The PlayStation Vita launches this week and looks to be one hell of a neat tech toy. Touch sensors on the front and back, a couple of cameras, graphics that rival some of those seen on dedicated consoles, and plenty of bells and whistles. What’s not to love? This is what I’ve struggled with for the past few weeks when trying to determine if I’m going to get one or not. I love technology and neat stuff. I love games, but can the Vita really justify a day one purchase?
Sony has attempted to make this device as inexpensive as possible. When they announced it would cost $250 at E3 2011, everyone gasped in awe. Pricing it the same as their direct competitor Nintendo 3DS, meant that shit was about to get real. When you compared feature to feature, the 3DS seemed like an absolute joke at $250. Little did Sony really realize, how much of a joke that $250 would seem.
A few months later though, Nintendo did something unexpected: they discounted their Nintendo 3DS by a whopping $80 (40%). Why? Because it was a spectacular failure. It didn’t have any games, people hated the 3D, and it just didn’t seem as enough of an ‘upgrade’ to justify a purchase over the late model DS. To this day, there still isn’t a huge selling point for the 3DS other than “it’s new”. Combined with the strange “Circle Pad Pro” snap-on monstrosity, it doesn’t make sense to buy one now, just in case there’s a 3DS revision announced within a few months.
The PlayStation Vita is now launching at a $250 price point, almost a full year after the 3DS. They missed the holiday window when everyone’s wallet was open for new shiny toys, and the $250 price point is a bit of a lie. With no internal storage, you’re mostly forced to pick up a proprietary memory card. Resembling a micro SD card, Sony’s solution brings with it the Sony price markup. A 32GB card will run you $100. Compare it to a 32GB micro-SD card at $30 and you start scratching your head. For a decent amount of storage and no 3G, the Vita actually starts at $350, and that’s with no games.
We live in a world where you can spend $5 or less on a fantastic iPhone or Android experience, so when a publisher is asking that you pay close to $50 on a single handheld title, you’ve got to take a step back and evaluate. The claim is that these are console quality titles in your handheld device, but what are you actually getting? If you’re dealing with an unscrupulous publisher, you may only be getting a port of a $1 iPhone game. There have been plenty of complaints already levied against Uncharted: Golden Abyss for tacking on Vita special features (ala grenades from the first Uncharted?). It seems like the best purchase for launch would be Lumines: Electric Symphony, which is still Lumines, a game available all over the place for much less than the Vita’s $40.
Lumines is the best launch title for a new PlayStation handheld? This story seems familiar, and I didn’t like how it finished.
It’s a tough pill to swallow but then again, that’s the game you play with early adoption. You’re effectively betting that the PlayStation Vita will be more successful than the PSP, a system that has had an absolute dearth of games over the past few years. You’re hoping that third parties will sink time and money into developing wondrous titles that are worthy of the system. You’re hoping that the first revision in price or model comes at least a year out.
I’m just not willing to bite that apple.