Vita is Doomed: When WILL Sony Learn?



Recently, GoNintendo posted an article mentioning that everyone was happy to call the Nintendo 3DS an initial “failure” and were thrilled to write stories and blog posts about “Nintendo is Doomed” – but the article asked why there aren’t any “Vita is Doomed” articles.

I am answering the call.

The truth is – I’ve been writing negative press for the PSVita since it was announced and the details were solidified; which proves GoNintendo’s staff nor readers follow me on social networks or are members of my discussion forum 🙂

Now before the pitchforks come out and the torches are lit – followed by the chantings of “Nintendo Fanboy”, let me clarify my position with regards to the gaming industry.

Those that know me are clear that I was 100% anti-Nintendo until as recently as the GBA SP.  Those that know me are also clear that I buy systems to play games on (not watch movies or consume media) – and when a system comes out, if a game or IP appears on it I want – I get the system.  Hate the system, love the games.  Something like that.  I bought an Xbox 360 to play Pac-Man CE for crying out loud and a PSP to play God of War on.

Currently I own three Xbox 360s, a PS3, a Wii, three 3DS systems, three classic DS/DSi, three PSPs, several portable platforms like GP2X and of course a myriad of classic systems including PS1, Gamecube, Dreamcast and even more that go back further.

Do I sound like an anti-Sony or Nintendo Fanboy?  I think my credentials are secure.  I consider myself an eclectic gamer; a brilliant game is a brilliant game – regardless of genre or system.  I’ve seen multi-million dollar Xbox 360 games that suck – and I’ve seen one-man-in-his-garage shareware games that rock.

Now that we have THAT out of the way, let’s talk about the PSVita and why it is doomed.

The simple answer isn’t that it is doomed; it arrived dead; and it did so because Sony learned nothing from the PSP’s outing in the handheld market.  To better illustrate this, let’s talk about what lessons Sony failed to learn.

Lesson 1: Handhelds Aren’t For Console Gaming

Sony’s push with the PSP (and Vita for that matter) has been “The console experience in the palm of your hand”.

The concept is flawed for several reasons.  Console games are specifically designed with a particular equipment, environment and time usage in mind.  They are big screen affairs with multiple-hour story arcs chopped up into 30+ minute segments – featuring surround sound, large detailed graphics, on-line play/connectivity – with the game and assets being pushed from a fast storage mediums like a hard drive.  They are power suckers too – even earning consoles “anti-Green” labels for their consumption (but who cares – it’s plugged into the wall).

Handhelds are designed for almost the exact opposite.  Short, burst gaming with on the go in mind.  Bite-sized entertainment chunks to be had before the movie starts or while waiting for the nurse to call you in.  You’re probably playing alone – or with a co-worker on your lunch break; a friend on the bus maybe.  Chances are, there isn’t an open wi-fi while you’re waiting to pick up your dry cleaning.  Of course, battery life is king.  It’s all about “gaming of opportunity”.

The PSP could have you waiting for four minutes plus before you could even start the game.  The UMD was slow and clunky – eating away at battery life like a flesh-eating virus.  The console experience had to be interrupted when your “twitch time” was over.  The push was for “console games” – and as such, you had to pay the console price – even though it often didn’t make sense in a “handheld” situation.

Sony learned nothing from the PSP’s failure as a portable gaming device.  Load times are still long.  Games are STILL designed to be “console-like” in game play and execution.  They put so much hardware into the unit in pursuit of that goal that the battery continues to take a hit on the Vita.


Lesson 2: Keep It Within the Reach of Mortals

When I say mortals, I mean those of us on a fixed budget.  Not everyone has early adopter “F You” money.  Nintendo got its first big wake up call in a long time; people won’t pay $250 for a portable gaming system.  It doesn’t matter if it is “worth it” or how many internet hooks you put into it; $250 is simply not the impulse purchase anymore – and certainly not one that parents are going to put out for their kids.

