The PS Vita: A Biopsy

No matter how you look at it, The PS Vita is in a bit of trouble. The hardware itself is stellar, with a beautiful OLED touchscreen, a touch sensitive back panel, dual analog sticks, dual shoulder buttons and a plethora of other features that include gyros crammed into there.

As much as we love the PS Vita here at Broken Fuse VG Blog, we have discussed that the hardware itself wasn’t the problem, but the lack of must-have software and the inflated price tag are two of it’s most formidable opponents. This has shown with the lackluster sales, totalling worldwide to about 2.2 million units. Comparing that to Nintendo’s 3DS having an install base of 18.1 million, even though the 3DS has about a year’s worth of a headstart. The $250 price tag and expensive memory cards have effectively kept many people, including myself from dropping that amount of money on a system. I think it would have been smart for Sony to throw in a 4GB proprietary memory card for free with each Vita or use the SD card since it is much more widely used and compatible with many other devices.

Currently there are only a handful of titles that I would say that are must-haves on the Vita at this time and some of those titles are Gravity Rush, Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Street Fighter vs Tekken. I’m sure there are a couple other titles that I didn’t mention that are top notch on the Vita. What made the situation worse for Sony is that Nintendo released Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario 3D Land in the months leading up to the Vita’s launch, which overshadowed some of it’s titles like Uncharted. Sony really needs to have a couple heavy hitters to counter what Nintendo has. Although there are some big titles in the works, there are other features that Sony should not forget to execute properly.

A feature that was brought to the forefront for the Vita is the ability for cross-play of games with the PS3 and subsequently the next generation of Sony home console. PlayStation All-Star Battle Royale is a prime example of this type of functionality. I think that something like this will definitely help with sales for the PS Vita and even possibility the PS3, especially if game saves can be tied to the cloud through PSN Plus. The downfall with cross-compatibility is that some games will be ported over. I’m sure that a good portion of these will be decent or well done, but there comes a point where these ports will be overdone and will cannibalize their own sales.

Hopefully Sony will learn a bit from Nintendo’s launch and have a price drop some time in its future alongside a hefty amount of quality games in tow.

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  1. Few things that either a) Sony could do to make the PS Vita a more marketable system or b) Make it more competitive in the market.

    One, an OS update. The system has more buttons on it than any mainstream handheld before now, yet you can’t use any of them for basic OS needs (navigating home menus and such- at least from what Demo store versions and others who have the system have told me). This could potentially cripple users/potential buyers/users in that if/when the touchscreen goes/dies, the system becomes more or less dead as a unit. This is only made worse in that almost EVERY GAME ON THE PLATFORM, tries to gimmick the heck out of said touchscreen. The 3DS by comparison (while not as impressive) in a power perspective, one can still nav menus with either touchscreen or by using the actual buttons, as buttons. Think of touchscreens as a sheet of ice. 3DS only ever has one skater on it meaning it won’t get chipped and damaged as quickly, the PsP2 (more on that later) has the possibility of having multiple skaters on its surface and by that alone, would likely wear away the ice/touchscreen surface faster. Which contradicts the whole purpose of showing of the touchscreen factor, as by perpetuating its use you essentially drive it into its grave (until the OS is made to work without it).

    Two, system price cut or make the memory cards more affordable people. Place them in as tie ins for new major games. As mentioned above, but also release with new colours (works for Apple and Nintendo).

    Three, I’ll make this one a multi-headed one. Stop marketing EVERY handheld you make as a mini handheld version of your current home console (that’s usually on its way out in the next 2-3years) and claiming it can play games from that console on the get-go. It’s ridiculous! Even if it had the power (of which I’m rather skeptical of) you’re then competing (at best) with yourself AS WELL as everyone else, this is something a company should only ever really consider when they are selling lightyears ahead of the competition, not trying to regain losses and make a profit off your current gen tech. Also you make the market of people able to play such games VERY small, as they’d probably already have the console version of the game, why would they want to play a port of said game again and pay almost as much to play a port again, its bonkers! They need to focus on what the console is, its a PsP 2. Not a revolution but an evolution of its last gen handheld hardware, focus on making games that use the colours of that OLED screen (stray away from the gritty browns and grays of most fps games) more games like Gravity Rush, less Resistance whatever the version released on it was. Focus on making games that attract new audiences, and take time to iron out bugs in AAA titles (The AI in most Vita FPS games has been considered rather lame in reviews)(glitches, loadtimes, and probably more) or if the system can’t handle “ported” code from a console level game (at the moment) don’t force it in at the cost of such things *as listed above. Focus more on core gameplay mechanics(in games) over visual appeal. One of the reasons 3DS is seeing a lot more developers on its side at the moment and more games quickly, is likely due to there (I’m not 100% sure on this) needing the game to be released in HD resolution or better, this keeps developing costs lower, and allows the teams more time to focus on making what makes a game a game… gameplay. Create, innovate, explore… that should be the mantra of gaming companies.

