Thoughts On Vita, And The Media Perception

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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  1. All the story of needing cheap games, when bashing the Vita lately (not on here, it’s been balanced reporting here) have seemed to forgot the Playstation Suite which is supposed to be targeting this mini priced games.

    I’m not sure but even Sony seems to have forgetting the Suite but this is the other half of the Vita plan. High quality gaming such as Uncharted and Wipeout at higher price points with cheap bite sized games coming from the suite software.

    Another issue I have with the media reporting is not reporting comparable costs. The RRP isn’t what most gamer are going to pay, we shop around to much and the Internet has helped find bargins much easier. That’s without hearing anything about the supposedly cheaper PSN games like Japan has.

    The first year for Vita will be difficult but if Sony plays it right they can do well as the Vita is a capable device.

    • Quite right, the PS Suite is one of the most interesting aspects for Vita

      However the reality is the only games available via the PS Suite development framework are a select number of PSOne titles, AFAIK and have read there’s isn’t a single game in development for it.

      Seems odd that the omnipresent titles similar to Angry Birds, Doodle Jump & Bejeweled aren’t talked about.

      Is it the usual case of good Sony idea but awful implementation, or is PS Suite just not what we all thought it was and it’s just a dev framework for Sony titles?

      It will be difficult to see Vita extending Sony’s handheld reach beyond the PSP demographic unless bite-sized gaming better suited to being mobile is easily developed and published on the system.

      • I can’t understand why things like Angry Birds aren’t being ported to the Vita or at least something like Angry Birds Seasons. Angry Birds on Windows Phone 7 devices allows you to get achievements for the game so why can’t Sony follow suit and get some big names bite sized games onto the Vita. Then it can attract developers to the system easier and hopefully get some original content into the Suite.

        Seeing as Sony has now decided 2012 will see all SonyEricsson handsets branded under Sony now, there is no reason why Sony can’t push mobile gaming using the Suite software for both mobiles and the Vita. Even if it does bite into Vita’s market share, it will strength the Vita by offering more games and at the end of the day that’s what the Vita needs to be able.

      • Just wanted to throw in that angry birds its already a PS mini… Sony just need to do some marketing on that aspect of the handheld

  2. Hmm, whilst I will be getting a Vita eventually, personally, I cannot justify to myself the expense! :( too many bills & cost of living has meant I’m gaming from the bargain bin at the moment.
    That said, I much prefer physical controls for proper games, even though I own an iPhone 4 & angry birds et al are great fun. Racers & fps games just don’t work in my humble opinion, battlefield is horrible to play on a touchscreen, as are any of the driving games I’ve tried.
    Sony need to play to Vitas strengths & really push those & then get the top app game makers & indies involved too. Then we might hopefully, see some innovation on Vita :)

  3. Good article :)

    I completely agree that the price of games is going to be the biggest hurdle to overcome here, but I don’t think there’s a simple solution. Obviously there should be smaller titles to compete with IOS and Andriod but I don’t see Sony matching them on price anywhere.

    Personally I hope that most major Vita releases get a fully featured PS3 port so I don’t have to bother with the Vita. I don’t like playing games on portable systems anyway so I’m hoping that I won’t miss out on too much if I don’t get this.

  4. Can I just ask, why are you mostly comparing the Vita to the Ipad 2? They can’t really be compared can they? Not in terms of screen size, or anything really. Besides that, it’s not like the iPad 2 is the most powerful device out there right now, and if you look at the iPhone 4S I’m not sure you should expect the iPad 3 to be that much more powerful. I would say comparing it to the Transformer Prime would be a better choice, if you were going to compare it to a tablet, since both of them have quad-core processors and games like Shadowgun look just about as good as a few of these vita games.

    I personally think the Vita will last for 2-3 years or so, but after that the technology will just be too old since mobile technology is developing so quickly.

  5. I think Vita is a bit expensive if you think about the stuff you need to buy for it the device the card and a game (what do you do with it without a game) it might be better if Vita came with a memory card without extra cost. Having said that i am interested and probably will buy it when it comes out here

    • Gaming is expensive if you think of the all the stuff thats needed for consoles and gaming PCs, Handhelds is simply not much different from other products in the games industry?

      • Yeah but if you think consoles like PS3 you don’t need to buy anything else to enjoy it other than games but with Vita you pretty much have to buy the memory card if you want to save games and so on

      • @GTRsannin Depends on your usage. I’d argue that the additional costs of controllers, cables, and hell, even a TV, far outweigh that of a memory card.

  6. I do love scrolling through n4g and laughing my head off at the obvious hit generating “VITA IS DOOOOOOMED!!!1!!!111” headlines. Keep the games affordable and the Vita will do just fine. The price you pay for the quality Vita titles (uncharted, Wipeout) will show.