Unfortunately, as with the PSP – Sony refuses to drop the price on the Vita during the time frame it could actually help them the most.  The holidays are coming – and coming fast; by the day after Black Friday, big ticket purchases will be locked out of many people’s budgets – especially a $250 game system.  The final nail in the mostly-dead (there is a big difference between mostly-dead and all-dead) Vita will come if they fail to drop the price to at least $199 before the end of summer last-minute vacation monies are spent on churros at Disneyland.

Of course, the $250 price tag isn’t the real kick in the groin, is it?  It is the $100 memory card REQUIRED by most games to be present in the system … which takes us to Lesson 3 …

Lesson 3: You Don’t Win Friends With Proprietary Tech (or salad)

You would think after Sony had failed – repeatedly –  to push their proprietary storage technology (take your pick; UMD, Mini-Disc et al) onto the masses that they would have figured it out by now.  There is no reason you can put in front of consumers to make them ignore the tech elephant in the room.  No, not access speed.  No, not anti-piracy.  No, not security.  Consumer’s lives are littered with SD card technology; from phones to tablets to cameras to other portable devices – SD rules the roost.  It is cheap, accessible – and chances are – you have one gathering dust in a drawer somewhere.

Sticking people with a $250 price tag wasn’t the straw that broke the camel’s back; forcing the consumers into ANOTHER type of memory storage at an INCREDIBLY premium price adding almost 50% price “markup” to the device is what caused the Vita to be DOA.

$340 + tax (if you buy local) would make this unit around $370 here in Phoenix, AZ.  For a lot of people that’s a car payment, rent or the better part of a mortgage payment.  Knowing you can get a 160GB PS3 system for $249 (even less used); which gets you a quality Blu ray player too) really puts this into perspective.

While we’re on the topic – removing backward compatibility to screw over the poor folks that fell for your PSP shenanigans doesn’t help your cause.  People that own and love PSP have rich collections of games and film on UMD that they would have liked to have benefited from the Vita’s hardware and screen upgrade.  It isn’t too late to fix this issue.  You’re already grilling them for $340 – might as well put out a $149 UMD reader to allow folks to move their games and movies to the $90 Vita memory card you made them buy.  Sony Fanboys obviously have deep pockets – someone will buy it.

Lesson 4: Cutting Edge Tech Rarely Wins

… and it never has in the handheld market.  Ever.  That’s right.  Don’t take my word for it – look it up.  History is filled with significantly better tech-based handhelds than the victor of the era (normally Nintendo).  Atari Lynx lost.  Sega Game Gear lost.  TG-16 Express lost. Sega Nomad lost.  Game.com lost (hahahha … sorry, I just had to throw that in there for myself and the other three suckers on the planet that bought that crap).  Neo-Geo Pocket lost.  PSP lost.

Oh, and Vita lost.

Who has been the biggest winner in handheld history?  The ghosting, smearing, black and white, ugly-ass original Gameboy.  Battery life, price and software are King.

Lesson learned yet, Sony?  No?  Shocker.

“This … is why you failed ..”

Lesson 5: Yes, Your Poop DOES Stink

If Sony isn’t legendary for anything else, it is their ego.  Early victory predictions … public smearing of competitive products … you get away with that only if you’ve had the reigning console AND handheld champion of the last generation; neither of which Sony has had.  Notice that Nintendo (who actually won the last console gen with the Wii and won the last handheld gen with the DS) was quick to drop the price of the 3DS and admit publicly they made a mistake.  Sony continues their “but, it’s worth it” attitude and refuses to acknowledge (or fix) their image problem.

Forget the relative “failure” of the PSP.  Forget the “combined” PS2/PS3 sales numbers.  Forget the “shipped” vs “sold” curtains that Sony (the Great and Terrible) loves to hide behind.

Everyone here still remember the hacking, month-and-more outage and subsequent blunderings of the Playstation Network?  You know … the compromised credit cards … the inability to play online … What’s funny is?  I still haven’t heard Sony admit they screwed up – or even offer a genuine apology.  They tried to buy off our silence with a couple of “free game” tokens and some other worthless pleasantries.  But, in the end – Sony continues with the “superior than thou” attitude, despite the endless losses and lack of traction in the market.

