How Sony Can Save the Vita
It is no secret that the PS Vita isn’t exactly setting the gaming world on fire. The handheld has barely been able to sell 5 Million worldwide in its almost two years on the market. However, people who own PS Vitas love them, myself included. The second generation of Sony’s portable has so much potential that simply isn’t being realized. So the question is: how does Sony save the Vita? Because at the rate the Vita is going now, it won’t even sell half as many units as the PSP did. And with talks within Sony discussing whether or not to drop the Vita entirely, fans of the system are rightfully worried. What can Sony’s game plan be for the next few years with the Vita to really make it succeed?
Bigger Retail Presence
The Vita needs a larger retail presence. In most retail stores I have been in, the Vita barely has a shelf to itself and is almost always lumped together with PS3 stuff as a sort of after thought. Many stores don’t even have Vita display units. The games that are available are also scarce usually consisting of extra copies of older titles. Comparing this to the large 3DS section of Walmart, Target, Gamestop, and Best Buy, you can see why consumers are opting for Nintendo’s handheld.
While Sony appears to be heading towards a digital-only or mostly digital games front with the Vita, they can’t forget that most people still buy their games from local retailers and not from online sources like Amazon or their PSN store.
Consumers need to be reassured that the Vita isn’t failing and that it wont disappear anytime soon. And the only way to do that is to up the retail presence of the Vita with large game sections, posters advertising big games, and display units in every major store.
Vita TV, which was announced during TGS this year is basically a stripped down Vita with no touchscreen. This allows the little system to retail for about $99, which is an incredible price point. Not only that but it connects straight to your TV, uses already owned Dualshock controllers, can play PS1/PSP/and Vita games, and stream media or PS4 games into other rooms in the home.
It is a fantastic strategy for getting Vita everywhere. Sony could position this system as a low-cost media center Apple TV-like device or a dedicated Vita console. It is all of these things and more and at that price, it is almost an impulse buy. It is also the perfect price point for the Vita as an accessory to the PS4. It is much harder to position a “half-the-price of the PS4” handheld as an accessory than it is to make a $99 media device a must-buy for PS4 owners.
The real benefit of Vita TV is that if it manages to sell a few million, which I believe it could, it would significantly boost the Vita’s currently approx. 5 Million installed based. With a boost to ~7/8 Million, maybe even more, the Vita would become much more attractive to Third Party developers who have so far been wary of developing Vita games because of the low return.
Now the Vita TV just needs to make its way out of Japan.
PS4 + Vita Bundle
The idea has been floating around for quite some time and it’s not like like Sony isn’t considering the option. Using the PS4’s inevitable success in the console market to help prop up the Vita is an almost no brainer. Imagine a bundle that included a PS4, a digital copy of a big game or just a subscription to PSN Plus which already has downloads for multiple games, and a PS Vita all for a very nice price. Maybe something like $550? You’d be saving $50 on the Vita alone plus the nice PSN subscription.
However, considering how close we are to the launch of the PS4 in America, we likely won’t see this kind of bundle at least not anytime soon.
Localization and Developer Relations
Developers such as Namco have gone on record stating that they don’t want to localize games (such as God Eaters 2, Tales of Hearts R and Tales of Innocence R) because of the low install base and low projected sales. This isn’t just Namco though, many developers seem to have little interest in the Vita.
During Gamescom, where Sony announced the Vita’s price drop for the Americas and EU, they also made a big announcement that Borderlands 2 was coming to the Vita. That’s exciting as the Vita is the only portable system that is capable of creating a real FPS experience and being able to take your favorite FPS with you is a big deal.
However, working with 2K shouldn’t be the end of it. What ever happened to that Bioshock Infinite port that was supposedly in the works? Why isn’t Ubisoft working on another Assassin’s Creed for the Vita? Or Activision with another Call of Duty (this time, making it actually good). What happened to Square Enix? Sony, help them bring over Final Fantasy Type-0 to the west as a new Vita game or perhaps a new Kingdom Hearts side story to lead up to Kingdom Hearts 3 for PS4.
How much money does Sony have to throw at Rockstar to get them to make a GTA 4/5 side story for the Vita like they did for the PSP? Whatever the amount, Sony needs to make that deal. And of course, finding a way to break the stranglehold Nintendo has on Capcom’s Monster Hunter franchise as of late would do great things for Vita in Japan.
But it isn’t just third-party developers that Sony needs to work with. First party games are also important and big hitters like Gran Turismo 6 won’t be on Vita. Gran Turismo is one of the best-selling racing games on Sony platforms and its crazy for Sony to let performance differences block big games. Either they need to figure out how they can get Gran Turismo 6 on the Vita or make another Gran Turismo Portable that connects with it. The turn around time for this also needs to be short. They can’t afford to wait 4-5 years like they did with the Gran Turismo PSP.
The God of War titles for the PSP, made by Ready at Dawn, were fantastic and sold relatively well. Why not recreate and enhance that experience for the Vita? (While the Vita is getting GoW 1+2 remakes, a new God of War would have been preferable) Sadly, Ready at Dawn will likely be busy with their PS4 exclusive The Order: 1886 and probably won’t have time for a Vita God Of War, at least not for a while.
Even bringing back older franchises like Twisted Metal, Parappa the Rapper, Ape Escape, Tomba, or MediEvil might help spur nostalgia and get some sales. We need these games and much more if we’re going to bring the Vita back from the brink of death and build up its momentum to become a successful platform.
Finally, it baffles me how Sony handled the introduction of the new Vita hardware. Instead of releasing new Vita hardware at the same time as the price drop, they announced a price drop first and then a month later announced new hardware that wouldn’t make it to the Americas, at least not this year. Understandably, Sony is working hard to get the PS4 here in big numbers but that doesn’t mean that the Vita has to be forgotten. Sony needs to multi-task with both their platforms. Missing the critical holiday season means much fewer sales for Vita, especially when savvy American consumers already know a new version is coming soon anyway.
The Vita isn’t dead. It isn’t doomed. It has games. It’s an incredible piece of hardware. Anyone who owns one already knows this. But clearly what Sony is doing right now isn’t working. They need to act fast. The longer the Vita is on the market with low sales means the more likely developers and consumers completely forget about it, which would be a shame.