  7. On an unrelated note, that new TSA logo should be a piece of piss for people to reproduce on their PS Vita Modnation racer karts….we had to use a multicoloured logo on the PS3 version! :P

  8. Great article Alex.
    I think part of the reason the launch figures won’t reach their full potential is because many people like myself will wait for a decent bundle deal before committing.
    Apart from a handful of games, like Peggle, Angry Birds and a few more, I delete most games from my iPad after one try. Unless the iPad 3 has dual sticks it won’t outshine the Vita for me. And that’s what the Vita is mostly about for me – the dual sticks and the core games that that enables. IMO a game that costs 79c is worth 79c. Games that cost €15 to €50 aren’t always worth it, but many of them really are worth it. I think TSA’s overall GOTY chart shows evidence of that, with only one iOs game making it.
    It’s a shame about the Vita’s browser but I’m writing this comment from my iPad and it’s a f**king pain especially when I have to edit a mistake. Even in the PS3 browser it’s easier to edit – even though that already froze on me twice today! Gaah! :s

    • Same here, although I use the iPad for all my Internet needs, it’s still something I’d rather replace as it keeps crashing.

      iPad could never compete with a Vita for experience but doesn’t mean that the iPad isn’t a danger to the Vita.

      • Your right and it’s not that i’m ignoring that ipad is a potentially real danger to Vita sales – all i’m saying is that personally, as a core gamer, the Vita looks to be the only platform delivering what i need.

      • Agreed. I mainly play games away from the main TV so Vita will give me new decent games plus satisfy my trophy whore side!

  9. iPad 2 is bad for gaming. Controls are bad for hardcore games like GTA 3. iPhone’s screen is a bit to small for big games, only good for games like Cut The Rope etc

  10. The problem is two-fold, if the Vita had come out prior to Christmas over here, it would have bombed, on account that the majority of buyers would be people buying for gamers not the gamers themselves, this is the issue over price of games + hardware being less than the cost of an IPod touch for instance, but the root of this problem lies in the notion that significantly cheaper = more value for money. This is a false economy, I have an iPad 1 and an iPhone 4, and although a game maybe be 69p, if I don’t play it, or finish it easily, it’s still 69p down the drain, no great risk, but if this is multiplied by several games then the cost gets higher; the App Store is full of dross 69p games, shovel ware over the wire, or the dreaded ‘Lite’ games that are free but horribly crippled, or so full of Ads you either buy the full thing or delete it to get rid of them. By bringing the Vita out after Christmas and into February, there is less of the post christmas financial comedown and it’s released in a quarter where typically there are few game releases.

    The second notion is that Apple actually gives a toss about gaming, believe me it only cares about its 30%, since Macs went to Intel 5 years ago and the advent of Boot Camp, the hardware has been placed that an entry level mac, with a little graphics boost, could be a good entry- mid level gaming machine, instead we have the horrible disparity in games like Sims 3 windows and mac visions on same hardware are miles apart in terms of quality, and what has Apple done to try to get a slice of what is arguably now the entertainment industries biggest growth sector, next to nothing.

    And although the Vita may be overpriced, it’s nowhere near the cost of an iPad, and I don’t need to quick-evolve a couple of million years to have transparent thumbs to be able to see the whole game while I’m playing, or use the tilt screen like a racing wheel and knock out a few commuters on the train. And though you may complain about having to use memory cards, remember that the iPad/iPhone doesn’t offer that option at all or multiple users, for that matter; a gated garden via the Vita, is certainly more preferable to a walled garden of iOS, for users and developers, but maybe not for the casual user/ gamer, and this is where the Vita has to stand out, for its cheaper bite size games they have to be better than the comparable iOS offering in every way, and yet be at a similar price tag.

    Yes the price of Vita games are expensive, and I would say in the current climate, prohibitively so and that does need to be addressed, and even though I think that the likes of Apple and the AppStore model will continue to change the mobile market for games, anyone that believes that Multi function mobile devices heralds a golden age of mobile gaming is quite frankly deluded.


    • Not a rant at all, I think that’s a perfectly measured comment. Thanks.

    • Brilliant.

    • The argument of a “gated garden” versus a “walled garden” was a very good one :-)

    • Excellently put.
      I’ve been trying to write a comment like that for a while but keep failing…
      The gardens was a great metaphor.

      I think phones have to return to buttons if they want to really beat Vita/ 3DS.
      Maybe like the Xperia Play, but it should feel more natural- the phone shouldn’t have to transform into a gaming device, it should be a gaming device, without ever failing to be a rock solid phone.
      Don’t know how it could be done, but there’s a designer out there right now who probably does.
      Go find him mobile manufacturers of the world.
      From a gamer who’d genuinely like to replace his PSP and soon to be Vita with a phone for portable gaming. If they can match the experience, that is.

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