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PS Vita – Update Allows Classics to Play; Skeptics Remain

/ Aug 31st, 2012 3 Comments

PS Vita
PS Vita

PS Vita

PS Vita worldwide sales for the first five months (seven month for Japan) are less than impressive. The worldwide total of units sold of the PS Vita is only 2.2 million units as of June 30,2012. That number is rough as it includes all territories currently selling the PS Vita, and even more depressing news is that in many areas the PSP (Sony’s first handheld) has outsold the PS Vita during the last few months by a significant margin. Not surprisingly, Nintendo’s 3DS system has also outsold the PS Vita since its launch, but in the same five to seven month time, the system did much better even before the 3DS’ price cut. Sony’s President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America was quoted saying, in an article by gamesindustry.biz, that, “I think there’s an acceptable number – and [the number] we’ve sold: That’s acceptable. If it was triple that, I’d be happier. If it was one-third, I’d be disappointed.” While Tretton may be spinning the lackluster sales in an optimistic manner, the question remains why the PS Vita has not caught on anywhere really despite its predecessor, the PSP being a success.

[adsense250itp]The PlayStation Portable handheld came out December 2004 in Japan and March 2005 in the US and Canada and at launch the only version of the handheld was the Value Pack, which retailed at $249.99 US. While the PS Vita came out this past February in the US and Europe (with a December launch in Japan), the launch featured two version of the new handheld: Wi-Fi only version for $249.99 US and the Wi-Fi/3G version for $299.99 US. The prices for the system at launch are relatively similar with the Wi-Fi only PS Vita retailing at the same price as the PSP Value Pack. It could be said that there was more offered with the PSP price point than the bare bones Wi-Fi only PS Vita.

Both the PSP and PS Vita required an additional proprietary media card for game saves and data management at the launch of the system. While other Sony devices used the Pro Duo memory stick the PSP required, which meant that cheaper third-party version were available; only Sony produced the PS Vita’s new memory card at launch. The pricing and storage tiers are not too dissimilar for this to account for the disparity in popularity between the PSP and PS Vita.

Persona 4 Golden Special Edition Announcement

A look at the Persona 4 Golden Special Edition

The biggest complaint about the PS Vita is a perceived “so-so” launch title line-up, but comparatively to the PSP’s launch, the PS Vita offers just as many worthwhile titles even though the PS Vita’s line-up is more port heavy than the PSP’s was. However, the PS Vita had a bigger “wow title” in Uncharted: Golden Abyss, but it being more expensive than the rest of launch title was not encouraging. Even the price of PSP and PS Vita titles are not too dissimilar. The biggest stumble for the PS Vita was not offering good backwards compatibility with the PSP. Since the PS Vita does not use the UMD and has no ability to play them, the games that PSP owners bought were useless. Sure, Sony offers the PSP titles, at an expensive price, on the PSN and the PS Vita can play downloaded titles, which is great for people who did not own a PSP. However, Sony did not even offer a passport system or a way for PSP owners to send in old UMDs to receive a discount on PSN PSP titles. Thus, it makes it a difficult sell to parents who see that Nintendo’s new system can play both DS and 3DS games, so they do not have to purchase new games immediately. One of the bigger problems was the way Sony handled the retail launch with the early-bird bundle and how most retailers did not carry the complete launch line-up either in store or online making it a chore for potential PS Vita owners to track down titles they were interested in. This difficulty in finding titles can be attributed to Sony’s day and date online availability of PS Vita titles on PSN, which causes stores to compete against Sony for sales of titles. Then there is the drought of worthwhile games being released for the PS Vita (even though one of the better games of the year, Gravity Rush is available for the system). Hopefully a strong holiday line-up with Persona 4 Golden (currently hugely popular in Japan and a special edition of the game has been announced for the US), PlayStation All-Stars, Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified and Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation will give the system a shot in the arm.

Assassin's Creed III: Liberation PS Vita Holiday Bundle

Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation PS Vita Holiday Bundle

Also, gamers may simply be exercising caution with the PS Vita since the PSP had many problems with units at the beginning of its launch cycle and they are waiting on a redesign or future price cut (this will be a while away). It is hard to pinpoint exactly why the PS Vita is not experiencing similar success that the PSP did, but one major factor is simply, 2012 is not 2005. The economical context that the PSP launched was much better and more receptive than the one that the PS Vita launched in, while 2005 was not an economic boom; it is not the current economic lull that people worldwide are facing. Game sales in general are down and an expensive new system launching during the period after the 2011 holiday season, which is typically weak for sales of anything, but especially a new game system does not help. Thus, gamers are looking for economical purchases and the PS Vita is not one compared to either the PSP or the 3DS/DSi.

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Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs

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3 responses to “PS Vita – Update Allows Classics to Play; Skeptics Remain”

  1. Ray says:

    Flash player would turn new players on to the new vita internet is what we want and apps that sells

  2. Dan says:

    You forgot to mention that the list of ps 1 games in this article was the US list. The EU had over a hundred games available the day the update dropped. Also the list is already out of date as many more classics have been added to the US psn vita store a couple of days after the update.

    Me personally, I think the vita is an awesome piece of kit and anyone who is serious about gaming should check it out

  3. Ryan says:

    I blame the line up, I blame remote play, and I blame advertising. It does Half of what it says it will. You can’t use any games that you have PURCHASED previously (unless they were downloaded). PSN games are super expensive, the games are super expensive, and the accessories are super expensive.

    Although I absolutely love the vita, I think it’s an amazing gadget I’m proud to own, the logistics of keeping it doesn’t make much sense. Why own something there are only 4 cool games? Everything else (Internet, maps, movies, music, etc.) a smart phone can do, and often much better (pandora, app selection, voice navigation).

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