February was an exciting month for me; I started working for RPI, my Nephew was born and the PlayStation Vita: Sony’s successor to the PSP was launched on UK shores. It was great! The hardware was powerful, the launch line up for the Vita was unlike any other with titles such as Uncharted, FIFA and WipEout all being available on Day 1 and it was clear that Sony really wanted to push this new console and show that they are supporting it. It’s now November and as much as it pains to say it seeing as I own one, the Vita isn’t doing too well…
Much like the 3DS, the Vita hasn’t had an easy launch. A lot of the games for the console have had poor reviews such as Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified, they attempt to price the games at PS3 price (£30-40) and in terms of sales, the 3DS is kicking the Vita, especially in Japan. But all is not lost for Sony, they have tried to show that they still support the Vita but here are 5 things I think they need to do if they want to turn around their fortunes.
1) DROP THE PRICE.
When Nintendo released the 3DS, they realised very quickly that they are not Apple and priced the console too high. Nobody was willing to pay £220 for it and soon enough, Nintendo announced a price cut as well as compensating early buyers with 10 free NES and 10 free GBA games for their 3DS’. Since the price cut, 3DS sales have taken off and been able to outsell Vita quite considerably.
The simple fact is that Sony needs to grit their teeth and accept the fact they too have priced the console too high and drop it. Especially seeing as they then try to charge £30 on top of that for a measly 8GB memory card. If they dropped the price to around £150/160 then it will look like a more attractive proposition and should be able to compete with the 3DS better.
2) Release a true Killer App on Vita
Currently Sony’s plan has been to bring PS3 console experiences to a handheld, with games such as Call of Duty, Assassins Creed, FIFA and Little Big Planet. They also pitch “cross-buy” as one of the initiatives where if you buy the PS3 version, you can get the Vita version for free, the most recent game to take advantage of this is PlayStation All Stars Battle Royal. This is all well and good but some of the games that have been shrunk down to Vita hasn’t exactly been executed well. For example FIFA 13 on Vita is almost a carbon copy of FIFA Football which was a launch title and doesn’t feature many of the features the PS3 version does such as Match Day.
I still think bringing console experiences to a handheld is a great idea but Sony should be paying just as much attention on bagging exclusive titles that can only be played on the Vita as well as making new IP’s. Trust me the second Monster Hunter comes to Vita the whole of Japan will go and buy a Vita just to play that as they love it so much. They made a good start with Gravity Rush but I still think the Vita is yet to make a true killer app that will make everyone want to go out and buy a Vita just to play that.
3) Make larger memory cards or drop the current prices
This is the common struggle a new Vita owner will go through. They go out and spend £200 on the Vita and get a game with it, then they’ll take it home, get it out of the box, set it up, put the game in and launch it only to find that the Vita needs a memory card in order to save progress. They then go to the shop to find that a 4GB memory card costs £15.
It’s crazy how Sony are trying to get away with memory the same way they did with the PSP. What’s worse is that the sizes of the memory cards are measly, especially when they are trying to encourage owners to download games rather than purchase at retail. Word of advice, if you intend on downloading a few games or have a PS Plus membership then get a 16GB or 32GB memory card or else you’ll find that you’ll run out of space very quickly.
4) Sort out their advertising
Especially in France. Sony hit the news recently over the advert for the PlayStation Vita they printed in France featuring a woman with breasts on her front and back. This was to highlight the fact that the Vita has both front and rear touch capability and that it offers “twice the sensation”. Now I know Sony prefers to make their advertising a bit more abstract, just look at Michael and The World is in Play, but Sony should also try to show off just what the Vita can do and the games they have. They have started to do this more recently with UK ads and should continue. Except next time not have the overly happy hipsters jumping all over the place on the roof of a building playing Black Ops Declassified…
5) Push forward the Cross-Buy initiative
Cross-Buy could help make the Vita an extremely attractive proposition to consumers, especially PS3 owners. The premise is you buy the PS3 version and you can get the Vita version for free. A while ago they updated WipEout 2048 with the HD and Fury packs that allowed you to race on the tracks from WipEout HD on the PS3. The best thing was though if you already owned WipEout HD on the PS3 then you got the packs for free on the Vita. This was brilliant as I actually went back to complete the whole campaign again simply because I loved WipEout HD so much. If Sony could get other developers on board with the concept then they could potentially have something very strong. The only problem would be affording to do such a thing as giving something away for free will obviously hit revenue and with Sony’s credit ranking recently being downgraded to “Junk” that might not be a feasible option.
All is not lost for the Vita yet, I think the Vita still has a future and is still a great console. The recent release of PS Plus on the console makes it’s clear Sony still believes in it and wants consumers to buy it. Hopefully something will come along soon that will turn the Vita’s fortune around and make people actually go out and buy it.