Editorial

E3 2011 Editorial: Jury is still out on PS Vita's success

When Sony Computer Entertainment's worldwide CEO Kazua Hirai announced last night at the company's pre-E3 2011 press conference that AT&T was going to be the 3G wireless carrier for its newly renamed PS Vita portable console, there was an immediate cry of groans and some laughs from the assembled audience of journalists.

Hirai look completely shocked at the reaction but I knew this would happen when this deal was announced. The surprising thing is that Sony didn't seem to see it coming and that may be a big problem when it comes to the sales success of the PS Vita.

There were some things we liked about the PS Vita. We love the dual sticks and the touch screen. The ability to control the game even from the back of the console is interesting. We really like the fact that the PS Vita will link to the PS3 for things like save games (for Ruin) or downloading user created mods (for Little Big Planet and ModNation Racers).

But the truth is that the portable game scene has changed completely since Sony announced the original PSP console so many years ago. The mobile phone and more recently the tablet business has exploded both in terms of sales and in terms of technology. We currently have mobile phones and tablets, like the iPad 2, that have dual core processors. Soon we will have quad-core based mobile devices if Nvidia's plans for its "Kal-El" processor is to be believed.

More importantly, people are now used to downloading games along with other apps. There are a ton of entertaining games that are available for free (hello Angry Birds) and most of the others are cheap to download. They offer gaming experiences that rival or even surpass those of the current portable console generation. When even indie game developers can access the power of Unreal Engine 3 (via the UDK) to make games and sell them on mobile devices that's a true game changer.

Now Sony's processor for the PS Vita is also supposed to be a four core product (the ARM-based Cortex-A9 core) and PowerVR is the GPU provider (the SGX543MP4+ processor). But the problem is that the portable game console is going to suffer from the fact that the mobile phone and tablet business seems to be moving at a much quicker pace in terms of bringing new and faster technology and operating systems to the public. Sony is scheduled to bring the PS Vita by the end of the holiday season. But that also means that around CES 2012 we could see mobile phones and tablets being introduced that could be more powerful than Sony's new product. They could also have prices (helped by two year contracts with wireless providers) that are around the same or even lower than the PS Vita.

The point is; why buy any portable gaming console when your mobile phone and/or tablet will be just fine for most consumers? They can plan entertaining games and do a ton more than the PS Vita which, even though it will have 3G service, doesn't appear to have a traditional phone plan (there is "voice chat" for the game's Party social networking feature but that's not quite the same thing).

While there are a lot of things about the PS Vita that I like, I am concerned that Sony is releasing a new and fairly expensive device in a mobile tech world that moves much faster and offers cheaper alternatives. It's possible that Sony has something up its sleeve that we don't know yet about the PS Vita such as a true mobile phone feature. Only time will tell if this newest game console will be a success.

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The Vita looks beautiful from the conference alone. I haven't been interested in any handheld gaming device since around the time of Gameboy Color and this thing has me very interested. At $250, I don't know if I'll be able to pass it up.

Its not pricey as said in article. Just look at the specs. It seems they are selling it at loss!
5 inch OLED display , quad-core , joysticks , touch-sensitive surface on back !

I didn't expected read something like this in Neowin. Just think a little. Yes, you are comparing products that can run games, but you are comparing produtcs made for different use. Apple made iPhone thinking in a smartphone, something people will use for calls, check e-mail, social networks, and then, gaming. Sony made PSP for GAMES, and then for internet access and other stuff, and never for making/receiving calls.
Smartphones have no buttons. And to be pretty honest, I used to enjoy games on my old cellphone more than in my touchscreen smartphone. Even if in the next year smartphones have the same power of PS Vita, they will still be a smartphone, made for communication, not for gaming.
IMO, mobile phones will not have the same gaming experience that a mobile console. I agree that good games will come for mobile phones, but they will still appeal most for the casual gamers, since the people that really like games know that a touchscreen will never be the same as real buttons.

Aghares said,
I didn't expected read something like this in Neowin. Just think a little. Yes, you are comparing products that can run games, but you are comparing produtcs made for different use. Apple made iPhone thinking in a smartphone, something people will use for calls, check e-mail, social networks, and then, gaming. Sony made PSP for GAMES, and then for internet access and other stuff, and never for making/receiving calls.
Smartphones have no buttons. And to be pretty honest, I used to enjoy games on my old cellphone more than in my touchscreen smartphone. Even if in the next year smartphones have the same power of PS Vita, they will still be a smartphone, made for communication, not for gaming.
IMO, mobile phones will not have the same gaming experience that a mobile console. I agree that good games will come for mobile phones, but they will still appeal most for the casual gamers, since the people that really like games know that a touchscreen will never be the same as real buttons.