The Sony Fanboys … aka the early adopters with “F’ You” money – they bought into it.  They agree with your smug, arrogant attitude (as undeserved as it is) – but they aren’t the ones you need buying your product, giving you market traction and enticing developer support.

You need to win back the people you’ve pooped on … and yes, despite endless press releases to the contrary; your poop stinks too.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it.  The requisite “Vita is Doomed” article; one that is probably true.  The writing has been on the wall for months – all you have to do is look.  Regular $50 “rebate gift cards” for Vita are common place.  Games are being heavily discounted (I saw Mortal Kombat on sale for $9.99).  Gamestop has silently shifted the Vita display away from the coveted front lines and hid it in the back behind the Pre-Owned Wii games (there is a slap in the face) – and replaced it with more 3DS shelf space and even DS space.  Vendors like Fry’s Electronics that allocated tons of space for Vita games now have “spread” the small handful of games out to 5 or 6 stacks per game to give the Vita software section a boost (at least in looks).  Best Buy has blatantly padded their shrinking Vita software section with PSP game boxes (look for yourself).

Sony has said emphatically, “No price drop.”  Don’t worry about Vita’s rep, Sony.  It’s already tarnished.  But – it might not be too late.

Help the brand (and yourselves) by following your competition (and reigning handheld champion for several generations); cut the price.  Drop to $199 IMMEDIATELY, followed with a cut to $169 by Black Friday.  You’re already hemorrhaging cash; don’t worry, the other divisions will continue to subsidize your losses.

Pack in a memory card (even a small one) in EVERY SINGLE SKU.  No bundle crap.  EVERY … SINGLE .. SKU.  Take your AAA game, allow IT to be installed out of the box without requiring a $90 memory card purchase.

You’re already in “rip Nintendo off” mode with Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart games in full development.  Might as well lift the Ambassador program from Nintendo too.   Just as an ambassador should, it banked a lot of good will with scorned 3DS early adopters – it could go far into fixing your reputation as well.

Create a UMD transfer service – run out of Gamestop’s retail chain.  Let a customer come in with their Vita and UMDs and allow an authorized Gamestop employee the freedom to transfer UMD games and movies to the customer’s Vita and NO CHARGE.  Don’t pull a Wal-Mart and try to charge for this service.  You have fences to mend – and fences cost money.  Don’t worry about piracy – your movies are being sold at the Dollar Store and your games (sans a few rare ones of course) are going for pennies on the dollar at large stores.  The Good Will(tm) that just this would bank would go very far in recovering some customers.

Finally, try a bite of Humble Pie.  Oh sure, it sounds yucky at first.  But it is very filling and can give you vitamins and minerals you need to grow healthy and strong (like a Flinstones kid).

Oh, and by all means – try to learn something this time around.  Knowledge is as good as currency in some markets.  Make it part of yours.

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+

19 comments to “Vita is Doomed: When WILL Sony Learn?”

  1. I own a Vita and love it to death but like others, I’m frustrated by the lack of games and I’ll be the first to step up and say Sony’s making mistakes with it. I think it is worth $250 but not enough people do and they need to swallow their pride and cut the price. More people are playing garbage $1 skinner box games on their iPod Touch which costs around the same amount (though it’s also full of proprietary tech, that argument doesn’t hold true with everyone) and Sony has to come in until that and I think both they and Nintendo need to start pushing $1 bite-sized games of their own. A portable Uncharted is nice and all but that can’t be the only type of experience you sell.

    I would have argued that the proprietary memory cards were necessary because you can’t guarantee performance on standard SD (plus yes, scumbag entitled pirates are a worry) but Nintendo’s proven that’s not the case. You can put any Micro SD card in a 3DS and I haven’t heard anyone complaining that New Super Mario Bros. 2 (which you can buy digitally and run solely off that card) performs too poorly. Sadly, the Vita was largely conceived before Kaz Hirai took over as CEO of Sony and based on what I’ve read, he seems to get that the proprietary stuff doesn’t work. It’s too late to change that now though. To be fair though, $100 is for the biggest, most expensive card that’s available. Claiming you have to spend that much to play anything on the Vita is simply not true.

