3DS vs. Vita: What We Know Right Now

With E3 behind us, we now have a much clearer image of what to expect from the PlayStation Vita and this year’s lineup of 3DS software.  What that means is we can start debating over whether or not the DS vs. PSP outcome will remain the same for the 3DS vs. Vita war that’s slated to start later this year.  If you remember anything from the DS/PSP war it’s that no one knew the outcome before the war began.  Virtually everyone thought Sony had the upper hand, but by the time Nintendogs hit the market it was already game over.

The PSP has sold over 70 million systems worldwide, whereas the DS in all its various versions has sold more than 130 million and counting.  Let’s just say the DS has outsold the PSP by a factor of 2:1.  That’s pretty amazing.  What people don’t typically look at though is that the PSP sold 70 million systems.  That’s more than the NES!  One of the only reasons why the system is seen as a failure in some people’s eyes is because it was outsold 2:1, but will history repeat itself with this next generation portable war?

Let’s start by talking a bit about the 3DS.  It offers much the same gameplay experience as seen with the previous DS portables, the one exception being its inclusion of glasses-free 3D.  I know there’s a gyroscope in there now, but the big appeal is the 3D.  The device is also significantly more powerful and has access to a really great eShop digital download platform.  All great assets if you ask me.  The one problem with the 3DS has been the somewhat lackluster amount of quality software releases since launch.  That changed yesterday with the launch of Ocarina of Time 3D, but the truth of the matter is that’s a remake.  The upcoming release slate looks impressive with great titles like MGS3D, Resident Evil: Revelations, Kid Icarus: Uprising, Super Mario and many more.  The big problem is we don’t have firm release dates on virtually any of these games.  Most are scheduled for holiday 2011, but that could just as easily turn into early 2012.

Mario is back to form in Super Mario for the 3DS

Games are obviously a huge factor in winning console wars, but what else does Nintendo do?  Why did the Game Boy outsell Game Gear?  Not just outsell it, but flat-out murdered it.  Was it only the games?  Well that’s arguable because the GG was significantly more powerful and had a ton of franchises on it that looked almost on par with SEGA’s Genesis games.  Could it have something to do with the fact that the original Game Boy took four AA batteries and cost $89.99 when it launched in North America back in 1989.  It also had the pack-in game Tetris.  The Game Gear on the other hand was released in 1991 for $150 and took six AA batteries to run.  The batteries ran out up to three times faster than on the Game Boy.  Couple these factors together it becomes clear that sometimes games aren’t everything.

In fact Nintendo has always had the upper hand thanks to their low introductory prices.  Their hardware has almost never gone toe-to-toe with a competitor’s machine at the same launch price.  We all know Nintendo mixed things up when they revealed the 3DS would be introduced at $250 in North America, making it the most expensive portable they have ever produced.  Nintendo has said on countless occasions they do not sell hardware at a loss, they’re the Apple of the gaming industry.

So what about the PSP?  Sony introduced the system at $250 and $300 configurations, making the system a minimum of $100 more expensive than the DS, which launched at $150.  Once again Nintendo had the pricing edge.  Sure the PSP had tons of developer support and could do all sorts of multimedia functions, but there was also a lot riding against the device.  For starters its battery life was significantly lower than the DS thanks to the UMD drive.  Most of the early games were straight ports from the PS1 era and developer support quickly turned away from the system leaving large periods where no games would be released for months at a time.  Software often featured lengthy load times because the UMD-based games as well.  All of this taken together was a lot for any company to deal with, but the system still sold 70 million units worldwide.

Can Uncharted cause Vita to sell out worldwide?

Moving forward things aren’t so black and white.  For one thing the 3DS no longer has the upper hand with neither pricing nor battery life.  The Vita has the same 5-hour play time as the 3DS, and both machines ring in at $250 (There is a $300 3G-enabled Vita though).  This is interesting because it’s a first for Nintendo.  It doesn’t stop there either. Nintendo’s system doesn’t have all the bells and whistles.  The 3DS’ biggest new feature is the inclusion of glasses-free 3D, but with the Vita there’s a multi-touch screen, there’s a back trackpad, two cameras and the strongest processor ever placed inside a portable device.  That’s on top of a fully features PlayStation Network including cross game chatting, friend lists, the works.  That sure makes the two devices seem much more on an even playing field.

