Sony’s PlayStation Vita will be launching soon. The portable will come with dual thumbsticks, a nice, big display, and a design that puts Nintendo’s 3DS to shame. And at a starting price of $249.99, it’s in the sweet spot for serious gamers who want a solid portable.
But just because the PlayStation Vita seems attractive, it doesn’t mean that it’ll be a winner. In fact, I’m a firm believer that the Vita will be Sony’s last portable, and the device that could very well put an end to the company’s entire mobile-gaming division.
Believe it or not, that anticipated decline has nothing to do with Sony’s own strategy. The company is doing just what it should — delivering a top-notch portable that serious gamers can enjoy.
However, that serious gamer is changing his or her mind on what they’re looking for in portables. There was a time when only companies like Nintendo or Sony could deliver what they wanted. But with iPhones and Android-based smartphones becoming increasingly popular, and developers creating high-quality games for those platforms, the need for a standalone portable has declined significantly.
It’s also not a good idea on any company’s part nowadays to focus solely on the so-called “hardcore” gamer. The hardcore segment once drove much of the game revenue the industry generated, but it’s now a small portion of the entire market. In order for a console or portable device to become popular, it’ll need the mainstream’s help. And right now, the mainstream has no interest in buying a portable gaming device.
I’m also concerned about the PlayStation Vita’s price. Yes, $250 is the sweet spot in the mobile space right now, but that’s only for devices that do much, much more than Sony’s portable. Worst of all, the most popular smartphone on the market — Apple’s iPhone — comes in at just $199 to start, making just about anyone wonder why they should be spending $50 more to get a device that does less than their smartphone.
Sony also hasn’t made a convincing argument for getting consumers to opt for the PlayStation Vita over the Nintendo 3DS. For years now, Sony has been trying to catch up to Nintendo, and so far, the company hasn’t been able to do so. Remember the mainstream I was talking about? It loves Nintendo. And based on PlayStation Portable sales, it appears it wasn’t as fond of Sony’s device over the years.
At the end of the day, I think the PlayStation Vita will be Sony’s last portable. The company was late to understand the mainstream, its new device can’t compete against smartphones, and eventually its incoming CEO Kaz Hirai will realize that focusing solely on consoles is the way to go.
For major game companies, portable gaming is a toxic market. Microsoft knows it. Nintendo is realizing it. And Sony will soon be a victim to it.