Although the PlayStation Vita’s official launch date is February 22, those who invested in the First Edition Bundle were able to get their hands on the Vita on February 15.
I happen to be one of those lucky people. Against my better judgement, I decided to plunk down the $350 to get the Vita, a case, a 4GB memory card, and Little Deviants. And since I got my hands on the portable, I’ve been quite happy with the experience — and somewhat impressed with the fun factor Little Deviants delivers.
But as I play the Vita, one thought just won’t go away: Microsoft is probably the smartest company in the gaming industry.
Now, I know that Nintendo and Sony fans hate to hear that and are probably already getting their keyboards ready to write awful comments to me below, but as the portable-gaming space as we know it dies off, Microsoft will be the only company who didn’t waste its cash trying to salvage it.
Like it or not, the future of portable gaming is in smartphones. The titles are extremely fun — and even better, extremely cheap — and they’re running on products that do everything from allow users to place calls to surf the Web and check e-mail. And for just $199 for the cheapest iPhone 4S, they’re far more affordable than a comparable Vita.
Nintendo and Sony, however, don’t seem to understand that. They continue to release new devices that, while fun in their own right, fail to capture the true desire of today’s gamers. It’s an odd thing, but two companies that have been celebrated for their ability to see the future are now wondering where it’s going.
Microsoft, meanwhile, gets it. The company is selling the most-popular game console in the United States right now, and it’s shying away from selling a portable, despite what the hardcore segment wants. At the end of the day, the gaming industry is a business, and Microsoft, more than the others, understands that.
That said, I’m sad that the gaming industry has gone to a point where Microsoft shouldn’t launch a portable device. I think the company could do something special in the portable market, thanks to the sheer amount of cash it could dedicate to it.
Xbox LIVE seems like the perfect platform to be ported to a mobile device. Users would be able to access all the same content on their portable, and play some of the really neat games in the Arcade from the device. Meanwhile, Microsoft could work deals with developers to get some of their titles onto the portable. As long as the device was priced well, it could make the Vita and 3DS look obsolete.
But alas, all my hopes are just that — hopes. Today’s portable market isn’t conducive to a game company launching a new device, and Microsoft is the only one who knows it.
Look for the Vita to eventually fail and the 3DS to follow suit. Short-term successes mean nothing when the iPhone, iPad, and countless Android smartphones are looming.