Well this is Neowin afterall.

So ... what did those people who wanted mobile games do before the advent of smartphones? They either got nothing, or the only thing available that did games (for a long time, Gameboys).

Now that alternatives exist for mobile gaming, that relatively shrinks the market for gaming-focussed devices.

I'd love a PSP ... but it's difficult to convince myself to get one whilst I have a powerful laptop and a multipurpose smartphone.

Personally I think the 3G version of Vita is going to fail but the WiFi only version should do quite well. It is a great product for (young?) gamers who don't have cell phones or have talk/text only phones. For those that do have smartphones with good gaming capabilities it offers a real gaming platform instead of sliding your fingers over glass which is less then ideal. As for performance like with consoles over PC's it offers developers a stable platform to optimize their games for meaning the developers will be able to get closer to the metal then with smartphones and so I expect the PSVita will have better looking games then even quad core smart phones with similar specs when they arrive. I do think the portable market may be shrinking, I doubt anyone (including Nintendo) will achieve the numbers of the peak of Gameboy line sales again but it's still a market with some demand and where profit can be made.

@andrewbares and @DPyro:

I think you've missed the point of the editorial somewhat and confusing two distinctly different audiences and markets.

If you want a fully immersive game with great full HD visuals you're not going to find that a handheld of any kind be it a phone or dedicated console. There isn't the storage for starters. That's *why* you have an xbox or ps3.

But that isn't the point of the article. Many people who play mobile games want something they can pick up and put down and ipod/android apps give you great value (in many cases free) little games you can keep yourself amused with then you're out of cell coverage or just want to pass some time in the dentist waiting room or whatever.

from a purely gaming point of view the PSP and PSPgo were in many ways commercial failures - hardly any of the games ever made the top 10 and many people purchased the PSP to hack it to ironically play emulators.

and even Nintendo, the handheld king is also feeling lacklustre excitement with it's own new handheld.

don't get me wrong, there are always going to be hardcore gamers who can't be without uncharted for more than 10 waking minutes but most people (ie, the mass market) will be more than happy with a market place app of some sort... especially when the 'premium' titles only cost £3 and most are free.

that's the difficulty big players like sony and nintendo face.... they can't compete with £3 games.

i'd be very surprised if the ps vita isn't anything other than a flop. it seems doomed from the start.

I haven't missed the point. I have an iPod Touch and those little $2 games suck. There's no real replay value in them, and games need actual controls to be FUN. Touch in games alone does not work. By the way, Sony has very affordable games for PSP ($10-$20) such as Patapon and Loco Roco that you can just pick up and play.

Mr Winkle said,
@andrewbares and @DPyro:

If you want a fully immersive game with great full HD visuals you're not going to find that a handheld of any kind be it a phone or dedicated console...

Actually... that's exactly what the PS Vita does. It has great full HD visuals (see the Uncharted demo) and it is fully immersive (dual joysticks, all the normal controller buttons).

You and the author are failing to recognize the market for portable consoles. They aren't for quick 5 mintue games. Portable gaming consoles are for when you're on a 2 hour plane trip, a 3 hour car ride, a hotel room, sitting around at a school for a few hours, or simply stuck in your room while your family is watching TV.

There's plenty of times when people have more than 10 mintues to spend playing games, and they'll want fully immersive gaming experiences like the Vita.

What a stupid article. It's not meant to be a mobile phone replacement. It's a gaming device ffs. Conversely, mobile phones are not mobile gaming replacements. Playing angry birds is not the same as playing uncharted.

DPyro said,
What a stupid article. It's not meant to be a mobile phone replacement. It's a gaming device ffs. Conversely, mobile phones are not mobile gaming replacements. Playing angry birds is not the same as playing uncharted.

Exactly... I think everyone is overemphasizing the threat smartphone games make to handheld games. Sure, smartphones are exploding in sales, but there really isn't enough evidence to suggest that smartphones are replacing the demand for handhelds on a large scale. Besides, people can still buy minis on PSN.

This is the worst editorial ever. Sorry if that was blunt.

Using your logic, no one would want a PS3 or Xbox 360, because they can get "better" and cheaper games on their phone. And you're clearly wrong. Some people want to play actual games, with a developed story, INSANE graphics, high quality audio, and detailed immersive gameplay. You won't find anything like Uncharted on a tablet.

