Welcome, one and all, to the wonderful, magical world of solo debatery and madness, that which is known as "So I Gotta Know!" Today's episode asks...why doesn't Sony's American branch seem to care about the success of the Vita?
Despite being possibly the most powerful gaming handheld to date, the Vita has had a rough time in North America. It launched with a fair number of games, both digital and physical, but very few of these games were enticing enough for the average gamer to jump on the system right away, leaving it mostly to the early adopters. To be fair, though, the 3DS had a pretty rocky start as well, so that's just how things go when you launch a new system people aren't too sure about. However, where the 3DS has since picked up steam and become a strong seller for Nintendo, Sony's Vita is still back at the starting line, waiting for someone to give it a push out on to the field.
So what's the problem? Well, part of it is the software library - even now, a year after the Vita launched, there's still very few "killer apps" that make the Vita worth owning. Many of the games released for the system have been ports or remakes of older games, which are great for Vita owners, but not so great at convincing non-owners that it's worth buying. Not only that, but looking at the release calendar for 2013 looks pretty grim - as of this writing, there are maybe 7 titles confirmed to be coming to Vita this year. How is that even possible? It's clear that Sony has a good relationship with developers, or at least enough money to bribe them, by looking at the numerous PS3 games that have exclusive content not found in other versions. So why can't Sony get developers on board for the Vita?
da ba dee da ba die...
Numbers. It all comes down to numbers...there's just not enough Vita owners out there to make developing for the system profitable. Developers aren't going to put time and effort into making a game for a system that relatively few people have compared to the PS3. This presents a conundrum, however, because if developers aren't making games for the Vita, no one's going to buy a Vita, leading to a vicious circle where nothing changes. It's clear that Sony needs to make some changes to their plans for the Vita in order to get more systems in players' hands, and yet, they seem to be content to just sail along and hope everything works out for the best. It's this disinterest from the company that's supposed to be promoting this device that really makes consumers and developers alike wary of the Vita, and it's going to hurt Sony in the longrun. So how can they turn things around if no one's making games for their system?
Games like these, perhaps.
Price. As seen in the brief GamesRadar article linked there, when Sony's Japanese branch dropped the price on the Vita, sales made a huge jump. Recent rumblings also suggest the release of Soul Sacrifice in that region have played a big part in moving units as well. If SCEA was to follow suit with a price drop, we'd see a surge of Vita sales in North America. From there, developers would have a revitalized interest in providing quality games for the growing Vita audience, and things would certainly start to look up for the system. And yet, it's almost as if SCEA is completely ignoring what their other branches are doing. Not only that, but they're ignoring what Nintendo did as well - Nintendo saw a surge of 3DS sales after their price cut. While it's true that reports suggest many stores have lowered the price on the 3G Vita by $100 (Sony has lowered it in their stores by $50, which you might notice makes it the same price as the Wi-Fi model), those same reports also suggest Sony may be discontinuing the 3G model, which will leave only the $250 Wi-Fi model unless Sony releases a new one.
But unless Sony releases a newer, and more importantly, cheaper model of the Vita, nothing is going to change, yet Sony doesn't seem to mind. Rather than give people a reason to get excited about the Vita again, rather than guarantee some sales by dropping the price, rather than even try to find some way to make the Vita attractive even at it's current price point, SCEA is doing practically nothing to help the system succeed. If they're not going to cut the price, then it would certainly help to run a marketing campaign to at least make it look like they care about the Vita. But it would seem that no matter what people say, no matter what suggestions they make to help the Vita's audience grow, these words fall on deaf ears. And why? Why doesn't Sony step up their game and push the Vita? Why don't they remind developers of their successes with the PS3 and get them back on board? Why don't they do anything just to make it look like they're trying?
Yes, it seems with the PS4's launch looming on the horizon, Sony has all but forgotten the PS3 and Vita and begun looking towards the future. While Sony did mention that some, or perhaps all, PS4 games would be playable on Vita, what good will that do if they don't start convincing people to buy the Vita? It seems Sony can't manage more than one console at a time, and so they've devoted all their resources to making sure people know the PS4 is coming and hyping it up. By focusing on the PS4, however, they're essentially killing the Vita outright - if they're working to bring developers on board for the PS4, who's developing for the Vita? If they're trying to convince consumers that the PS4's price is fair, who's going to change their mind about the Vita's? And finally, if Sony is making a marketing push to get the PS4's name out there and known across the gamerscape (I just made that up right now) who's going to tell people that the Vita still exists? Certainly not Sony, because they just don't seem to care about it anymore.