PlayStation Vita: Dead From the Start?

PlayStation Vita: Dead From the Start?

The Nintendo 3DS price cut indicates that the handheld gaming market is being pitched around in stormy seas. And though the market isn’t exactly going to capsize tomorrow, some analysts beg to differ.

Lyle Hall and Matthew Seymour at Heavy Iron Studios (the studio behind UFC Personal Trainer) told Gamesindustry.biz that the upcoming launch of the PlayStation Vita may prove to be “a car wreck,” as the Nintendo 3DS’s slow start indicates trouble for the handheld market.

“If people aren’t willing to pay $249 for a Nintendo 3DS why would they pay $299 for Vita?” asked Hall. “People don’t want to carry more than one thing in their pocket, that’s why Android and iPhone have done so well, they are the devices of choice, they offers multiple functions outside of gaming.”

“With all due respects to Sony and Vita, it’s a car wreck,” added Seymour. “And how about Xperia Play? I’d love to pull up the numbers on that.”

When you take a quick glance at current game sales, Seymour and Hall’s predictions for the Vita hold some weight: It’s easy enough to assume that people have decided they’re happy enough to turn to their iPhones for portable gaming.

However, a deeper look reveals a market that can’t be summed up by declaring a flawless victory for smartphones. The Nintendo 3DS’s problems can be arguably linked back to issues that go beyond competition from iPhone and Android: After all, Nintendo’s recent price cut has definitely re-kindled some interest in the system.

In the same vein, the PS Vita will undoubtedly get elbowed in the ribs a few times by Apple, but it probably won’t be enough to make the system lie down. The Vita, for instance, isn’t a “single-function system.” From what we know about it, it boasts 3G capability (which buyers can opt out of), it’s capable of going online with Skype, Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare, and, of course, it will play games–downloadable games, primarily, and it will presumably play them well thanks to those two sexy analogue sticks. In other words, the PS Vita is a social media powerhouse in addition to a game machine. It lacks a phone, sure, but Skype might prove a reasonable substitute for some people.

There’s also Japan to take into account. The PSP was more popular in Sony’s home country than it was in North America. The nation has its eye on the Vita–and that interest will double when the Monster Hunter franchise inevitably gets involved.

It wouldn’t hurt the PlayStation Vita to have a little luck on its side through this upcoming handheld generation (especially with the Nintendo 3DS price cut in full swing, plus head start Nintendo’s system will receive this holiday season), but its doom is certainly not written in stone, nor can its potential failure be summed up with, “Nobody wants handheld gaming systems anymore.” That’s simply not true. Smartphones and handheld gaming systems may be at war, but there won’t be a clear victor for a long time, if ever.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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