October 17th, 2012, 02:26 Posted By: wraggster
Will Sony's portable meet an untimely death? Our staff looks at revitalizing the Vita
Vita may be Latin for "life," but Sony's latest handheld seems like it was born with one foot in the grave. Earlier this year, the system launched into a market where people were writing off handheld gaming as dead, analysts called for price cuts at launch, anddevelopers were abandoning the fledgling system in favor of the 3DS (which didn't exactly get off to a great start itself).
Despite a strong showing at Gamescom, the news surrounding the PlayStation Vita hasn't improved much. Sony's admitted to difficulty getting third-party support for the system, and has been made to tap dance around the issue of sales, saying Vita is "maybe trending behind in certain territories."
"Where's the incentive for developers to support an Android platform only available on a handful of devices? The system's sales currently don't justify the effort"
So in the interest of revitalizing the Vita, the GamesIndustry International staff went around the horn, each picking one challenge the system is facing and suggesting how Sony can best meet that challenge. There's no telling if these suggestions would be enough to save the system in a world gone mad for tablets and smartphones, but it would be tough to make things much worse. So let's get straight to it and start with the single biggest problem facing the Vita today.
Dan Pearson: Software, Software, Software!
I was a big fan of the PSP and I've tried my hardest to love the Vita as much, but it's proving a difficult prospect.
I've used mine a fair bit, flicking between games like Everybody's Golf, Gravity Rush, Unit 13 and Frobisher Says, and I think that the Vita is a great bit of hardware. For what it is, it's priced pretty reasonably and, short of more storage, has nothing lacking in its feature design. It is, as people often said of the PSP, a great piece of kit.
Sadly, that statement was all too often followed up by a very pregnant "but..." and it's no different today. Vita is a compact, powerful device with oodles of potential, both as a games platform and a media device, but it has zero "must have" games in its catalogue.
Monster Hunter, the biggest gap in Vita's software portfolio.
Looking at Metacritic's listings we see a fair slice of friendly, reviewer pleasing green - a solid catalogue of good titles. But how many of them would you buy a system to play? My guess is not many, given that they're almost all either revamps of old games or available elsewhere. There's nothing on that list which gives most people the urge to splurge.
For me, there's one glaring, incredible omission.
I could leave it there, almost. The Monster Hunter series, selling several million units in Japan alone, was an absolutely integral factor in the PSP being an also ran in the race with the DS rather than a DNF. The series never quite took off in the West, perhaps in part because of a PSP small install base, but for a long time it was the best way to play this unique and engaging series.
Then Capcom brought Monster Hunter Tri to the Wii and started a whole new friendship, one which has seen the series move its next two iterations to the 3DS, with no sign of a Vita game on the horizon. It might be a niche title in the West, but any game which sell 1.5 million units in Japan on release week, as Monster Hunter Freedom Unite did, is going to shift some hardware.
"It might be a niche title in the West, but any game which sell 1.5 million units in Japan on release week is going to shift some hardware"
I'm a bit of a MH fanboy, so I'm probably prone to over-stating the case here, but Sony desperately needs something to pull it out of the vicious circle that is seeing developers cancel Vita projects before they're even announced, however much Sony may protest that it's not the case.
The Vita passed the million unit sale mark in Japan this week, a week when its unit sales were among the lowest ever. That means it's currently selling more slowly than the Dreamcast. Let's hope it doesn't suffer the same fate.
Mike Williams: PS Mobile - Too Little, Too Late
Remember PlayStation Mobile? The platform is Sony's way of getting in on the hot mobile game action on PlayStation devices. Developers can create a title and release it on PlayStation Vita and PlayStation-certified Android smartphones and tablets. PlayStation Mobile was announced way back in January 2011, with the platform finally launching this month.
Sixteen titles round out Sony's launch list of titles, but that makes the list of PlayStation-certified devices look amazing. That list includes Sony's Xperia lineup, and HTC's One S, One V, and One X. Further certified devices are coming from other hardware vendors like Asus and WikiPad, but manufacturers aren't beating down Sony's door to get on board. That leaves Sony with a service that's not even available on most Android phones, including Samsung's best-selling handsets, let alone on Apple's iOS.
The PlayStation Mobile SDK is coming for developers in November, but the $99 license fee matches other platforms where developers can find far greater traction. This includes Google Play, which comes on most Android devices sold today. Where's the incentive for developers to support an Android platform only available on a handful of devices? The ability to play on the Vita? The system's sales currently don't justify the effort.
"The hardcore can whine about how inferior mobile is, but the hardcore have become a niche market"
Sony needs to get more PlayStation-certified devices out there. Missing larger Android vendors like Samsung, LG, and Motorola isn't going to fly. Selling more Vitas would also help on this end, but Sony still hasn't found the magic key to get consumers on its side. My colleagues have some ideas on how to fix that, but without more Vitas or PlayStation-certfied devices in consumers' hands, PlayStation Mobile is a non-starter.
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