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PS Vita: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

The Good
The PS Vita is easily the most powerful handheld gaming system to date. It boasted better than usual launch titles as well.

The Bad

It has been widely reported that the PS Vita's sales as of late are not only the worst they have ever been, they are downright dismal. If the Vita stays on track to be an utter failure, those of us who seek a true mobile gaming experience are doomed to gameplay mechanics that afford us the luxury to play games with one hand while wiping our bum, flushing the toilet and tweeting how great the game is all with our other hand. Not that I have ever done such things.

All kidding aside, I am not kidding. The game mechanics on mobile games, at least the ones I believe are enjoyable to play, are incredibly simplistic. No doubt they work for these types of games. However as soon as virtual analog sticks are introduced to the mix, mobile gaming (more often than not) goes from fun to play to the epitome of an exercise in absolute futility.

Keep in mind not including current generation mobile gaming, I have had many, many, many frustrating gaming experiences due to clunky controls over the years. I have after all been gaming since the release of the Atari 2600, which for those of you who were not around for it, was the gold standard for clunky controls. With that in mind, when the discussion turns to this generation of mobile gaming, none of my clunky control experiences have been so utterly infuriating as trying to play Grand Theft Auto III on my iPad 2 which incorporates a virtual analog stick control scheme. After no less then 20 failed attempts on the very first story mission where you get a gun entitled "pump-action pimp," I never touched the game again. All you have to do is shoot two guys that get out of a car on foot. That is literally it. What should have been a one and done mission forced me to stop playing GTA III on my iPad 2 for good. I sincerely never touched it again. Five dollars not so well spent.

I know some are immediately going to point out the fact an XBox 360 controller can be hooked up to an iPad for the ultimate in gaming bliss. My counter argument would be that simply does not count if we are indeed talking about mobile gaming. Key word being mobile. Good luck trying to whip that whole setup out at work on a boring conference call all while trying to look as inconspicuous as possible. Not that I would know about trying to game at work while on a boring conference call. One could lose their job over such actions, and therefore I neither condone it nor admit to partaking in such juvenile behavior. I am merely speculating on just how difficult it would be if one chose to do such a thing.

Do not get me wrong, the simplistic type of mobile games when done right indeed have their place. Jetpack Joyride, Tiny Wings and Bejeweled 2 all for quite some time now happen to be my favorites for gaming on the go. I truly enjoy them. However I feel these games cannot be compared to the likes of a Rayman Origins, Uncharted Golden Abyss, or Wipeout 2048 on the Vita, just to name the standouts. The former mobile games I mentioned are quick time killers. The latter Vita games are  full-fledged gaming experiences that could just as easily be on the consoles. In fact in some cases, they are virtually identical to their console counterparts.

Perhaps this is the reason people are staying far away from the Vita right now. I totally get the mentality of why does one need to purchase a dedicated mobile gaming system that currently appears to offer up the same games one can already play on their console. I get that. This is one area Sony needs to step up their game, and they need to do so quickly. They have Escape Plan, a Vita exclusive, which indicates they can indeed offer unique gaming experiences on the Vita. Unfortunately there are not many other games along these lines on the Vita right now. Sound Shapes being one of the ones I know of off the top of my head.

The Ugly

Then of course there is the issue of price. The combined amount I spent on the three mobile centric games that I mentioned above still is only one-third the cost of Escape Plan. People are now used to only paying a dollar or two for mobile gaming experience. Five dollars at best. Escape Plan currently costs $15. Never-mind the fact the low-end model of the Vita, the WiFi only version, currently retails for $250. That price does not include the prerequisite proprietary memory card one has to purchase in order to download games onto the Vita. Add that into the mix, and the Vita is roughly the same cost as a full-fledged PS3, in fact it can be more expensive if you get the largest size memory card. Hell, just typing that out right now makes me second-guess my decision to pick up a Vita. Even though I am thoroughly happy with my purchase and do not regret getting a Vita at launch, I cannot argue the price of admission is ridiculous at best.

It is fairly obvious what Sony needs to do from this point forward to have any sort of fighting chance with the Vita itself. For starters, it needs a price drop, desperately. While they are dropping the prices of the hardware, they also need to offer better pricing for games as well. The Uncharted game made exclusively for the Vita is $50 retail. While it may be a great game that is absolute madness when considering what Sony is competing with as far as pricing for mobile gaming. One could literally purchase fifty $1 games for iOS. Lets even use $5 iOS games for our example. 1 Uncharted game still equals 10 iOS games at $5 each.

If not for the marquee name tied to the game itself, Uncharted: Golden Abyss would have never sold. The fact Uncharted Golden Abyss did sell at that price is something Sony should be very grateful for and at concurrently be absolutely ashamed of. The title for all intents and purposes is the flagship launch title of the Vita, and if they had any sort of business acumen, it should have been priced fairly and accordingly. Instead they decided to take complete advantage of the fact they knew it would sell at that price to a very small amount of dedicated gamers of the series. $30 is in my opinion the sweet spot for full-fledged Vita titles. $25 sounds even better actually. $50, that is just insanity.

In Conclusion
The ball is in your court Sony. Keep in mind it is a court that is dominated by the smaller more nimble players in town. If you keep on insisting on the fact that you are the big player in town that cannot be beat, you will lose this game much sooner than later. That is completely ignoring the fact you may have indeed already lost it.

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