Why I canceled my PlayStation Vita pre-order

Bill Loguidice's picture

Well, I did it, I canceled my $359.96 pre-order of the Sony PlayStation Vita - WiFi, ModNation Racers: Road trip, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, and Hot Shots Golf on Amazon. It's not because it was too much money - it was - but I planned for it. It's not that I don't want it either - I do - but it simply doesn't make sense at this time. I have long gone on record - much to the chagrin of the Nintendo faithful - that I believe this is the last generational hurrah for dedicated gaming handhelds. In short, I believe they will still sell well this generation, just not anywhere near the heights of the last generation when the DS and PSP ruled the roost. I've given many reasons for this line of thinking, but I primarily chalk it up to smartphones and tablets being good enough as game machines and the inclination for most people to carry as few electronic devices as possible. In other words, would you rather have a device that does everything multimedia and Internet effortlessly (and, as a smartphone, makes phone calls and texts), and has inexpensive apps (and a great camera for stills and video, etc.), as well as plays good games, or would you rather have a device that plays really good games (thanks mostly to onboard physical controls), but is mediocre (or incapable) at everything else and has expensive apps? Some of us will have both, but many of us will only choose the most logical of the two. If you look at the issue without the emotion of a dedicated gamer, there really is no good argument for having anything other than a smartphone and maybe a tablet in your portable arsenal, particularly since the former has an excuse to be with you 100% of the time.

No doubt I got burned pre-ordering my 3DS. While I enjoy the system, not only did I pay much more than those who purchased it just a few months later (the free games mea culpa aside, particularly since you couldn't choose what you wanted), but I've found that a combination of lifestyle and general ennui at the game selection has caused me to play it far less than I hoped. Now, don't get me wrong, I think the 3D effect is great, it plays well, and I do own many games for it I like quite a bit, but there's nothing forthcoming that gets my gaming juices flowing, and things like a sluggish and sloppy digital downloads store tend to keep me away from impulse purchases most of the time. Mediocre battery life also preclude me from tossing it in my bag and playing it when an occasion arises (and I have not bothered to procure an extended battery pack for it at this time, though I do realize that is something I should probably do once I ensure full compatibility with the Circle Pad Pro). Among other sins in comparison to the standards set by most smartphones and tablets, neither the 3DS or Vita seem to have bothered with worrying about battery life greater than 3 hours or so. In short, a device with limited functionality that requires too much thought is a device that gets similarly limited usage.

Anyway, the launch fiasco with the 3DS and my general usage patterns with my busy adult lifestyle have caused me to follow the Japanese launch of the PlayStation Vita very closely. After all, Japan gives the 3DS more love than any other territory, and they were more gaga over the PSP than any other territory, so if the Vita doesn't excite over there, it probably won't excite anywhere else. While initial sales were good for the Vita in Japan in the first week, they fell off the cliff in the second week and beyond. Now, of course, this was due in part to low stock, but other factors include software issues and general apathy towards the game lineup, which is particularly distressing because as launch line-ups go, it's pretty darn solid. Certainly price - as Nintendo learned with the 3DS - is playing a factor as well--early adopters will pay almost anything, the trick is attracting mass sales beyond that exclusive group.

Of course, as a technology writer, enthusiast, and collector, I will own a Vita at some point, even if I only use it about the same I do the 3DS. It's undeniably very nice technology paired with some very nice games. Particularly since there's no TV out, I can't write a book on it (similar to the 3DS, if I can't capture clean screen images, I can't do a book on it) to justify owning it at any price, however. As such, I'll wait for the launch dust to settle like an average consumer (I don't think there will be massive sell-outs or shortages) and look for the best deal. It's very possible that Sony will have to pull a Nintendo and take some drastic measures to increase sales. If that happens, I'm definitely in.