Oh and guess what, addictinggames.com has a bunch of "fun" and "awesome games, why do people bother to buy PC games when they can just open their web browser and play those?

Useless editorial.

andrewbares said,
Using your logic, no one would want a PS3 or Xbox 360, because they can get "better" and cheaper games on their phone.
Neither of those consoles are portable.

There a *lot* more freedom in game creation on phones than in web browsers.

And there is little restricting many of the items you mention from occurring on tablets apart from control scheme (which is something that can be overcome, either with good game design or tablet design). Are you seriously saying tablets physically can *never* do good graphics, gameplay or audio? Don't be ridiculous.

While you have a reasonable point that there is almost certainly a market for it, you're attempting to entirely discount the editorial based on strawman and sliding slope arguments.

Kirkburn said,
Neither of those consoles are portable.

There a *lot* more freedom in game creation on phones than in web browsers.

And there is little restricting many of the items you mention from occurring on tablets apart from control scheme (which is something that can be overcome, either with good game design or tablet design). Are you seriously saying tablets physically can *never* do good graphics, gameplay or audio? Don't be ridiculous.

While you have a reasonable point that there is almost certainly a market for it, you're attempting to entirely discount the editorial based on strawman and sliding slope arguments.

If I had more time on my hands, I would point out all the logical fallacies and flat out lies the author of this editorial made. Here's one terrible lie the author made, "They offer gaming experiences that rival or even surpass those of the current portable console generation." presenting that as fact, when it's just his opinion.

andrewbares said,
Here's one terrible lie the author made, "They offer gaming experiences that rival or even surpass those of the current portable console generation." presenting that as fact, when it's just his opinion.
Uh, they support touch. So yeah ... Fruit Ninja type games would surpass those on the PSP, etc.

Kirkburn said,
Uh, they support touch. So yeah ... Fruit Ninja type games would surpass those on the PSP, etc.

What does touchscreens have ANYTHING to do with gaming experiences? That's a method of control. That doesn't drive the experience. The GAME drives the experience. Judging which games provide the best experience is surely an opinion, but the author stated it as a fact that mobile phones have better games than the PSP or 3DS.

And another huge issue with the author's "editorial", "even though it will have 3G service, doesn't appear to have a traditional phone plan"

Why would a mobile GAMING device have a phone in it?? Does the 3DS have a phone? No, and it still sells. That's the whole point, the Vita is NOT a phone. It's for gamers.

andrewbares said,
What does touchscreens have ANYTHING to do with gaming experiences? That's a method of control. That doesn't drive the experience.
Don't be silly, of course they do. I think since we disagree on something so fundamental, there's not much of a discussion to be had here.

You're going on the slightly crazy defensive here. It's not saying that all mobile games are better, or that all games are better on mobiles. Just that the market has changed.

If it helps, I was once pretty interested in getting such a device, and have owned several Gameboys. Now that I have a Android phone - well, that took away half the reason for me to get one, because I can play games on it. Not all games, not every game I want ... but *some*.

I love my iPod to death, and while it will always be superior when you want to play the quick (and very fun) games on the go, I can't play serious titles that involve me getting into a story and such. The iPod/iPhone is great for when you're actually on the go, but handheld gaming consoles are great when you want to play real games in the comfort of your own home or when you'll be staying out for extended periods of time.

Also, while I love the touch interaction, I don't think it's great by itself. You like to be able to see where you're going, without having your hand cover up much of the screen. Also, using a touch D-pad and buttons isn't always the best experience in a more fast paced game...

That said, this article could easily apply to Nintendo too.

Maybe it was that AT&T chosen to be the 3G wireless carrier for the PS Vita that made the journalists groan and laugh. How much is the added subscription cost for the 3G access?

i'm sure the vita will appeal to a niche hardcore market, but will it be an impulse purchase made by the causal gamer? i think not.

for most people, the mobile telephone is all they need. it's a decent enough web browser (andriod and iphone give an almost PC experience on the move) and many games (like angry birds, bejewelled clones) are fine for passing a couple of hours on the train.

big plus is that also you only need to carry one device... and then there is the price. everyone i know are more than prepared to put up with a few adds for a free game.

i can see the current generation 3ds/ps vita as perhaps being the last dedicated handheld as we know it. Just imagine if Nintendo had licensed the 3DS technology to telephone handset manufactures? and allowed Samsung/HTC to basically have a built in 3DS/NDS into the handset..it would be a revolution... especially if you could download the games too.

