Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Zero Vitals: Why I Am Not in the Market For the Vita... Yet

There's no question that the PlayStation Vita is a sexy little device. However, there's also no question that this sexy little device is selling poorly all across this fine world of ours. In Japan it is selling below 10,000 each week, and in the U.S., it was outsold by Kid Icarus: Uprising in the month of April. I hate to kick a portable while it's down, but there are four main reasons why the PS Vita isn't a purchasable product for me just yet.

As stated, it is a sexy little device.

It's too expensive.

Two hundred and fifty US dollars. That is how much a PlayStation Vita costs in the grand old United States of America. Now, that is just the system by itself. You have to buy some form of proprietary memory card just to play games on the blasted thing, and of course, that doesn't even count an actual game to go with your purchase. For $250 I can buy multiple video games for platforms I already own, or (haha) buy things I actually need to survive in this world.

Now I understand that you get what you pay for. There's a ton of interesting tech inside and outside the portable. There's the front touch screen, the gyro controls, the two analog sticks, and the rear touch screen. Regardless, what was the point of throwing all of this tech inside the system? To me, it seems that Sony just crammed anything and everything into the Vita that they could which only drove up the price. In an era where games cost a lot of money and smartphones and tablets are whittling away the dedicated portable market, the Vita is a lot of money for something that doesn't even make phone calls. And the price is the least of Sony's worries.

The support isn't there-- first party or third.

To say that Sony blew their load at launch would be an understatement. Why did all of these great games release on launch day or around launch instead of being spread around? Many titles became overlooked because there were so many competing with one another. We all know that Sony's first party games do not have the same clout as Nintendo's. Heck, Nintendo almost proved that they could keep their own platform, the Wii, afloat with solely their first party games. Sony does not have that luxury. They need third parties to play ball and play nice. Third parties currently are not doing that. Western third parties have always acted like they're "above" developing for handhelds. Oh, ladida. Aren't you special? Keep making those big budget games in a market that's too unsustainable for them.

Third parties in Japan, however, have decided that since the 3DS's architecture is so similar to the PSP that they will support Nintendo's platform. (Oh, and the Nintendo DS being the best-selling platform ever might have swayed them in some tiny regard.) Capcom has already moved their blockbuster Monster Hunter franchise to the 3DS. Monster Hunter was the series that made the PSP a competitor to the DS in Japan. Now Sony doesn't even have that. Hopefully Soul Sacrifice is the start of some intriguing support for the system. Maybe Sony will have to push some money some developers' way to entice them to support the Vita. Who knows? All I know is that I will not invest money in a platform where the future support for the system is simply not there. (Though I would love to own Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational, Wipeout 2048, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, among other launch games.)

Sony seems incompetent towards the Vita's failures.

Week after week, month after month in Japan, the Vita is selling as well as sand to a thirsty person in a desert. Okay. I need to work on my analogies. That notwithstanding, the situation is bleak and Sony does not seem to be doing anything to counteract the bad vibes and press. Sales continue to slide and there are no announcements at all. A June Japanese conference is planned, but after seeing Sony's last one where the big name game was a port of a PC title (Phantasy Star Online 2), I won't hold my breath for that.

The release schedule is quite frankly depressing, and what does Sony do? They announce a white Vita for Japan for next month. Seriously? Are you trying to make current sales worse? If I was interested in buying the system, I would now wait for the release of the newest color. We all know white is better because it doesn't capture dirt and show finger junk as easily.

Most recently, Sony has announced a Brain Age-esque title called Smart As. How is this supposed to appeal to the market the Vita is supposedly targeting according to Sony themselves-- teens and young adults? It simply doesn't. A title that does aim for this audience, Soul Sacrifice, going back to that game, comes off as an honest attempt to start turning around the Vita's fortunes, but that is a Winter release. Is that too little too late?

One game alone won't give Vita vita.

I can't play my 50+ UMD-based PSP games on it.

I did not buy a load of retail PSP games so I could do away with them and purchase them all over again in digital form on the Vita. That's rubbish. This is most likely a naive fantasy, but I am sort of hoping for a revision of the system that will allow the Vita to not only have a slot for cartridge games but a slot for UMD titles. I love my 3DS because even when the system is having a dry spell I can pop in one of my many DS games, and I can find solace in the fact that the 3DS will play almost all of them. With the Vita, this is an impossibility. If I want to play a game on Vita that came from its predecessor, I have to re-buy it via PSN. Why should I do that if I already own the game in physical form for my PSP?

Japan bought tons of physical copies of PSP titles. That country alone helped the system to tread water and drown like it did in other corners of the world. I bet many PSP owners would move on up to the Vita if they could play their PSP collections on Sony's new system. I certainly know if other questionable areas of the Vita were addressed that I would do so.

So many games I want to play on the Vita, 
but they're all ones I already own.

For those who already own a Vita, can you argue against my points? And for those who don't want a Vita, what would make you want one? Let the SPC community know in the comments section.


Bryan Ochalla said...

My thoughts exactly. I love my PSP and the 20 or so games I've bought for it, but there's no way I'm going to pick up a Vita until the price comes down and more games that appeal to me are released for it. Hopefully it'll last enough for both of those things to happen...

Reggie White Jr. said...

I've started collecting PSP games. Currently, I'm up to seven titles. When I heard the Vita wouldn't play physical copies of PSP games, I couldn't believe it. What an utterly stupid move on Sony's part.

I'm pretty much avoiding the Vita right now for all the reasons you've listed. $250 is far too much money. I thought the same thing of the 3DS when it launched with a sub-par lineup.

Matt Sainsbury said...

I do love my Vita. I've found the early lineup of games to be great (especially now it has a JRPG in Disgaea 3), and it's a very powerful and very well built device.

People are quick to forget the woeful start the 3DS had, and how long it took Nintendo to make amends. These things take time, and while I don't expect the Vita will outsell the 3DS, it will become a popular device with a strong following.

Unknown said...

Sony does not have Pokemon... or Mario... or Zelda... or any worthwhile first party game that will sell systems. I don't have as much hope for the system as you.

Matt Sainsbury said...

Phillip - Sony managed to sell plenty of PSOnes, PSTwos, PS3s and PSPs without Mario, Pokemon or Zelda.

Let's not forget the PSP was a big hit in Japan. Yes it was outsold by the DS, but it performed incredibly well - and it wasn't because of Sony's output. The third party games make Sony consoles popular.

It just means that the Vita will go through a slower start than some might have expected, because third parties tend to not support new consoles (why would they, there's not as many sales to make)

Unknown said...

The PSOne, PS2, and PSP were not in markets where their competition were smartphones and tablets that people are flocking towards in mass numbers for their handheld gaming needs. Plus, the PlayStation brand wasn't as damaged back then like it is now.

Monster Hunter sold PSPs. As I said in my article, the reason why the PSP was even placed in the same sentence as the DS was because of Monster Hunter. Now the mainline games are on Nintendo systems, maybe even exclusively thanks to a ruthless Nintendo.

We'll see if third parties step up their game for the Vita at E3. Like I said, one game won't turn around the Vita's fortunes. The platform needs a steady number of hits. It's a reason why the 3DS isn't selling well outside of Japan; there is no steady flow of good titles.

Unknown said...

And to clarify, when a person bought Monster Hunter, that title acted like a gateway drug to other PSP titles. So no, people just didn't buy Monster Hunter and only Monster Hunter after getting their PSP. A steady stream of games helped the platform's software sales in Japan.

With Nintendo's 3DS we knew Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, Animal Crossing and more were coming. With the Vita, all we have is potential. No definitive titles, just potential.