Even though I said games aren’t everything, they do play a critical role.  That’s where Nintendo has always crushed the competition. Sony has learned from their mistakes though as is evident by their E3 showing.  Not only does the Vita have the full backing from their Worldwide Studios, but also from hundreds of third parties.  I’ll admit we have yet to see incredibly stunning third party software right now, but we have seen Uncharted: Golden Abyss, which looks significantly more appealing than any hardcore title released for the 3DS at launch.  This game isn’t a port, but an all-new adventure in Sony’s flagship series.  One question posed to us has been why would any hardcore gamer want a Vita if they own a PS3?  That one’s easy to answer, trophy support.  By adding trophies to their games Sony’s sure to get millions of trophy addicts onboard.  Just yesterday I was having this conversation with AppetitePat and we both see the future potential with this move.

The 3DS may be less powerful, but it has all the classic Nintendo franchises ready and willing

Does this spell doom and gloom for Nintendo’s latest portable, not at all.  If history has shown us anything it’s that we can never be sure of the outcome.  The most powerful hardware had never, ever, won the portable war.  What I will say is that coming out of E3 a lot more people are taking this next portable war far more serious than they thought they would.  The more competition we have, the better it is for gamers all over the world.  Right now it’s looking like the portable market is going to have the biggest war it has ever had, so that means it could very well become the best time to buy these two devices.

What do you see happening in this new portable war?  Based on what we know right now, do you think Nintendo and Sony are on more equal footing?  Will Link, Mario and the gang be able to offset Nathan Drake, Cole, and Sony’s new crew?  We want to know what you think!

13 thoughts on “3DS vs. Vita: What We Know Right Now”

  1. The Nintendo DS is the system I bought the most games for…. ever. It started like the 3DS, extremely slow with a horrible launch but at one point, for some reason, exploded with quality releases every week. But for now, the 3DS doesn’t appeal to me much because I can’t stand the 3D for long period of times. That would mean I would buy the system just for the upgrade. For the same price, I can get a Vita with even more power.

    Still though, I’m sure I’ll probably end up with both. Games like Uncharted are awesome, but I’d rather play them on a console with a real controller. When I play portable games, I do it at home because I live in a small town where there’s not much travel. Portable games that appeal to me are games like Pokemon, Animal Crossing or the DS Zelda’s (those are awesome!).

    I barely played with my PSP simply because I’d rather play those games on a console with real analog sticks. I had tons of fun with God of War but yeah. I will most likely end up buying a Vita simply because it’s only 249$ for a portable PS3 with a touch screen.

    The 3DS I’m still not convinced. I really want OOT3D and I might go buy it as soon as I’m done writing this. Still, 249$ for a remake? It is not a simple remake however, as OOT is one of the defining videogames of our time. I still have found memories of what it was like when it was released, especially since I couldn’t play it (didnt have a n64) and others (like appetite pat) would talk about it all day in school. I did actually get a 64 eventually, and bought Pat’s copy and had a blast.

    I don’t remember much about the game though, even though I replayed it (the master quest) when it was given as bonus to those who pre-ordered WW. I’m sure playing the game right now would feel 75% new to me, especially with the new visuals. Anyhow, I’ll see.

  2. Well then get going my man. I remember this game as much as I remember A Link to the Past and I swear if my stupid 3DS would ever arrive I’d be all over this game. Heck I’d probably already have Chapter 2 written for the second volume of Legendary Journey lol.

  3. @Steven
    Haha! I remember seeing the game at your place and regretting the fact that I sold it as it was so good!

    As for the portable war, I’ll end up buying the Vita only. I already know that there are games I’ll miss out on for sure. But in the end, I think the Vita will have more games than I can handle (with trophies:D) and so by buying only 1 handheld, it about 5 more games I can buy.

    Besides… Audio and visuals play a great role for me and the 3DS does not wow me at all :(

  4. Unlike Steven, I got plenty of time to play a big full on game on my way to work and I always enjoyed doing so!

  5. I love portable games, so I’ll definitely have both. I already have the 3DS and really love the system.

    I really liked my PSP because of several key games, but the DS was easily my favorite handheld game machine ever. I bought tons of games for it, from a wide range of genres. When I look at my PSP game library…it’s far more focused in a few genres. The 3DS was a system I bought purely on its pedigree, and so far I’m not disappointed. I like the 3D technology, even if it’s not the main selling point for me. I do enjoy looking at software in 3D, and I play with it on often, because Nintendo really does some neat things with it. The Virtual Console software display, for example, has some really cool yet subtle 3D effects with the Game Boy border. The graphics capabilities aren’t as impressive as Vita, but I’m still happy with what is possible on the system–“good” is a subjective term that cannot be dictated by numbers. Hyper realism can be achieved with more horsepower, but a “good-looking” game doesn’t need to rely on that. It needs strong design. This is why I feel the Wii had some incredibly beautiful games, like Muramasa: The Demon Blade and Super Mario Galaxy 2. I’m certain that the 3DS will be the same way, and honestly, I was really impressed with how Resident Evil Revelations is shaping up.

