Monday, people. I wanted to kick off this week with a rather ranty piece about my newest love, the Playstation Vita, and talk about all the ways that Sony tried (and failed) to keep us apart.
It take all of 30 seconds to find all sorts of negativity regarding the Playstation Vita, and I’ve found that most of that negativity stems from players who never owned one. I say that because I’ve now had mine for just over seven weeks, and I’ve been enjoying the hell out of it, and from all the reading I’ve done about this little machine, I wanted to take a look back, and figure out what went wrong along the way. Why has it sold so poorly in the west, when the 3DS has been selling like hot cakes?
Sony’s made it no secret that they don’t plan on jumping back into the portable console game any time soon. Due to what they consider a failure, the Vita 2000 looks like it’ll be the last of it’s kind for a while. And while we can focus on how much this sucks, it’s no secret that Sony hasn’t made it easy for the little fella to succeed. At least speaking in western context, this device was doomed from the start.
The launch of the original Vita was pretty rocky, and a lot of of that rockiness can be attributed to the high price. The launch price of $299/$249 for a 3G-capable device and a WiFi-only device, respectively, was a lot to swallow. With Nintendo dropping their $249 entry fee down to $169 for the 3DS, the Vita had a lot to answer for. At this point it came down to the games, which brings us to the next biggest issue, tagging aloneside the entry fee: the memory cards!
Anyone who’s ever owned a Sony digital camera knows the worst part about them: proprietary “Sony MemorySticks.” I don’t know if they’re still proprietary now, or if (gasp) they accept SD cards at this point in time, but the powers that be over at Sony headquarters decided the Playstation Vita needed their own brand of flash storage, with the jacked up prices to go along with them! Here’s where I believe things got really fucked up.
Jumping briefly to the good things that the Vita did, we have the PSN Store. There are constantly solid deals going on in the PSN Store, and if you have a Playstation Plus membership, you get two free games every month, of which you keep until you cancel your membership. This is a tremendous deal, and the games released were generally of pretty high quality.
So where does this leave the consumer? Well it leaves them on the hook to store all of this digital game goodness. And here’s where Sony could have helped themselves, but chose not to.
I believe that if Sony had given away those memory cards for next to nothing (or went for an SD card slot), the Vita would be much more relevant today. Maybe not a contender to the 3DS, but Sony would be singing a different tune had they paid any attention at all to this system beyond the first year of its inception.
Being an owner of an OG 3DS, a New 3DS XL, and a Vita Slim, one of the nicest surprises on the Vita has been just how powerful it is, and how well the software on it runs. This is never more obvious than with the PSN Store. I don’t buy a lot of digital games, if any, but I do love playing demos and experiencing some new game styles that I don’t play very often.
The pros: the store launches almost instantly, it’s extremely fast, the interface is pretty good, it can be opened while a game is in progress, the list goes on. The sales are constant, the deals are tremendous and of terrific value. Sony was intelligent enough to make just so damn many of their former console games available as reboots, at extremely low prices. Plus, they go on sale all the time.
I won’t go into detail about how Nintendo does pretty much the opposite of all those perks in their own eShop, as this is a rant and rave about the Vita, so I’ll just say: this would have actually meant something, had there been an affordable way to store all those games!
Sony – don’t you want people going on to the PSN Store and buying tons of games? Replicating the behavior behind massive Steam libraries where they can easily get over-excited and drop $100 on sales in a matter of minutes, without thinking about the storage space? Why on Earth would you make the cheapest aspect of the console, flash memory, the one thing the consumer should never have to think about, the most expensive part of the system? You’re not selling furniture – these games don’t take up physical space.
Sure, the sales are terrific on the PSN Store, but considering how expensive the memory cards are, I’d say those sales are pretty negated. And that’s where Sony shot themselves in the foot. The best and most affordable part of the console was ruined by proprietary memory cards.
If you consider someone in college or highschool who doesn’t have a whole lot of disposable income, $250 for a console + $90 for a 64-gigabyte memory card is just not going to happen. At that point, you’d still just have a brick in your hand with no games, and you’ve already surpassed the $350 mark. And that’s where it ends: that’s how and where Sony killed their new console. Hopefully Sony learned something here, but based on the reactions from the higher-ups, they’ve been complacent at blaming “mobile gaming” (you know, that thing where middle aged women crush candy and spend $0 on their iPads) and it’s doubtful we’ll ever see another standalone portable from Sony.
But that’s a rant for another day. And a long, angry rant it will be.
My views have changed dramatically since learning about the existence of the Vita, to owning one and loving it. What are your thoughts on the Vita, either as an owner or non-owner?