    I don’t know if Sony can fix this and it saddens me because the Vita’s an absolutely fantastic platform and what I’d primarily use for gaming on the go (I do own and love my 3DS as well) if there were games for it. I think most “mobile” games are garbage and I really want to see a portable platform made for “hardcore” gamers succeed. If they can’t make the Vita work, I think they’re done in this space though.

    • B2S says:

      A guide to spot signs of radical Playstation fanboism as a person or a site :

      1. Listing both current and upcoming games that only matter to him/her/it, only to give an illusion of megaton list. Using the ‘We’ word as if he/she/it represents the world.

      2. NPD or Narcisstic Personality Disorder, a self-glorious stranger who thinks he/she/it’s the most important jackass on the net. Telling a personal opinion as an absolute fact.

      3. Sales-induced comments/articles, spamming readers like selling snake oils. (eg: 10 earth-shattering ps3 games you must own, my vita can heal my backpains, i’m getting a second vita so it’s well worth your money, etc.)

      4. Anger or Mad Disorder sign shows up in comments that lead to cursing at others. Some will cover it using smiley happy symbols or Lol stuffs, but in reality they’re suffering from insomnia scratching butts like crazy, waiting desperately to see miracles on playstation sales. Even Kevin Butler is paid to cheer up for Sony.

      5. Using ‘trolling!’ or ‘shut up!’ or ‘fan haters!’ or similar terms as final defense when the fanboy cannot openly accept real facts crushing his fanboyish opinions and mental issues.

      6. Spewing hatred at any other brand that’s more succesful in terms of innovation, reviews, and sales. It screams anti-competition or monopolistic mentality. Sadly, they’ve been brainwashed and outsmarted by their own puppeteer – Sony.

      7. Can’t stand constructive critics anymore. To them, Sony can’t commit sins or wrong decisions. Everything made by Sony is so f*ng holy. Speaking of taboo “sheeps” or “tools”.

      8. Exclusive Attention Deprived Disorder. Almost the same like #2, but they need exclusive treatments in the form of exclusive games. Pretty much like drug dealer and drug abuser relationship. They’re more than happy to lose dimes for the master just for the exclusive fix.

      9. Judging others of being ‘jealous’ because they don’t have as many exclusives, yet those exclusive games cannot bring their beloved console up to the #1 sales spot globally.

      10. Double-standard or Bi-Polar Disorder. They will blame MS or Nintendo for propriety HD, but suddenly support Sony for Vita’s propriety flash memory. Milking Grand Turismo franchise is totally fine, but milking Halo franchise is a huge No. It’s OK for Sony to trick sales (newer SKUs every x year), but not so for Activision (newer CODs every y year).

      • John says:

        Those points can be made for all fanboys but it’s true, the Sony fanboys display those the most. Jim Sterling (Destructoid) had a few funny articles about it a year or so ago. So hitting the nail on the head and into Sony’s coffin.

        It is sad, but the facts simply are that Sony cannot be saved anymore. The real question is if they are too arrogant to do the right thing, which is separate PlayStation and make it viable for someone else (or a separate company). My money is on the arrogance as they have always shown and will drag everything PlayStation down to hell with them.
        There is no need to be sad about it though as there will always someone else to rise from the ashes. Same thing happened with SEGA where MS took its place. Surely when Sony perishes, there will be a company to take its place (I only hope it isn’t Apple as their fanboy zealots are even more out to destroy everything we know and love than Sony’s are).

