Even though I'm still pretty deep in Persona 4 Golden, I recently picked up PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale on the Vita. I got a lot of raised eyebrows and could swear that at one point I heard someone say that my choice was "illogical."
Calm down my Vulcan friends, there is a very good reason why I decided to buy the physical Vita version despite the fact that for $20 more I could have gotten both the physical PS3 and digital Vita version. A few reasons, actually.
Ironically enough, the reasons I had for defying the Prime Directive (so it seems) tie in directly to why the Vita seems to be suffering. Take a gander while I explain myself below.
Proprietary Memory Card Capacity
Frankly speaking, my 8GB Vita memory card is full, so a digital download for Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale would force me to delete other games. However, I'm not a huge fan of deleting games. In Sony's case, peripheral and accessory sales are usually the main driving force for making money off PlayStation handhelds. The PSP had a proprietary memory format (Memory Stick Pro Duo), the PSPGo had a new proprietary memory format (Memory Stick Micro, or M2), and now the Vita has its own stand alone proprietary memory format (Playstation Vita memory card).
Quite frankly, buying all these memory cards becomes expensive. So expensive, in fact, that upgrading to a larger memory card that can only ever be used with a Vita for nearly twice the price as the going rate for similar memory formats (with similar capacity) seems foolish. At least I feel like a fool for doing it. But I, like many others, spent nearly the same amount on memory for the PSP as I did on the handheld itself and I am wary of doing so again.
Add that "cost of ownership" onto an already steep price tag and it's easy to see why many people are waiting for a price drop on the Vita. Since the size of many of these Vita games is well over 1GB (some games are closer to 4GBs!), it's pretty tough to get by on the relatively cheap 4GB card that comes with most of these Vita bundles, if even at all. Not a huge motivator to me considering their main rival, Nintendo's 3DS, uses the standard SD memory format that is both cheap and plentiful. Food for thought there, Sony.
Cross-Buy Doesn't Help the Vita-Only Gamer
Think about it. Cross-Buy is a great deal for console players that also happen to have a Vita. It may or may not even be a slight incentive for PS3 owners to buy a Vita. Personally, I don't think it is, because anyone who wants a Vita for Vita games specifically is probably already sold on one whether they have gotten around to buying it or not. Paying $250 just to play the exact same game you already own, just portable, is a lot of money for a mostly trivial convenience.
Remember, these people are primarily console gamers. I am mostly a handheld gamer. So with Cross-Buy, essentially I would be paying $20 more just to have a digital version of the game, and a physical PS3 disc I'll never use. This is the opposite of convenience. I know I'm one of the only people who would rather play on a handheld than on a console, but the fact still stands; Cross-Buy doesn't give the person who only owns a Vita, and not a PS3, anything. And to this entire demographic of Vita owners who do not have a PS3 or don't play often on it, there is little being done to hold the interest of these people. Stuff like remote play and cross controller are essentially useless here as well.
I love the tagline "Console quality on-the-go" from Sony's new Vita TV ad plugging the system and Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified. This in itself is hilarious because Declassified is the farthest thing imaginable from its console counterpart. What the tagline really represents, though, is the bulk of Sony's plan for the Vita. If you paid attention to E3, Gamescom, or any recent gaming conference, you'll know largely from here on out what the Vita will see is many console ports. This flies directly in the face of their previous statement earlier saying the saturation of ports hurt the PSP in the end. I guess it doesn't count when it's Cross-Buy right?
So let's see... Sly Cooper Thieves in Time, Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault, Guacamelee, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, Sound Shapes, Zen Pinball 2, and Retro City Rampage are all so far the exact same game on both systems that you can buy for one price. Combined with existing franchises emphasizing the "same gameplay as console" experience hitting the Vita in droves, it becomes very hard to think of more than a handful of titles you can get on the Vita that you can't get someplace else. This is the kind of identity crisis that they acknowledged hurting the PSP, yet they seem happy to blindly repeat these mistakes despite the affirmation they know better.
Instead of trying to sell Vitas to PS3 owners (sorry, it's not working as well as you thought) they need to focus on giving the Vita its own identity with games people can't find anywhere else. This will prove the Vita isn't just a fancy port machine, or an expensive PS3 peripheral and will motivate people who are your target market, the hardcore gamer, to actually buy one. This will raise your installed user base and in turn motivate more developers to support your handheld. Sony just needs to get over the hump and make more new exclusive games like Soul Sacrifice, Gravity Rush, and... see, I can't even think of another one. If that doesn't prove my point, I don't know what does.
I realize this mostly comes off as me telling Sony I could do their job better than they can (or are, in this case), and as I have no MBA or accounting degree it is easy to dismiss these as the speculative rantings of just another know-it-all gamer. Many of you will probably call me out, whether in a comment or simply in your mind and move on. Let me warn you though - I'm not trying to tell Sony what to do; I'm only bringing to light that they don't realize they are repeating the mistakes of the past, though they claim they aren't.
In the end, I'm really just the observer; the man in the crow's nest, trying desperately to warn the captain he is navigating through rocky seas in a route he is convinced he isn't on. The point is - I love my Vita and I want to see it stick around for a while. On its current track though... that seems unlikely unless Sony is willing to swallow their pride and do something drastic.