If the PlayStation Vita’s fortunes aren’t turned around this Christmas, it’s fair to say that it’s going to be a very rough ride for the powerful but slightly misplaced console. Faced with a market dramatically different from when the PSP launched and a competitor well in its strides, the Vita needs luck, a price drop and some new, top drawer games.
Finally, that latter part is starting to come together, and a brand new television ad (that I caught this evening) puts the emphasis right where it should be: big name games and a price that is (whilst still far too expensive) at least approaching the sort of levels that won’t see the general public just scoffing and pointing. It’s not there yet, but it’s in the right direction.[drop2]Thankfully, here in the UK, Sony aren’t trying to pull nonsense like this.
Indeed, the advert was actually reasonably good, showing off first party stuff like Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified, Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Liberation and moving onto EA’s much-applauded Need For Speed: Most Wanted; and ending with the Liberation bundle for £199.
Whilst Declassified is still an unknown quantity (and the development studio have already announced they’re to change their name and much more after its release) Liberation is actually not bad at all, and at the very least shows a publisher happy to commit considerable expenditure to what’s essentially a side story title on a platform hardly doing gangbusters.
And Need For Speed, a game that buyers have told me stands proud against the main console version, is a massive draw too. Yes, it’s the same game as it is on the PS3 (and I still have an issue with games running at sub-native resolution) but it’s not like there’s a massive amount of racers to pick from on the Vita, so the advert’s wise to include it.
It’s the tone of the ad that works the best, though. Bold, confident and demonstrative of the Vita’s power (and unique features) without being pretentious or whimsical, as Sony ads have been in the past. It’s obvious that it’s aimed at a Christmas present-buying market, but that’s exactly what the machine needs right now – sales, lots of them, and fast.
But it needs more. Yes, we’ll be hearing about Plus on Vita next week and that’s great, but it needs a much better retail presence – a quick survey of a few local high street outlets showed alarmingly stoic commitments to already laughable RRPs, abysmal, insulting pre-owned prices and a selection of games largely unchanged from the day it launched.
Few are the demo kiosks, and the once prime slots have made way for dozens of empty Black Ops II pre-order boxes, the Vita languishing away at the back near the Wiis and two-for-a-tenner PopCap compilations. There’s no attempt to market the Vita as a must-have, and it’s bizarre that publishers still seem to think people will be happy parting with £40 upwards for a mobile game, regardless of the console it’s playable on.
We’ll see whether the advert has any affect, but quick-fire edits and a decent price-point for entry can only go so far. The library, hugely broad and cohesive on day one, has thinned to a trickle of late, and truly excellent titles have been slim pickings. Of course, the PSN has been a different story, but there’s little communication of the likes of PlayStation Mobile, PSP playback, the Vita download-exclusives or the system’s social tools.
And for everything the system does right, there’s always something that turns things around. Like the Declassified bundle, that only includes a download code for the game, not a game cartridge, in Europe. The bundled 4GB memory card isn’t going to last long once that’s downloaded, is it? Yes, it’s cheaper for Sony, but it’s a bit cheeky, no?
Will Assassin’s Creed, Need for Speed and Call of Duty change the Vita’s direction, and get people interested? I dearly hope so, it’s a great system with masses of potential, but it’s also still too expensive and dragging with it equally expensive games. I’d imagine this Christmas will be massively important to Sony, so let’s hope the public take notice.