By the way, to tie this all together, I will relate another reason why otherwise excellent handheld game systems like the 3DS and Vita will struggle and it's again related to smartphones and tablets. My daughters, 7 and 5, love their pink DS's. However, they also love our iPhone 4's and iPad 2's, certainly at least as much, and maybe even more if push came to shove. This is not surprising, because in many ways, those touchscreen devices are far more accessible than something like a device with physical controls could ever be. Touching what you see is simply more intuitive and easier, if not necessarily an ideal way to control every type of game. Now kids have always been a stronghold for dedicated gaming handhelds, but a combination of inherent technology, price, battery life, and arguably more attractive options in smartphones and tablets have minimized the potential impact of the 3DS and Vita on that audience. That combined with the remarkably quick evolutionary progression of smartphones and tablets that dedicated gaming handhelds can't match (combined of course, with the inevitability of hand-me-downs) because they need to be stable for at least a five year generational period, puts them at a serious disadvantage. Certainly Nintendo is not doing themselves any favors by the DS series still being an attractive alternative - particularly and especially with the younger set - over the 3DS. At least that's not something Sony has to worry about with the Vita and its predecessor the PSP, though they have the bigger problem of finding a large enough target audience for the Vita, period.

Comments

clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
I must admit, I'm 100%

I must admit, I'm 100% shocked, i was at Best Buy when the where unpacking um (that how i got my playtime in ). They had about 75 (both price points?, (none of the early Feb 15th bundles as it was the 21th i think)) i stopped today at best Buy and they have 2 left.. both the $299 ones. They only had Army Corps and Drake left for games.. all the others where sold out. Im in a small market (compared to rest of US) but 73 units in less then a week does look suprisingly good (here). I really doubt thats the case elsewhere.. but it did get me wondering. As i was actually in teh store not the back area today i also noticed somethign eles.. the PC game area has been EXPANDED.. it used to be about half a shelf in a row.. 50-75 games. Now they hve a full row.. and its all games.. yes.. more farmvill, sim type stuff.. but... They wopuldnt be expanding that space if the market wasnt there.. Again.. just an observation.. and just in my neck of the woods.. I know all Best Buys are not the same.

Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Promising...
clok1966 wrote:

Im in a small market (compared to rest of US) but 73 units in less then a week does look suprisingly good (here). I really doubt thats the case elsewhere.. but it did get me wondering.

It looks like Vita stuff is trending continuously in the top 10 of videogames on Amazon, so that's certainly a good sign. The real question is as-is, will it continue to sell well once all the early adopters get theirs?

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Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Some PlayStation Vita screenshots

Thanks to the handy dandy built-in screen capture facility - something not exactly common on game consoles - it's relatively easy to capture and transfer screenshots. I've been taking some for no particular reason as of yet. I've included some below, but check out the rest on the Flickr set with this link: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjyqhXth

2012-02-24-003620

2012-02-24-195716

2012-02-24-214416

2012-02-25-122436

2012-02-26-205506

I used a PC to transfer the images over via USB from the Vita using Content Manager, but actually I can also use the Vita's Flickr app directly. I'll try that soon as well.

For reference, the Netflix app absolutely shines on the Vita and the third party Twitter client is very functional. I was certainly skeptical of apps on the Vita, but it seems to have the performance necessary to make it all usable. Downloads are still pokey to the device, but that's a Sony trademark and probably not the fault of the Vita based on its capabilities once things are actually running. And before I forget, the PlayStation Vita's virtual keyboard is well implemented too. All around, Sony got a lot more right than I expected...

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clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
I see the actual sales (not

I see the actual sales (not shipped) numbers compared to the 3DS are encouraging (if you would call it that).. teh Vita has sold 1.2 million units in the same time the nintendo 3DS sold 400,000... Of course the 3DS lunch was considered a flop and nintendo lowered the price 6 months later to generate the sales it expected... (currently 15 million or so).. Sony will have to wait at least 6 months ( i predict a year) before it will lower the price.. if it does..

Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Positive momentum
clok1966 wrote:

I see the actual sales (not shipped) numbers compared to the 3DS are encouraging (if you would call it that).. teh Vita has sold 1.2 million units in the same time the nintendo 3DS sold 400,000... Of course the 3DS lunch was considered a flop and nintendo lowered the price 6 months later to generate the sales it expected... (currently 15 million or so).. Sony will have to wait at least 6 months ( i predict a year) before it will lower the price.. if it does..

Yeah, I've been keeping close tabs on that as well. My prediction is if not a traditional price drop for Holiday 2012, certainly some aggressive bundles. It all depends on how well sales continue to trend. I should also hear soon if I'll be doing a book on the Vita for a publisher or not. Sales like that are certainly encouraging in that regard...

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