The Playstation Vita is looking to be a killer device, an amazing gaming machine and a hot piece of technology. However, the mobile gaming market has changed dramatically over the last few years and it will be a hard fought battle for the device to be a huge success for Sony, but this success is pivotal for the mobile gaming market as a whole.
The original Sony Playstation Portable is considered successful on its own with over 70 million units sold worldwide since it’s Australian launch back in September 2005. It has been handily beaten by the more main-streamed Nintendo DS, in both sales and number of games developed for the console. The Playstation Vita at this moment has no official release date for Australia (or anywhere else), but it’s suspected to be released early next year. Like its brother the PSP, the Vita is going to have a battle on its hands, but this time round it isn’t just against Nintendo; but tablets and mobile devices.
6 years ago the PSP had to compete with the then new DS, which had a one year headstart. This time round it has to compete with the Nintendo 3DS which launched earlier this year for 350 AUD. Unexpectedly the launch for the Vita’s main competition has been lackluster to say the least. It is possible that the launch was effected by the games and the price, Nintendo thinks so with it’s 100 AUD price drop coming later this month. As well as announcing a host of AAA titles at E3, Nintendo believes they can turn the console around and see success on the level of the DS.
Let’s have a closer look at the current portable gaming market, with tablets, phones and yes even gaming dedicated devices used as every day game players. The Vita and 3DS are fighting it out in a hostile everinment that is becoming increasingly more cluttered. Thanks to companies like Apple and Google the Australian technology market has never been so full of game capable devices. with the iPad being a huge hit in Australia. As well as the now on the rise Google Android tablets, the market for mobile gaming has a new official entry.
Sure gamers know that experiences differ from a tablet computer and a gaming handheld, but the average consumer does not. They see their phone, touch devices and/or tablet’s as an easy way to entertain themselves and their kids, may that be through movies, music or games. These consumers in the past may have bought a DS for the children to play during the Christmas period but these same consumers are already seeing their kids using other gaming gateways like Facebook (which has over 8 million active Aussie users), iOS and Android to fulfill that ever hungry entertainment void.
I know what you’re thinking, “gamers will still prefer to play on dedicated devices” and that is entirely true, but the reason consoles like the PS2, DS and to a lesser extent, the Wii, were huge sellers, both here and overseas; was because they hit that sweet spot. The spot between the hardcore and the casual gamers, that garnered them both critical and commercial success. All you need to look at is the recent Xbox add-on, Kinect. Xbox Australia director David McLean, has used words like “revolutionised” to describe how the Kinect has effected the market; and “embracing” to describe how the Australian consumer has reacted to the Kinect sensor.
It may have been struggling in the critical sense, but it has caught on with the mainstream public due to its simplistic idea and family orientated marketing. Nintendo has attempted to go for that family friendly device with the 3DS, and as of today failed to do so. This is more than likely due to this mass market that these companies strive to attract, are now overexposed to the gaming medium. They have lost the drive for a dedicated gaming device, as they get what they feel to be an adequate gaming experience from devices that do far more than Vita can give them.
I think the Vita is going to be an amazing device and I will be picking it up straight away on launch day, but I think we will be seeing a very aggressive Sony come the Vita launch with both games and services. The device will need to be marketed as a device that is diverse, such as catching onto the touch screen fad by showing some unique and original ideas and show what will hopefully be a low price point. More importantly, deliver original and crafted games that dictate to the Vita’s main strengths as well as being an eye catching device to the casual market.
In the end though, for the device to sell even more than the PSP it is going to have to adapt very quickly to a difficult market. Fighting off the now much cheaper 3DS, the ever expanding mobile phone market, and the tablet craze that is hitting the Australian market as we speak.