Sony's next handheld, the PlayStation Vita, is going to land here in North America very soon. Personally, I'm incredibly excited, but many of my fellow gamers are starting to get a little nervous about it.
One of the things that raised some ire toward the handheld was the high price of its memory cards. Rather than just allow users to buy a standard SD card to increase their memory capacity, Sony is requiring a special Sony-branded card that will set players back quite a bit more than a regular old SD card. One of the things that made the Vita so attractive when it was shown off at E3 2011 was its affordable price point. Now, though, with an expensive memory card to consider, that price point isn't looking quite as affordable anymore.
Another thing that got people a bit upset was the announcement that the Vita would only support one user account. Users will not be able to switch accounts without doing a factory reset. Now, fans settled down a bit when word got out that each account would be tied to a memory card, thus being able to be swapped out. Of course, they were outraged once again when Sony basically said "just kidding; it's actually one account per Vita still."
Those of us who remained positive during all these announcements started getting a little nervous when the Vita launched in Japan to poor sales figures. It didn't do too poorly the first week, but by its third week, the PSP was selling more units than the Vita. When a seven-year-old piece of hardware is selling better than its replacement, it's hard to remain optimistic about the new device. In fact, some Japanese retailers have already started lowering the prices on the Vita to try to move some units.
So is the Vita doomed?
I don't think it is. First of all, it's an incredible piece of hardware. It's a portable gaming console with twin sticks and an HD touchscreen. Personally, I was sold at "twin sticks" alone.
Secondly, the launch lineup is incredible, especially when compared to the paltry offerings of the 3DS at launch. I mean, not only are we getting a brand new Uncharted game, but we're getting new Hot Shots Golf, ModNation Racers, and WipEout games as well. And that's not even mentioning the very promising Escape Plan and Gravity Rush.
Of course, the memory card price might still cause a bit of grumpiness, but I think we'll see the prices on those come down fairly quickly. I mean, if people aren't buying them, Sony will be forced to reconsider how much they want to sell them for. Especially if third-party knockoffs start showing up on store shelves, which is always a possibility.
So what of the low sales numbers? Well, the Vita hasn't launched worldwide yet, so it's difficult to compare it to the other handhelds, which are currently selling around the world. And the low sales figures in Japan right now don't necessarily mean we'll see low sales figures here in the States. Especially when we're getting a device that can deliver exceptional FPS experiences. The FPS isn't much of a selling point over in Japan, but here, gamers go nuts for them. Just imagine taking the next Call of Duty on the go with twin-stick controls.
Another thing that needs to be considered is that the Vita didn't arrive on American shores in time for the holiday season, and the 3DS was allowed to dominate the handheld market this Christmas. But I have a feeling that the next holiday season will belong to the Vita, at least as far as handhelds are concerned. Especially if third-party developers can help deliver a knockout holiday software lineup.
My prediction: Handhelds are funny little things. Many were predicting doom and gloom for the 3DS when that first launched, but it has managed to win over several gamers with its reduced price and some brand new Mario games. I think the Vita has a long and healthy life ahead of it, even though it may have had a bit of a rough beginning. There are some incredible titles still in the pipeline as well, which will no doubt cause many more gamers to start paying attention.
It's hard to judge the ultimate success of any console this early in its lifespan, but I think the Vita is going to be just fine. And personally, the time I've spent with the device so far has only gotten me incredibly excited to get my hands on my very own Vita next month. Let's just hope I'm right about it, and we can enjoy our Vitas for years to come.
Editor / News Director
Date: January 26, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*