Oh, how quickly we forget. When the Nintendo 3DS launched to a lacklustre line-up and a price point that dropped faster than anyone could have expected, the portable console was doomed. Dead in the water. Kaput. Or, at least, that’s how the media would have had you believe, a media that seemingly only reports in binary – something’s either amazing or terrible, the next big thing or a complete bomb.
The latest victim is, of course, Sony’s PlayStation Vita – a follow up to the PSP in all but name, sharing a similar form factor and, of course, the same sort of console in your pocket games that the company has been trying to push for a good few years now. The machine itself is solid – as you’ll know from my two thousand word review over the break – so what’s the big issue?
I don’t buy the claims that the console is overpriced by itself – it’s not – although the memory card issue still annoys the hell out of me. That said, £225 (or your local equivalent) certainly isn’t anything to really panic about in terms of what the console is capable of even if some of the reports that Sony will be “forced” to cut the price are focusing around a rather more solid issue with the Vita: the price of the games, and the games currently out there.
“The hottest games like the latest Uncharted are priced at $50, while many other major titles are $40. The pricing seems delusional in light of the Japanese response to the PS Vita,” said an article on Forbes.[drop]Here, as I’ve been saying for years, is a major sticking point: the Apple App Store (and we can happily include the Android Marketplace here) has crippled the expected price point of mobile games, probably indefinitely. Here’s an example: at the time of writing EA’s FIFA 12 is 69p on the iPad 2, that’s the price of a packet of chewing gum, a pint of milk, a bar of chocolate. It’s nothing; pennies.
When FIFA 12 hits PS Vita it’ll likely be (assuming you shop around) about £35. That’s fifty times the price of the iOS version. Read that again: fifty times. I’m not ignorant to think that the physical cart-based version of EA’s big footy game won’t require manufacturing, printing and shipping costs and I’m aware that retail outlets will never stock something that has a like-for-like digital version available for such a low cost, but you can see the problem.
Are Vita games, like they are on the 3DS, perceived to be too expensive by a good chunk of the market?
You can’t really even factor in the point that Vita is the more capable machine, because over the console’s lifespan that’ll change, possibly as early as February/March if Apple roll out the much rumoured iPad 3 – even a formal announcement on Apple’s new tablet will stir up what Sony are hoping will be a rather more private launch fortnight. But power doesn’t always equal quality, and this is where Sony will need to push the Vita’s assets. Like, of course, Vita’s physical controls.
Think about it for a second: the iPad 2 (and the iPhone 4S and, indeed, some of the newer Android sets) is a considerably powerful machine, at least in terms of graphical grunt. But how many iOS games look better and play better than Vita’s Uncharted: Golden Abyss? There’s perhaps a handful of 3D showcases (mostly powered by Unreal Engine) and Gameloft have tried to force virtual joysticks into all manner of console-esque games to varying degrees of success, but barring some brilliant 2D titles – generally the budget and the overall production values just don’t quite match up.
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