Isn’t It Time for a PlayStation Vita Price Cut?

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It’s looking more like a long, slow bridge to who-knows-where for Sony’s silent running PlayStation Vita. No, I don’t have official sales figures in front of me, but Sony’s reticence about said figures is telling. Companies can’t wait to crow about upbeat sales, but clam up when things go south. That, or they issue press statements with murky phrases like “continues to meet sales expectations.”

In this climate of marketing clichés and fuzzy rhetoric, absence of evidence usually is evidence of absence.

(MORE: Did the PS Vita Show Too Much of Its Game Face at Launch?)

To be fair, Sony hasn’t said much about its enthusiast-angled gaming portable since the thing launched stateside and in Europe on Feb. 22, 2012. At that point, the company was still publicly bullish about the Vita, pegging worldwide sales at 1.2 million (including the Japanese market, where the system launched two months earlier on Dec. 17, 2011).

Nintendo, by comparison, had moved roughly three times as many Nintendo 3DS handhelds by March 31, 2011, barely one month after its Japanese launch on Feb. 26, 2011 and just days after its stateside debut on March 27. The 3DS today — Nintendo, unlike Sony, hasn’t been bashful about sharing sales figures — stands at over 19 million units shipped worldwide.

The latest piece of Vita sales info to cross desks came a few days ago, when Sony announced dismal game division sales, dropping 14.5% year-on-year for a loss of about$44.7 million. Contrast with the prior year’s $52.4 million profit.

But when it came to Vita specifics, Sony shrewdly folded the PSP into the equation and revised its original 16 million total handheld units sold projection for the year down to just 12 million. Sony had previously projected 10 million in global Vita sales by year’s end, but that figure appears to have evaporated. When pressed for Vita sales specifics, Sony stonewalled — one assumes because those figures are incredibly unflattering, and that the company is doing its level best to avoid a rash of news clusters with negative headlines like “Vita Sales Shock: Handheld Numbers Plummet!”

That hasn’t stopped the public from reading the tea leaves. Google the phrase “PS Vita Sales” and in the handful of related searches at the bottom of the page, you’ll discover the words “tumble” and “disappointing.” What you won’t find: any positive search terms.

I can’t prove this, but I’d wager most gamers, even the ones who dig the system (as I do), view it as an overpriced latecomer to a market that’s been hemorrhaging players since companies like Apple and Google essentially backed into mobile gaming, all but accidentally, by adding games as an ingredient on smartphones and tablets.

If the bloom’s already off the Vita, it’ll be a shame. To a gamer like me, Sony’s handheld is everything I dreamed a portable game system might be as a kid, hammering on stuff like Tomy’s Blip and Coleco’s Electronic Quarterback. It’s powerful enough to run games that look nearly as good as their console counterparts and rigged with left/right thumb controls to play spatially complex games without compromises. The touch-based extras really are extras, too, added in most games as complementary instead of feeling foisted (speaking as a guy who prefers gamepads to motion control wands or motion-detection cameras).

The Vita’s overwhelming problem at this point: its price.

Right or wrong, the Vita is perceived as too expensive. At $300 for the Wi-Fi + 3G model and $250 for the Wi-Fi-only version, it’s at least as expensive as a brand new 160GB PlayStation 3 ($250). Nintendo’s 3DS currently goes for $170 (after Nintendo launched at $250, experienced a sharp sales drop-off, and slashed the price accordingly). If you’re a smartphone gamer, I’m betting you paid around $200 for your phone, as I did for my iPhone 4 in February 2011, thanks to carrier contract subsidization. And if you’re really on a budget, you can find new or used PSP and DS systems with sprawling game libraries for well under $100 a pop.

With unemployment up, the economy still wavering, consumer spending flat and, one assumes, buyers looking to wring maximum value from their entertainment devices, the boutique-tier Vita seems to be in an impossible spot. Sony’s manufacturing costs are presumably high, since the Vita shares much in common internally with high-end smartphones that go for $600 to $800 without contract subsidies. But the Vita is strictly a game system. There’s no carrier subsidization option to mitigate Sony’s manufacturing outlay and the consumer price point.

Companies can talk about a system’s value all they like; that won’t change the reality on the ground, where the Vita’s luxury bells and whistles aren’t enough to offset pricing expectations. After the reaction the 3DS received, I’m betting most people view handhelds as $200 or less investments. That may be in part because handheld refreshes seem to be occurring every two to three years (check the history of both the PSP and DS, to say nothing of the annual smartphone one-upmanship game). We’re talking about a relatively new and pricey habit, especially for users buying these things as well as computers and consoles. And if you’re buying a dedicated games handheld, probably in addition to a smartphone, too.

