Many fans of Sony’s zombified Vita have had little to get excited about as of late. But the recent price-cut in Japan has provided a brief respite from the usual doldrums. Sales have been gangbusters recently, with the Vita actually beating the 3DS in Japan last week. Being a Vita owner myself, it was nice to see that, even if I know it won’t last long.
This new sales momentum has given a new wave of hope to the Vita’s long-beleaguered fanbase. “Cut the price globally, Sony!” they’ve cried out on forums and gaming news sites. “If it worked out so well there, it will work out here too!”
I don’t think so. There are a few reasons why:
– In the West, smartphones and tablets are hurting both the Vita AND the 3DS. The latter hasn’t sold nearly as well outside of it’s native territory. That’s the main reason Nintendo lowered their 3DS sales projections through March (albeit not nearly as much as the Wii U, which is still set to underperform). Here, casual consumers have very few fucks left to give for dedicated gaming handhelds, especially those that don’t play Pokemon. Sony really has it’s work cut out for it if it want’s to change that dynamic.
– A $50 price-cut on the hardware isn’t enough. That would just bring the Vita in line with the 3DS XL, and it would still be more expensive than the regular 3DS. Sony needs to cut the price on their memory cards, too, because people are not paying $80+ for a 32GB card in 2013. Not when both the 3DS and smartphones come with SD card support.
– While there have been several hot selling games in Japan to coincide with the Vita’s price-cut, the release line-up here is completely fucking barren. I can only count three games I’m sure to buy for mine this year: Muramasa doesn’t come out until June, Killzone: Mercenary won’t come out until September, and Tearaway doesn’t even have a release date. There are several big selling IPs from the PSP days that haven’t even been mentioned for the Vita. Where is God of War? Grand Theft Auto? Gran Turismo?
And on top of that, the Vita’s current library is full of neutered console ports just like the PSP was–a situation Sony is actively exacerbating with their misguided Cross Buy program. Cut down versions of Sly Cooper and Ratchet and Clank are not going to send Vitas flying off the shelves. People here didn’t want a portable PS1.5 BEFORE the iPhone and iPad came out. What made Sony think it portable PS2.5 would be any more appealing now?
Sony needs to do a LOT more with the Vita than just cut the price. They need to take several rounds of decisive action to prove the Vita is still worth investing in here, at a time when most of the excitement for mobile gaming in the West has shifted to smartphones and tablets.
Both dedicated handhelds have been offering gaming experiences that no iPhone or Galaxy could ever match. That’s been the central argument for both the 3DS and the Vita from the start. Nintendo stepped up to the plate when things went badly, yet even they’re still seeing lackluster sales outside of Japan. Can Sony do what it takes in a situation even Nintendo is struggling with?
Only time will tell.