Note: Sony Computer Entertainment America has confirmed the PS Vita will not be released in 2011 in North America and Europe, but will hit sometime in early 2012. Our best guess is March 2012.
With all the recent news about the 3DS, I wanted to know what you all thought about Sony’s PlayStation Vita. Do you think it will have the same problems the 3DS faced, or perhaps a few new problems all of its own?
Let’s start with the delay. This has an impact because it means the 3DS will now have software gamers actually want. I’m talking about games like Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7 and Kid Icarus: Uprising. It also means the iPhone 5 will be out as well as about five hundred thousand new Android tablets and smartphones. That makes a very big difference, it also places the Vita outside the critical holiday shopping period, but as shown before systems that have launched outside this particular point in time has flourished. The question is, will the Vita be able to thwart all these new adversaries?
We can also look at the price. Coming in at $250 for the Wi-Fi model and $300 for the 3G model, the Vita was supposed to be marketed as a direct competitor to the 3DS. The idea was to show the Vita as the better buy. Now that Nintendo has lowered the 3DS price to $170, obviously Sony’s portable no longer had the pricing edge. Apple’s iPhone 5 will likely be somewhere in the $250 range including a three year contract and then there are all the heavy rumors about a remodeled iPhone 4 that will be somewhere in the $200 range with no contract. That doesn’t include the various tablets and Android smartphones that will also come in somewhere between $200 (phone) to $500 (tablet). Do any of these things really make an impact though? The hardcore crowd, which is whom Sony is directing their portable towards, won’t replace a dedicated game player with a phone or a tablet…will they?
The Vita’s feature set is also highly robust, but doesn’t feature any 3D functions. What is lacks in 3D it more than makes up for in pure processing power. There isn’t a single phone or tablet on the market that will be as powerful as the Vita when it hits sometime early next year. One needs only look at Uncharted: Golden Abyss to see how technically impressive the Vita truly is. There’s also the touch screen, rear track pad and duel analog sticks. Real analog sticks I might add. That should make the Vita the best handling portable of any device on the market. Then there’s the fully integrated PlayStation Network with trophy support featured in every game. One unified friends list that just so happens to be the same one you’re currently using on your PS3. Game Center can’t really compare to that, and Nintendo’s online network remains gimped and will continue to be so until long after the Vita hits the market…unless something really unexpected happens.
What happens after launch though? Is Uncharted enough to make people take the plunge knowing what just happened with the 3DS? Do you all think Sony will have a winner on their hands because of the system’s heavy focus on the hardcore market? Do you see that as a mistake given the sheer success Nintendo had with the DS and its focus on the casuals? Just look at all the success Apple and Google are having with their mobile offerings. Do you think Sony is missing a huge market, or is this their smartest move yet.
Speaking of casuals, let’s take a quick gander at the smartphone market. We all know Nintendo blames smartphones for some of the 3DS’ initial sales problems, but let’s look at this further. Apple in particular is the one company that launch the smartphone crusade with their App Store. People no longer consider portable games something to spend $40 on. I mean if GTA: Chinatown Wars can be bought on the iPhone for $10 what does that say about the true value of portable games? Do any of you remember how expensive CD prices used to be before the age of iTunes? While it’s certainly true that the vast majority of mobile games are $1, they’re also far simpler than anything released thus far on the 3DS or upcoming on the Vita. That said, what about something like Resident Evil: Mercenaries? There’s a game that’s extremely light on content and yet retains its $40 price tag. Is that right? Will gamers accept these sorts of portable prices for another five years or has people’s perception of the value of a portable game been altered?
Thankfully for Sony, and also for Nintendo, both platforms feature digital downloads. The question is whether either company will truly embrace them. Will we see dollar games showing up on a weekly basis and if so, how will these help differentiate the 3DS and Vita from the many mobile devices out there. After all if both Nintendo and Sony feature too many mobile-like videogames their hardware might start to suffer as a result of these devices not “going all the way” as it were.
What do you all think will happen next year? Do you think Sony will have a smooth launch and that their strategy will eclipse what Nintendo did with the 3DS, or do you think the mobile market will continue to crush the dedicated portable game machines until they’re dead and buried? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.