Hands up Vita owners; now, keep that hand up if you’ve got enough games to play on your shiny new system…hmmm. Sony’s latest handheld has been going through something of a proverbial dry spell for the last wee while, a fact much publicised by everyone and his dog seeking to jump on the inevitable bandwagon of doom that has unhitched itself from the 3DS in order to latch on to the Vita.
Yes, there isn’t much out there at the moment – going into a retailer and looking at the Vita section is a little bit concerning. Yes, the last ‘new’ thing I got for my handheld was a five year old PSP game, and yes I bought it just so I could get some use out of the thing.
But we, the gaming public, despite our talent for doom and gloom and generally throwing around giant mountains of negative, should keep carrying our little torches of hope. Nintendo suffered the same with the 3DS, but thanks to a small handful of big name games, are now enjoying a far more successful time. Note that the 3DS has thrived on the back of time worn franchises, characters that have seen significant shelf life over Nintendo’s entire history: was Super Mario 3D Land really anything new?
“Simply put, there aren’t enough good games for it yet. Also, I think the price may be too high.” Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil)
Sony’s repertoire of icons may lack the pop culture power of Mario, but there are some that could provide some serious mileage for the Vita. Currently announced to make the handheld hop are Metal Gear Solid, Sly Cooper, Resistance, Little Big Planet and more. Now I’ll readily admit that a handheld Mario game has a lot more pull than a re-release of an HD collection of old games, and that as good as Little Big Planet and Sly Cooper may be, they aren’t in the same league of brand power. What the Vita really needs is another big fish, which with Uncharted already out of the way leaves God of War for the Western crowd, and crucially for the Vita’s abysmal performance in the Asian market – Monster Hunter.
Neither has been announced. Yet.
Monster Hunter has demonstrated it’s ability to kick start Sony handheld sales already -the release of Monster Hunter Freedom 3 saw Japanese PSP sales rocket from 30,000 to 40,000 units per week to over 300,000 in the week of the game’s release. This was in the PSP’s sixth year of existence – the Vita cannot afford to wait that long.
E3 is only a short time away, and Sony has never been in a better position to announce something big for the Vita – there’s no greater motivation than financial trouble. Any sort of comeback for the handheld right now would do wonders for them, as would any sort of price drop. The Vita is a great piece of kit, but it’s expensive. Any slashing of the Vita price tag is probably a bit of wishful thinking and one move too much like Nintendo’s 3DS strategy – but when you’re grabbing headlines like this, bold moves need to be made.
“It’s a very hi-spec machine, but I don’t see the combination of software and hardware that makes a strong product.” Shigeru Miyamato
Despite the Vita’s public fragging there’s little doubting it’s a great machine – even the competition says so. E3 needs to be the start of the turnaround for both the handheld and the company behind it. Sony have so far promised 20 new gaming experiences at E3, and more Vita announcements from a second Vita Game Heaven in June. Big cards need to be played, and played as extravagantly as possible to drum up support – thre’s nothing to be gained from being quiet now. Sony needs to destroy the competition at E3 and take home that ‘winner’ accolade that always gets thrown around after the conference – show strength, show confidence, show new and exciting – save the Vita, save the brand.
Then all that’s left to do is the PlayStation 4 vs Xbox 720 battle and the rest of the continuing financial decline. Not too much to handle surely?