  2. HA, listen I was anti-Sony and never touch the PS3…i have it and all it does is collect dust…just as the Wii. Thing is bashing the Vita for this is rather dumb and you sound anti-Sony. The loading times you showed was Wipeout, you cant complain because the game is friggin beautiful and the load-time isn’t really a big deal. compared to Skyrim loading times every time you open a friggin door. I do have to say the pricing is crazy and should be dropped. Plus your most absurd criticism was that handhelds arent for console gaming. So basically you dont want gaming tech to improve for handhelds? Don’t you want more depth in Handheld games so that your not playing a bland at best game? Don’t you want to leave and play something quality, and be able 2 play your PS3 or console on the handheld if you are into the console game? Your basically complaining about how good the system is and saying good tech cant win, because you prefer quantity over quality. Look I like my 3DS but whether you like it or not i would rather like to play something with console quality rather than something with less. PS3 collects dust because it sucks, PSvita collects dust because people are ignorant to something that can change gaming forever. A console in your hand? Unless your an idiot you would want that.

    • I think you’re missing part of the point of the article.

      You can’t deliver a console experience on a handheld without sacrificing what makes a hand held attractive.

      I LOVE technology – I love to see it improve. Nothing says developers couldn’t develop HIGH END “hand held friendly” games. But you can’t have minute+ load times, games that require an hour to “get into” or otherwise ruin the 15-20 minute void these games tend to fulfill.

      Take a look at Resident Evil Revelations on the 3DS. Load times are tolerable. Graphics are fantastic. CONSOLE GAME for sure – but they created the game so the missions sliced into the 15 minute time frame – including load times.

      There is a balance to be had between tech and the platform. Sony hasn’t figured it out. The 3DS is pretty damn close though. Nintendo is learning too.

  3. tanto says:

    when will these tabloid sites learn nothing is doomed the first year before the holiday

    The psp was the second biggest success of the gen

    • deSSy2724 says:

      PSP? WTF ur talking about? PSP ofc wasnt successful at all… im not yet bashing 3DS and Vita, but for now… it seems like the 3DS is in much better position right now but this doesnt mean that the race is over. Sony can still win, they need to hurry!

  4. RedDead says:

    Why do you own multiples of the same console? I can’t say I have ever needed to own more than one of each! On topic, I do believe the Vita was a dead horse out of the box, but then I have the same views on the 3DS. The next flop, which I believe will be just as dismal is destined to be the Wii U. Who wants to have to keep looking down at that hideous block while trying to play hardcore games? Who? Only a Nintendo fanboy who desperately wants their new hardware to not suck.

    • My wife wanted her own PSP for playing JRPGs on it … and I have another PSP that is hacked to hell so I can run emulation on it.

      I’m not sold on the Wii U yet, but I’m still interested. Depends on the price point, launch window, etc.

  5. ted says:

    There are no Vita is doomed articles? If you really think that you are fucking retarded. There is a bus stop near you, When the next bus arrives and leaves make sure your under it.

  6. Rendermonk says:

    Really like this article. You clearly state your love of gaming, and how you love your Vita, just really hate how it’s being mishandled. I was just about to write an article of my own like this. I share many of your sentiments about the Vita, and would encourage you to check out my site too, PrimitiveCreation .com Also my PSN ID is Rendermonk, if you’d like to add me, I’d be glad to have you as a friend on PSN/Vita. It’s always great to see that there are still intelligent gamers out there with the ability to articulate just how they feel. Great article! Do check out my site, and add me on PSN.

  7. Chuckles says:

    In a PSV article you post a photo trolling Move, and you expect people to believe you aren’t anti-Sony? You don’t talk about Move to draw some sort of parallel to PSV’s terrible first 8 Months, so I’m struggling to see the relevance. You might have listed it among the long list of devices and peripherals that have underperformed to provide the context, but not even that fairly obvious parallel is mentioned. If it looks like a troll and writes like a troll, what is one to expect.

    Having said that even questionably motiviated articles can be correct, when the failure is all too easy to see. If a country such as Japan, which one must say embraced the PSP quite enthusiastically, is staying away from the Vita in droves Vita does looking very sick indeed. Japan aside though, PSV has for a few months been running along selling at about 50% of 3DS. One might say selling 50% of 3DS is proof positive that PSV is dead, but one should also recall that PSP lifetime sold less than 50% of DS and PSP is the most successful non-Nintendo handheld console. So if by some miracle PSV sells 35-40% of 3DS over it’s lifetime that’s actually a sustainable level of sales. In reality, for PSV to start looking like it’s got some life in it it just needs to get PSP-like sales going in Japan. If it does that then it should see long term sales not that far off PSP. Losing Monster Hunter to 3DS in Japan was a serious body blow though.

