So the Vita has been pseudo launched here in North America as of this writing, what with those people who preordered already holding their shiny new gadgets while the rest of us have to wait until the 22nd and beyond to get our mitts on Sony's new toy. Already, the forecasters are proclaiming doom and gloom for Sony's new handheld machine based on less than stellar sales up front in Japan. The Vita sure has a lot going for it, but so have many other devices that have come and gone throughout the years.
In that spirit, we thought it would be fun to list the top five reasons that the Vita will sink and/or swim on this side of the ocean.
Reason for Success 1: Strong launch line up: A poor launch line up is not necessarily a death knell for a system, seeing as the PS2 didn't see much of note for the first year of its existence, and we all know how that worked out. Still, a great launch line up can really help a system move off the shelves in those shaky few months. With titles like WipeOut, Uncharted, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Lumines, and more, there's something for every gaming taste available on day one for the Vita.
Reason for Failure 1: Sony's 3G plan is full of holes: By going exclusively with AT&T's mediocre network in the US and a complete lack of a 3G carrier here in Canada, Sony has gone ahead an alienated a huge potential segment of their audience. While most people should be satisfied with the plain Jane WiFi model, those who want better or any 3G service are going to have to wait. The longer they wait, the more people may realise that their current wireless service and gaming with their smartphones will be all they need.
Reason for Success 2: Great hardware: The Vita is a sexy device. It's got a gorgeous screen, impressive touch technology, a great design, and almost as much power under the hood as a PlayStation 3. The hardware alone will appeal to gadget fiends the world over.
Reason for Failure 2: Price: Investing in a Vita is not a cheap endeavour. For most people, the start up cost to jump into the Vita pool is more than half a month's worth of rent. Let's say you go with the WiFi model at $249.99. Oops, you need a memory card. Too bad you can only get Sony's proprietary memory cards at insane prices. Want a 32 Gig card? That's another hundred bucks. You'll need some games too, those are $40-50 each. Then you'll need a carrying case to protect that gorgeous screen. That's not even getting into the monthly rates for 3G if you decide to go that route. Next thing you know, you're hoping that the awesome screen generates heat, because you won't be able to afford your own heating bill. Did Sony learn nothing for Nintendo's pricing snafu on the 3DS? Sales for that particular unit didn't take off until a very significant price drop.
Reason for Success 3: Backwards compatibility: Okay, so the lack of a UMD drive or import program for them means that you'll have to keep your old PSP around to play your old discs, but most of your PSN purchases including PSone classics and PSP games should be compatible, even if they aren't all right now.
Reason for Failure 3: Sony's history with removing features: If you want to install Linux or play PS2 games on your PS3, you'll have to hop in a time machine to 2006 when Sony was still offering these features. Who knows what features that the Vita will have today that will be gone tomorrow?
Reason for Success 4: Lessened competition in the handheld market: Only the most fervent Sony fanboy would argue that the PSP had its ass handed to it in the last generation against the original DS. Not that the PSP was a failure by any stretch, but the DS was the best selling video game console of all time. That's like being the Washington Generals against the Harlem Globetrotters. Nintendo's latest offering, the 3DS, on the other hand, has gotten off to a fairly rocky start of its own in terms of adoption and sales, leaving the door open a crack for Sony to take the reigns over.
Reason for Failure 4: Heightened competition from everywhere else: Got a smartphone in the last year or two? Then you're already carrying a device around with you that can play (more casual) games and do all the connectivity features touted by the Vita better and faster. While the features that the Vita offers will certainly appeal to the hardcore gamer, Sony will have its work cut out for it to convince the average iPhone or iPad user to carry around a dedicated gaming unit when all they want is to get some Angry Birds on. That's a severe challenge that I don't believe Sony can match up to.
Reason for Success 5: History: Sony has been a huge player in the video game console market for more than a decade and a half now. Gamers who were born when the original PlayStation came out are now old enough to buy M-Rated games for themselves. That's a lot of built up brand loyalty, and it's also proof that Sony knows what they're doing when it comes to designing, marketing, and supporting a gaming machine. There's no reason to think otherwise when it comes to their latest handheld.
Reason for Failure 5: History: The PSP was a pretty niche device, one that served a specific demographic very well, but didn't hold that mainstream appeal that would allow it to hit critical mass. Is the Vita truly any different? It's an expensive, well designed device that holds a strong appeal to a certain demographic, but also lacks that mass market appeal that limited the penetration levels of the PSP. At its current price point and general software library, it's hard to believe that the Vita can truly succeed where the PSP failed. At best, it should reach the same levels of success, but if the Vita matches the PSP sales over time unit for unit, would that really be considered a success or a failure?