    That’s all for now, in this VEEEEERY long post… I could probably post more if I thought about if for a little longer. Not to say that its not bad to have cross-plat in theory, thus far though unless its on a cloud based medium (where you can actually port a copy of a game from either system) without having to buy the same game twice, then that would be interesting( usually the game would probably need downgrading/compensating of some sort for both to function well). But I digress Sony once again released a system that they trumpeted was levels of magnitude greater than anything before it (when really its not, I remain unimpressed if I were to share a game such as the new lost planet 3 XD on 3DS and ps3… yet absent on the vita?!? Resident Evil:Revelations looks almost console level quality while having more features than many games on even consoles in the series-using a 4gb sd card used sold at same price as 3DS 2gb sd card games-more or less every other 3DS game. Look at Beyond Labyrinth on the 3DS, its (almost) comparable to what we see on current gen consoles, and similar in style and direction to a game on Vita e.g. Gravity Rush. I could go on for games released in the systems 1st year Capcom backs it). Getting back on tangent, Sony trumpeted (again) and right now is in the same hole the 3DS was in last year, perhaps an even bigger one considering all the hype and hope it was/had been banking on has settled somewhat and people still aren’t buying it, they’re weary of Sony, the scenario from last generation(of hand-helds) is playing out again (somewhat) are people going to flock over/back to Sony this time?

    Probably, but not for awhile yet, not until they show some signs of marketing maturation from last generation. I don’t think they’re “dead” but are “sitting dead in the water” at the moment with Vita.

  2. Above comment is even longer than the article itself…

    Sony needs to make sure this doesn’t go the way of the PSP GO. PS All-Stars, Monster Hunter, and COD are actual games to look forward to.

    Also important to point out that some prospective buyers are expecting an upgraded version which will be released later (see 3DS, circle pad pro, and its future XL model).

  3. @James Agreed on the lower price point and lower memory card costs. It’s a huge hindrance for the system itself and I may end up boycotting the system due to that, alongside having only a student budget at this time.

    @Kevin I didn’t mention a new model like how Sony did with PSP-1000/2000/3000/GO with this article but I think some buyers may end up holding off on a newer model with a better grip and better battery life. I had a problem with touching the rear touch pad on the PSV and my hands aren’t exactly large.

    Overall Sony needs software to back up their hardware. These dry spells this early on in the cycle is not good. But tey can get themselves out of this hole.

  4. Agreed with above comments, sorry for making it so long (the response/comment). Dry spells are to be expected when consoles are just launched. Even though the Vita tried to wait a year for things to be ready to go on it, seems like it still wasn’t enough time. There are games coming (in Japan) for the Vita that could help sales over there. The same could be said of the 3DS too I guess.

    In regards to games Kevin mentioned, Monster Hunter. I haven’t seen/heard of any news regarding a new Monster Hunter game for the Vita, Monster Hunter4 on the other hand is a 3DS exclusive (so far). Part of the reason Monster Hunter is on the handhelds= cheaper to make, no HD costs to hinder development+raise dev. costs. Was one of the main reasons Mohunt (Monster Hunter) was on the Wii, PSP (before the PS3), and now the 3DS being the best suited for it at the moment, in Capcom’s eyes. COD has to be developed for the Vita, not ported from a PS3, if they do/try that with the Vita the game will likely fail to sell/play as well due to limitations. PS-Allstars has a good chance as fighters translate fairly well (usually).

    Also wonder if/when Sony releases a new Vita model, will it be more the same with slight tweaks, or will they do something similar to their approach with the ps3 (cut features to make it cheaper/affordable). Also is the Vita region locked? If so that’s another knock against both it, and the 3DS currently.

  5. @James the Vita is not region locked but you do need multiple memory cards to support different region games. that is what really kills the region free feature for me. until the card and hardware costs come down and game selection improves greatly, I can’t bring myself to buy the vita

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