Did the PS Vita fail? Unfortunately the answer is a resounding yes but more than that the Vita died from the hands of its own creator, Sony. After the successful PSP, what made Sony all but forget its 2011 handheld and why was it left to rot with little to no support from Sony or large third parties . With the PS Vita launching towards the end of the PS3 generation, and it still being a young system at the launch of the PS4 console, lets take a look back at this handheld powerhouse and ask the question…why did the PS Vita fail?
The PSP was Sonys first entrant into the handheld market and later was followed with the PSP Go. A different approach to Nintendo where Sony set out to deliver a handheld system that would be more powerful than any other and by a fair margin. The PSPs graphical abilities fell short of the home consoles at the time but it could pump out some truly great looking games and its 3D abilities were far beyond what Nintendo could deliver on their systems. But Nintendo were riding high with their series of DS handhelds before and with the release of the 3DS in 2011, Nintendo’s latest handheld was going to get almost a years head start on the PS Vita. Surprisingly, the 3DS actually had a price drop within 6 months of its release, dropping for $250US, the same price the Vita would be at launch later in the year to $170US. This cheaper price, cheaper memory card solution and its huge library of games was a very attractive proposition for gamers. In contrast, the Vita would not have a price drop until 2013 where the price fell to $199US but it seemed like Sony was already in the stages of giving up on the system.
And speaking about memory this is the perfect time to bring up what is perhaps the biggest complaint against the system and a core reason for it not being more successful. The reason relates to the PS Vita memory card solution. If this was the solution that Sony thought was the way to go then they made a monumental mistake. The solution stifled the system success, limited sales, annoyed consumers and the only reason why it was implemented in the first place was to line Sonys pockets with what they thought was easy money. But it wasn’t. Sony had the opportunity to have the PS Vita use standard SD cards, which are far cheaper, more accessible and perhaps already owned, but instead they chose once again to use proprietary memory cards. These weren’t optional and are required for the Vita to store software and save games. But the greater problem was their cost. To put it in perspective, the 32GB card at the time of launch had an asking price of $120US – which almost have the cost of the system itself. This alone would have turned off many consumers as to buy the handheld and a 32GB card was $370US at release. A 4GB card at the time cost $30US but considering the larger game sizes, anything less than 16GB wasn’t going to suffice for a user wanting their games to be digital. The memory card prices were around 4-5 times the cost of the equivalent SD card. The Vita memory cards are still very expensive today and harder to come by.
Sony had the chance to give consumers a powerful handheld that rivalled its console counterparts and deliver the great gaming experiences they had in the living room, to an on the go gamer and they did delivered it, but the cost to entry was greater than what many gamers were prepared to pay.
Between the poor sales, which resembled the failure of the Wii U, and the huge mobile gaming market, Sony slowly and quietly pushed the Vita more and more in the background as it focused solely on the much more successful PS4. It was a forgotten system by very people who should have been pushing it along and making sure it was supported and made into a success. Sony found the rise of mobile gaming on smartphones too much to compete and they were unwilling to spend time, money and resources towards a system which wasn’t finding favour with consumers. Sony found the industry had changed alot since the days of the PSP and it was too much for them to stay in the game. Yoshida, the president of Sony Worldwide Studios stated back in 2015 that the “climate is not healthy” when asked about a possible sequel to the PS Vita with Sony opting to direct its attention more towards the PS4.
What Sony failed to realise, or simple didn’t want to understand, was that the industry was perfectly healthy and thriving as the 3DS sales tell us. Sure the market had changed and mobile gaming was now more of a force to contend with, but the gaming market had become even larger and it was there for Sony to take their share of it, but they gave up. Smartphones do not provide the same level of control that these dedicated handheld devices can not to mention the list of Sony games that would be exclusive to the system. Instead of actively supporting the Vita Sony were content to simply market it as an add on to the PS4 but by this time it was clear that Sony had given up on their own handheld.
It was clear to consumers and those tossing up whether to purchase the Vita that the system was struggling for top AAA titles from Sony and their first party studios. Titles that really show off what the system can do and that will move hardware but these games were few and far between especially once 2013 rolled around. This was disappointing as the system would end up with great games such as Uncharted:Golden Abyss, Persona 4:Golden, Wipeout 2048, Little Big Planet, Killzone:Mercenary and other games that simply couldn’t be had on the Nintendo handhelds or in mobile gaming. But the misteps were also there with Call of Duty:Reclassified and Resistance:Burning Skies. As the years went by the Vita became a device to play older PS1 and PSP games and it became home to many great indie titles and niche japanese games but these weren’t enough and Sony made sure of it.
The Vita is a great system which should still be supported by gamers if they can overcome the cost of entry. It is expensive in 2018 but there are a handheld of great titles to be enjoyed and maybe, hopefully, this will still be enough for many gamers to still add one to their collection.
Sony don’t even discuss the Vita anymore. It is a forgotten system by those who needed to give it the most love. It is doubtful we will see another Sony handheld for quite sometime if ever and that is what is most disappointing about the Vita situation. It had so much potential when announced and when it first launched but it had a future where Sony was already digging the handhelds grave years ago. The Vita still has a smaller, but healthy community that support it and which will keep the system from being totally forgotten. If Sony even showed a fraction of this support then the Vita may have had a much healthier lifespan.