Who the hell wants to play GTA on a tiny screen like that anyway?

I've seen one of the newest game demoed on android 3.1 (but is the same on any other)
You hold the device with the palm of both hands, with the left thumb move around, with the right thumb aim and look around, when you are bored to aim with the right thumb hit the button for the trigger, when you are completely bored you have faculty to hit another virtual button and choose with your index the weapons that appear in the center of the screen
doing this you must free your right hand, and move the left thumb on the bevel to hold it with one hand

this sucks!
complex games can't live on a touchscreen, the option are:
- people understand that this are two separated market
- casual timekiller minigame are all we get

and don't forget that even PSVita can get 1$ downlodable minigame, the only cath is that at some point an angry teenager in russia will use your credit card XD

I completely agree with fehu and the others - you CANNOT have an immersive and accurate gaming experience on a touchscreen. When I play Lets Golf or MLB The Show, there are various elements that involve precise timing. With a button, my finger rests on it until the moment I decide to press, and that press is always the same depth. With a touchscreen, my finger has to hover over that button until I press the touchscreen - a depth that will be different every time, resulting in reduced accuracy. I've tried it - playing Let's Golf on my Fascinate was a complete failure resulting in constant mis-hits. Now that I have an Experia Play with real gaming buttons, I can play games the way they are meant to be played.

The games for the Vita will - and should be - more expensive. They are the result of a team of coders and testers working for a year or more. How long did Angry Birds take to deveop, and by how many people and for how much investment? They are apples and oranges compared to PSP/DS/Vita games. Yes, people play the $1 games because they are there and because they are cheap. A fair amount might even get to the point of wanting MORE of a game, and will then look to the Vita to fulfill that role. Other than those, there is already a gamer market for the Vita:

- Existing PSP/DS owners looking for an upgrade
- Dads like me who have to share the TV and so don't get much console playing time
- People with more than 5-10 minutes of time available for mobile gaming, and have gotten tired of the $1 game market

I think it will be a major success, despite the dreadful choice of AT&T as a carrier. I can always root my Xperia Play and use the free wifi hotspot... :-)

You're assuming that this device is aimed at people who are happy to play games only on a phone. It's not aimed at them.

There are plenty of people that want a dedicated portable device because it can offer so much more than a touchscreen device.

Plus, people will *always* be hesitant to play games on their phones if battery life is a concern...if you drain the battery playing games on the train in the morning you're pretty much screwed.

If they were targeting the people who enjoy playing the odd game of Angry Birds on their phone, they wouldn't have designed such a high spec device.

Most mobile games are cheap, but they also have No gameplay appeal. I mean i usually play them 5 minutes before i get bored to dead + touch only screen is pretty crappy as far as gameplay does. They only games i play are Pinball Games, because they make sense to me but that's just me

"The point is; why buy any portable gaming console when your mobile phone and/or tablet will be just fine for most consumers?"

because hitting my fingers on a flat screen and having to continuosly if they are touching the button sucks
i know that there's an entire industry around this, but for me it's all exagerated

The argument seems to stem from the fact that the Vita will have $40 games while mobile devices like the iPod Touch 4G will have sub-$10 games. Where I'm confused is that the claim seems to believe that the Vita can't offer the same sub-$10 games while offering a better gaming experience-per-dollar for the $40 game.

What I'll bet a lot of people will see is that when game developers start trying to move up the quality for mobile games, the pricing isn't going to be that different between a dedicated device and a mobile device.

Well at least sony is not trying to shove move down our wind pipes. I think it's Microsoft's turn this year. Now we get kinect and Mass Effect 3 and ooooo ahhh and Star Wars game that looks like its from 1995!

RawGutts said,
Well at least sony is not trying to shove move down our wind pipes. I think it's Microsoft's turn this year. Now we get kinect and Mass Effect 3 and ooooo ahhh and Star Wars game that looks like its from 1995!

Because you are forced to buy a kinect and or use it in any hardcore games that probably support it right? No one is trying to shove anything on to you.

Good article John! You are right to be concerned that Sony is releasing a new and fairly expensive device in a mobile tech world that moves much faster and offers cheaper alternatives, and Sony should be, too... unless they can lower the manufacturing costs and bring the price down, they are looking at a tough market...

PeterTHX said,
Not everyone can afford a decent TV I guess.

Are you saying Sony are the only 'decent' TV manufacturers? Otherwise, that made no sense.