    Gameplay is king though, and well, the 3DS is where it’s at for me. I’m very excited for the line-up of games. Mario 3DS, Paper Mario, Cave Story 3D, Star Fox, Kid Icarus, Smash Bros., Animal Crossing, Mega Man Legends 3, two Resident Evil games, how can you go wrong? Plus the FULL DS backwards-compatibility and Virtual Console integration is a huge plus. I’m still rather angry that I cannot play any of my UMD PSP games on the Vita–I guess I have to apologize to Sony, I didn’t mean to offend them by being an early adopter to their system! I guess next time I’ll wait and buy all the games via download! Oh wait…I can’t, because not all of them are available on the PSN store. :/

    Still, despite the problem I have with the Vita (the limited backwards compatibility), I’ll get it because of the pedigree. The PSP had some excellent games and the Vita already has games I want, especially Street Fighter X Tekken and Dragon’s Crown (yes, I want these more than Uncharted!).

  6. @Tim
    Street Fighter X Tekken is also on the Vita ;)

    You also made me remember another factor we’ve all ignored so far when you mentionned gameplay. Dual Sticks!!!

    Everyone bitched at Nintendo for not having a stick and everyone bitched at Sony for only having one. I was really disapointed when I saw the 3DS announce they only had one stick. The Vita on the other hand will have two sticks capable of doing L3/R3.

    Can you imagine the diffeference this time around if one of the handhelds can play games like call of duty perfectly on the go? I think this will be a huge factor! Especially in America!

    1. Dual sticks is a huge plus, for sure. For FPS games though…I’m more of a fairweather fan of first person shooter games, and even then, I’d only play them on a console. That’s one genre I don’t know if I’d want to play it on a handheld, especially because shooters benefit from having the bigger screen. Depends on what it is I guess. I am not a CoD fan in the slightest though, lol.

  7. I’m actually surprised that the Vita has more gameplay options this time around than the 3DS. You’ve got the real analog sticks, the touch screen which is a multi-touch screen, you’ve got the back trackpad and the gyroscope. That’s a lot of different ways to interact with your games, so long as companies use these features of course.

    1. That’s definitely true. Sony finally has a machine that has the majority of the options the 3DS offers (the 3D effect being the only exception) and offers dual analog and a competitive price. This is definitely going to be an intense competition.

      I’m expecting that the Vita will do exceptionally well in all terriotories this time around. When I was in Japan, almost every single person had a DS and a PSP, and portable gaming in general seems like a bigger deal there. That’s probably why there are so many better Japanese developed games for handhelds and why I’m drawn to those platforms. So I’m not at all concerned about how the devices will perform there.

      In my opinion, it seems that gamers in the US have slightly different priorities for games, where the common gamer expects: “mature” games, realistic graphics, and comfortable control options. Typically, handheld games weren’t about this, because they have never been nearly as powerful as the home consoles available at the same time. The 3DS looks great, but the Vita is basically a portable PS3. Plus the software push at E3 (mostly with Uncharted leading the way) leads me to think that Sony is positioning this portable to focus on the US more, because they’re not concerned with getting sales in Japan–it’s bound to get sales because of the pedigree.

      The 3DS will have a difficult road ahead of it, if it’s going to live up to what the DS did and be able to withstand competition from Sony. Still, I feel confident in supporting the system.

  8. I think both platforms will be successful, but I also get the feeling that Nintendo is going to lower the price of the 3DS come next year if the Vita really takes off. Obviously it’s way too early to tell right now based on what we’ve seen, but I believe TGS will be revealing. By that time we should start to hear more and more about software for the 3DS and the Vita. My only slight concern was the lack of big third party unveilings at E3 for the 3DS. Virtually all the software that’s in development by third parties we already knew about. That said, a Nintendo platform is always going to shine first and foremost because of the Nintendo hardware and we can all agree that there’s some awesome software in the works.

  9. strong sestem less headick to game cretors and tosh move even aback tosh what left for original for nintendo two screns what thet they sestem lock like gamecube hint gamecube fail

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