A new rumor from Inside Gaming Daily has strongly hinted at Sony releasing a holiday hardware bundle that includes both the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita, and for “around $500” to boot. Sony probably isn’t too eager to cut the price on their next-gen system on day one, so, assuming the ballpark figure of $500 is somewhat accurate, this equates to a price cut of around $150—or 60%—for the Vita.
This bundle, though currently unfounded and rumor-ridden, would satiate the bargain-hungry gamer market, which has derided the Vita’s $250 price tag in the past. This is a necessary step for the handheld, as it helps put it on competitive ground with Nintendo’s dominative DS line. More importantly, it further supports purchasing a Vita, which will put units in the market. Beyond the obvious implication of sales figures, this is particularly vital for Sony due to their next-gen plans. If too few people own and use Vitas, their dual-platform PS4 structure is all for naught; changes to PlayStation Plus and a continued emphasis on PlayStation Cross-Play would fall flat if they simply aren’t active enough.
Although the console’s new price leaves something to be desired in the way of memory expansions, 60% is still a massive discount. Truth be told, I’m questioning the merit of the rumor. But the notion itself is a powerful one. Though a bit unbelievable at face value, we can find some notable supporting evidence for the lavish price drop by looking at Sony’s past.
P>Sony openly admitted to suffering unit-for-unit revenue loss on the PlayStation 3, instead investing in future software and digital sales. This strategy proved to be an endurance race, and one that would eventually turn profitable. After a tumultuous history for the Vita, Sony could very well be planning to take a similar route with their handheld. Rather than clinging to a profit-per-unit strategy, Sony could, as the bundle shows, distribute Vitas rapidly by way of drastic incentive—in this case, saving 150 bucks—in order to lay a foundation for future plans and sales.
However, in order for such a gamble to pay off, Sony will have to pump out consistent, quality software on the Vita. Otherwise, their initial investment will struggle to break even. Unfortunately, this exact aspect—software lineup—has been a recurring hurdle for the Vita.
Having said that, I feel the need to point out that the infamous derogative, “The Vita has no games,” doesn’t hold water. The console does, in fact, have a sizeable software library. With successes such as Muramasa Rebirth, Soul Sacrifice, Persona 4 Golden, and Uncharted: Golden Abyss at the forefront, the Vita has proven that it is a viable, enjoyable platform. However, things do become problematic when we look at what sort of games the system is seeing.
The underlying flaw at play here is very simple: lack of originality. I’m not alluding to the industry’s rampant genre debates or artistic hierarchies, here. The problem is that a vast portion of the Vita’s game archive is comprised of little more than ports: Muramasa Rebirth, Persona 4 Golden, LittleBigPlanet, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Mortal Kombat, Rayman Origins and many more (including the fabulous Dragon’s Crown, which we loved). Meanwhile, some of the best and most successful titles on the Vita are nothing more than remakes—and often-downplayed remakes, at that. Similarly, the system is home to several charitably named “Vita-optimized” sequels to name-brand franchises like Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, and Call of Duty: Black Ops – Declassified, all of which failed to distinguish the Vita from its competition. Similarly, the PlayStation Network’s expansive collection of PSP classics, while enjoyable, does little in the way of flare for the Vita.
Luckily, there’s an equally simple solution this, and one that we’ve already seen, and that solution is for Sony to release good, original content on their portable system a la Gravity Rush. A price cut is clearly a step in the right direction, but it will only secure a foundation for the Vita, not maintain it. In order to properly follow such a shift up and stay true to the long-term plan previously enacted on the PS3, Sony will need to support the Vita’s 2013 and 2014 lineup. Titles such as the promising Killzone Mercenary already in the works for the Vita paired with growing Japanese-localization support show that the Vita could see a revitalizing. And all of that is to say nothing of Sony’s veritable indie army and their aforementioned cross-platform plans.