The Vita's Problem Is Not Its Price

Note: [All opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of GamerXChange]

The PlayStation Vita is approaching its one year anniversary here in the West and the system has received its fair share of praise and criticism all throughout. Most people who own, or have used a Vita are more than happy with the system itself. Still, the handheld has struggled to sell itself within that time period – selling just over 4 million. In comparison to the sales of its predecessor (PSP) and current competitor (3DS) within the same period of time, the Vita looks as if it could be facing quite a bit of trouble. Some attribute these failings to a number of things including the memory cards and games. One of the most common criticism the system receives is that the price is just too high. This following post will just go through some fleeting thoughts of mine, the reasons why I believe that price is not the reason the Vita isn’t selling well.

The PlayStation Vita launched in the U.S. with two models. There was the WiFi only model at a MSRP of $249.99 and the 3G + WiFi version for $299.99. Some say this price is just too high for the system and I say this price is just fine. Many reasons people give as to why the Vita’s price should be lower is because the Nintendo 3DS’ price dropped within a year of its release from $249.99 to $169.99. Thereafter, the system saw exponential growth. At the same time, others might point to the Vita’s big brother, the PlayStation 3. You can snag a brand new PS3 with 250-500 GB for the same price as a Vita. All of these are seemingly convincing points, but they’re also flawed.

All we need to do is step back and take a history lesson, one that gamers seem quick to forget. Let us go back to the PlayStation Portable’s release. The PSP was a considerably successful handheld, selling over 70 million units and still selling down to this day. Yet, many forget that at the system’s launch, the PSP was similarly priced to the Vita. In 2005, the PSP launched at a SRP of $249.99 USD. The launch lineup wasn’t all that impressive either. Still, within its first year, the PSP sold almost 5 million in the U.S. alone. One should note, not only did the PSP have the same price as the Vita at launch, but it was also more expensive than the PS2 which was still a hot item. The games too, were being sold at the same average retail price of $39.99. Would it be wrong to say that the Vita, a device that is undoubtedly a superior device than the PSP from a technical standpoint, is priced fairly? In fact, for the technology it offers, it is selling at a price below the standards of this tech world. No doubt, the PSP was priced at $249.99 at a time where the economy wasn’t at the state we see it in today. Regardless, even a tough economy doesn’t necessarily hold people back from spending big bucks.

Let’s take a look for a moment at the prices of other electronic devices on the market. Right now, some of the world’s best-selling devices are tablets and smartphones. Millions line up to get the latest iPad or iPhone – devices that can set a consumer back $700 or more! Yet, they sell like hotcakes. Strangely enough, many of those who complain about the Vita’s price are the same ones who go out and purchase these other items at the drop of a dime. Why? No, I’m not comparing gaming devices and these other pieces of technology in respects specs and functions; And while I’ll concede that many of these items are well manufactured products, the answer to that question, “why?” really boils down to one thing – Marketing.

Marketing and advertising are big business, it is business. The best marketed items are usually the best-selling ones too. Microsoft and Apple can attest to these facts. Sony as well. Sony used to market the PSP, PSOne, and PS2 all so well. Which brings us to the root – Sony’s marketing in recent years has been abysmal. If PlayStation played its cards right, marketed the Vita and its games, offered better promotions and set out a clear idea of what the device is and does – I believe the Vita would be in a much better position sales-wise.

So you might say, well, the Vita has no games; A tired argument. You may just not know about the Vita’s games because they’re not promoted, they’re not marketed or advertised the way they deserve to be. According to Metacritic, within one year, the PlayStation Vita has become home to almost the same amount of high rated games as the Nintendo 3DS has in two years. The 3DS, a system that is selling massive amounts at this point – a system that is marketed well. For sure, the Vita does need more recognizable titles to help give it a boost. Games sell systems too. Yet, that alone isn’t the problem either.

Yes, we live in tough economic times. Yes, it would be nice to get everything we want for a penny; But we need to be realistic. I’ll agree that a price cut on the proprietary memory cards would be much appreciated, or at the very least add a larger size to each Vita system sold. What’s more, PlayStation could open the door for third-party manufacturers to make cheaper memory cards, the same way they did with the PSP. This could lift a bit of the financial burden. Would I call for an immediate price cut on the Vita? No. Eventually the price will go down. In fact, that price cut may even come sometime this year; But even if $50, $80, or even $100 were cut off from the Vita’s price, that would do very little for sales if the product and its games are not advertised. There are a number of contributing factors as to why the Vita isn’t selling well. Price may be part of it, but it’s also probably the least of the reasons. So hopefully PlayStation will get its act together to support and promote its baby the way it deserves.



7 Responses to “The Vita's Problem Is Not Its Price”

  1. price is good but the price for memorey cards are too high. i turn my head and walk out the door. been threre done that with psp im not doing it again sorry.

    • I agree, as pointed out in the article, I think the memory cards could use a nice price cut or at least a cheaper alternative from a third-party like SD.

      Still, at the very least, Sony is now including memory cards – although small sizes – in most bundles and with most systems.

    • i bought the launch day bundle which came with the 8GB card and its already filled (thanks to PS+ support and PSA:BR). i also bought the official sony case which came with a 4 GB stick, also filled =/ i mean on amazon for the 32GB stick you can buy it for about $80, but thats still too steep. i love my vita and wish more of my friends had it (besides my guy i worked with at gamestop). do love the new PS+ bundle and hope that helps move units because thats actually a great deal.

  2. You’re right. Price is not the issue. What I think is holding the Vita back is perception. The Vita is a handheld gaming console. It is for people who want to play console-like games while on the go. The problem is that people view handheld gaming in one of two ways. One, it’s something that kids do while they’re bored in the car. And two, it’s something you do on your phone while you’re bored waiting at the doctor’s office. Nintendo is making a fortune off of selling the 3ds to kids, and right now Sony can’t match that. The lineup of kids-focused games for the 3ds is enormous.

    Sony needs to market the Vita as a serious gaming device for grown-ups. Kids play a 3ds and when they are ready, they can graduate to a Vita. They just need to do what Sega did with the Genesis. Make the message that Nintendo is a toy for little kids, but the cool people play their games on the Vita. I have both, and I love the Vita more than anything. I think more people would love it too if they knew how great it was.

    • Pretty much my thoughts, but I think Sony could also market the Vita to kids too. Games like Sly, Ratchet and Clank, LittleBigPlanet, Tearaway – although enjoyed by teens and adults, could also be marketed towards kids.

  3. There is some truth to the argument that the Vita’s problem is games. The lack of “system-seller” Japanese games has meant very low sales in Japan, which has led to a lack of major Japanese developers supporting the system. No Monster Hunter, no Final Fantasy. In North America, there have not been enough high-profile games either, except for Uncharted. No God of War, no GTA. Games are not the only problem, but they are a problem.

  4. btw, you mention marketing and sony. i do agree, a killer KB ad campaign would probably sell units quickly. but idk if anyone watches workaholics on Comedy Central, but they plug a lotttt of PS3 things. one episode has the one guy playing “the fight” on PS Move. and last week they had him playing a part of GOW: Ascension and make a point to say the name of the game. i actually like this idea, especially with GOW since thats a name every gamer knows.

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