Sony’s newest portable, the PlayStation Vita arrives today — or at least it does if you pre-ordered the special edition bundle (if you didn’t, you’ll have to wait until next week).
The Vita may be a shiny new novelty for us North Americans, but it’s been around for a while in Japan, and apparently things aren’t going so well over there. The Vita’s launch was only a moderate success, and since then it hasn’t exactly been burning up the sales charts, regularly being beaten by the 3DS and even its own predecessor, the PSP.
Now comes the news from Japanese newspaper Nikkei that a number of major Japanese developers are already cancelling all their Vita projects in order to refocus on the 3DS. Sony has responded saying these reports are “largely exaggerated”, which is about as wishy-washy as a denial can get while still being a denial.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m by no means saying the Vita’s fate is already sealed. Let’s not forget, the 3DS had it’s own high-profile issues before it managed to get it’s act together over the past couple months. That said, pulling a turnaround might be more difficult for the Vita. Why? Well…
Less Room For Price Cuts
250 to 300 dollars is just too damn much for a portable gaming system. The 3DS proved that pretty definitively last year when most gamers treated the system like a leper at it’s 250-dollar price point.
The difference between the 3DS and Vita is that that 3DS’ price tag was heavily inflated. Nintendo was making a big profit on those 250-dollar units, and had room to chop the price in a big way. Sony on the other hand is already losing money on every Vita. They may still do a price-cut if the Vita languishes badly and it’s a matter of saving face, but they’re never going to win the price battle with Nintendo.
Game Makers Are Going to Default to the Machine That’s Less Expensive to Develop For
The Vita is essentially a portable PS3 — in other words, to make a real A-level Vita title you to have a budget similar to that of a full HD console game. A lot of companies already struggle to make money on the Xbox 360 and PS3, never mind an unproven new portable. 3rd parties are a fickle lot at the best of times — unless there’s a couple major hits for 3rd parties early on in the Vita’s life, they’re all going to bolt to the safer, more economical waters of 3DS development.
In other words, yeah, Uncharted Vita looks great, but that’s not what 99% of the games on the system are going to end up looking like.
Don’t set your heart on too many Vita games that look like this.
Sony’s Lost Their System Sellers
The PSP may have lost out to the DS, but it was hardly a failure, selling over 70 million units worldwide. There were two main reasons for the machine’s success — Grand Theft Auto and Monster Hunter.
The PSP exclusive GTA: Liberty City Stories and GTA: Vice City Stories as well as Capcom’s Monster Hunter series were the biggest movers of Sony portables, and the Vita won’t have either as an exclusive. A portable 3D GTA game simply isn’t happening this generation, it’s just not, and Nintendo has managed to snap the Monster Hunter series away as well.
Nintendo on the other hand, still has all it’s most important exclusives — Pokemon, Mario, Animal Crossing and many more won’t be appearing anywhere but the 3DS.
It’ll be up to Sony to create new system sellers on their own for the Vita. Uncharted is going to get the machine in a few hands, but it’s not going to have the power of GTA or Monster Hunter.
Again, I’m not saying with any certainty that the Vita is going to be a failure. Anything can happen, but Sony’s got a tough mountain to climb with this one.
Vita image via Shutterstock