    My assessment is that PSV has had it’s first standing 8-count, mis-firing at launch. If it fails to get a decent boost in sales in its first Christmas season outside Japan then that will be the second standing 8-count. If the first price drop doesn’t give a significant and long term lift to sales, then that’s TKO. I think Sony will try to get through its first Western Christmas without an official price cut. It sells at a per unit profit at the moment, but with a meaningful price cut it will move to a per unit loss. Sony’s Playstation division is the only division that has been profitable in recent years. SO they can’t cross subsidise with profits from oher divisions, because the other divisions are doing worse. It’s better for Sony to have lower sales this holidays and still be profitable for PSV than for PSV sales to lift with a price cut but for Sony to bleed even more money than it does already.

    Of course I would suggest Sony fold as a company and sell the Playstation brand to Samsung. If the only bright spot for a company is the Playstation division which is not performing very well even when it is making a surplus then the company as a whole is in major trouble.

    Sony’s been dying a slow death basically since the GFC hit. In 4 1/2 years it hasn’t figured out how to get back on track, when nearly every other consumer electronics company has returned to profitability, many never even experienced a whole fiscal year of losses. Vita isn’t the cause of Sony’s perilous state, and Sony could not possibly have conceived of it as its saviour. Something other than Vita is needed to sav Sony. Indeed brand Playstation, even with a good PS4 launch, can’t save Sony. If anything a good PS4 launch without substantial improvement in other Sony divisions will be more like a final but ultimately futile burst of energy. In that context doing anything to try to improve Vita’s immediate fortunes is probably even more futile. I think Sony knows people would like Vita but not at the current price, and Sony are desperately trying to put the company as a whole in a position to be able to offer Vita at a more attractive price. But they can’t afford to sacrifice Sony as a whole to possibly give Vita more life.

    • The PS Move (which btw, I own that too – and a Kinect) is actually better than the Wii Motion+ in many areas. But the elephant is in the room and needs to be addressed. I meant it to be more funny than “trolling”. Sony has made it clear as of late that imitation is not beyond them. Did you see the Super Smash Bros. clone developer photo with a Wii sitting on the table behind him? You just can’t argue stuff like that.

      Look the point of this article wasn’t to troll anything. It was NOT me that said “where are the Vita is doomed articles”; that was Go Nintendo. I thought it might be useful for me to write one – then offer Sony up my thoughts for fixing the issues.

      Trolls troll. Concerned owners offer up means of fixing the problems; which I did. Am I a little pissed – as an owner of Sony product – to see how Sony is pissing away their brands? Absolutely. If that makes me a troll, I suppose I’ll have to accept the label.

      And thanks for the thoughtful, intelligent reply. I appreciate it.

  8. ??? says:

    PS vita will surely go dead soon, if custom firmware wont be released faster. Lets admit it people. Only some great apps, hacks etc thanks to the scene, will help Vita survive. Ive lost the count how many amazing apps PSP received once it was hacked.

  9. earl cameron says:

    You know this guy is legit because hes got a gp2x…wonder if he bought the wiz/caanoo?

  10. Merman says:

    Sony made noises about a PSP transfer service and did not follow it through. Just one of many reasons that it has lacked momentum as a format.

  11. Mat says:

    I love the handheld console idea. My vita (replacing psp go which actually pays off because all my psp games are digital) is my only gaming device so i want it all in the handheld (including media) I don’t presume to be a significant market segment but surely handheld doesn’t have to mean bite-size gameplay. Doesn’t change the fact that everything else you said is true 🙁
    Incidentally psn had a january sale which barely included vita games. Apparently sony doesn’t care about vita.

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