If Sony wants the Vita to succeed, it needs to take its cues from Nintendo and drop the $250 Vita’s price by at least $50. The Vita is almost certainly selling at a snail’s pace compared to Nintendo’s 3DS — itself facing lower-than-expected sales criticism, despite much higher weekly and monthly sales than the Vita. Nintendo executed the 3DS’s sales-rescuing price drop back in August 2011, less than six months after the system launched in the U.S. It’s now August 7, 2012, nearly six months after the Vita’s U.S. launch, the back-to-school window prefacing the holiday shopping period is almost on us and we’ve heard not a peep from Sony about its plans to stimulate Vita sales. LittleBigPlanet, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation and Persona 4: Golden sound lovely, but they’re hardly going to spawn a multimillions-unit sales comeback.

When I originally reviewed the Vita, I called it “beautiful, expensive and worth it.” At the time, it was, and to me, it still is. But the wallet-voting public seems to disagree, and if Sony wants to change people’s minds, well, in this case, it’s hardly rocket science.

MORE: Sony PlayStation Vita Review: Beautiful, Expensive and Worth It

18 comments
joyvogelaar
joyvogelaar

Funny how it has been over a year since this article and 250 is still the average selling price. Here [in the Netherlands], anyway. It's ridiculous. My two favorite games were recently officially translated into English *and* remade for the Vita. I have already read the original translations/playthroughs of the games, but I'd really like to play them myself. I'd buy it in a heartbeat if it were a price a little more similar to the 3DS's. Ah well.

Brian B.
Brian B.

I am still waiting for Sony to do a price drop.

At the very least, give me a 'value' bundle of some sort.

Take a WiFi Vita, throw in a 4 or 8 MG Memory card, and to top it all off, give me a choice of one AAA game title for free! Make the price of the bundle $200, and I bet they would sell a heckuva lot more of these luxury items...

I know I would buy one..

Callum Hurley
Callum Hurley

The Vita is already selling at a loss. They can't drop. They need a hardware revision with cheaper tech, but produce the same quality gaming.

J.j. Barrington
J.j. Barrington

No, it doesn't. It's been out like 7-8 months total, and is aimed at a much smaller audience than the 3DS, which it's always being compared to.

It's a high-end, nonessential tech device with a small target market. It's not going to sell like the cheaper, larger-focused 3DS, nor will it have the wide appeal of a smartphone or tablet. Expecting it to sell like these things isn't reasonable, or smart. 

The price of the memory cards is on the high side; it's also a new memory format, and if someone can point to a trend that says that new memory formats are supposed to be cheap at inception, I'll stop defending the price there.

The price of the system itself is superb. No one was complaining about that price when it was announced; this only became a problem after the 3DS dropped ITS price. IT, however, wasn't worth the original price in the first place(not saying that it's a bad device, but that it wasn't worth the asking price Nintendo placed on it).

Sure, there are some features either lacking or not fully functional yet. But they're coming, with time. Likewise, there may not be a lot of games for EVERYONE on the system yet, but there's no shortage of games to play, as it's got a massive library, especially for a system so young.

But once Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed are out, once the Personas are out and the holidays have passed... if the Vita has not picked up by then, THEN we can say it needs a price cut.

For now, the price is fine as it is.

Jaypers
Jaypers

Knock the price down to $149 for one month, and then see how many fly off the shelves.

Lose some money on the devices but make it up on the back end.

 

Nicholas Gatewood
Nicholas Gatewood

"view it as an overpriced latecomer to a market that’s been hemorrhaging

players since companies like Apple and Google essentially backed into

mobile gaming"

No, no, no. It's not overpriced, it's at a spectacular price- it's one of the most powerful handheld devices in the world and it only costs $250. It puts the 3DS, which launched at the same price and is around a tenth as powerful as the Vita, to shame with its great value. Sure, it costs $80 more than the 3DS but they spend $70 more on parts alone and I can guarantee that they're paying more on software licensing fees than Nintendo.

Apple and Google are not into mobile gaming, they're into smartphones that can also play a few extremely limited casual swipe-to-win titles. As much as I love Plants vs Zombies, a smartphone could never, ever replace a dedicated gaming handheld. I'd put the experience of gaming on a smartphone on par with the Gameboy Advance(at best) since it lacks physical controls. No matter how powerful a smartphone is, it'll need buttons to compete with true gaming systems and that just won't become a standardized thing anytime soon so almost zero developers would make use of the buttons anyways.

Sony doesn't need a price cut right now. It'd help their sales immensely but they're waiting for October, November and December, the Vita's three biggest months of the year, to gauge the Vita's future success. All the biggest game releases come in October and November, and holiday sales are gonna be spectacular with games like Assassin's Creed, Silent Hill, Persona, Sly Cooper, PS All-Stars and Call of Duty on the platform. They've already said that they're going to focus on bundles, not price drops. It's much better for them to sell their Vitas with a memory card and a hot new game bundled at $250 than it is to just drop the ball and lower its price, especially when they used top-of-the-line hardware in its production.

Ryan Faubion
Ryan Faubion

Stop asking for a g**damn price cut. The company is struggling to succeed even with a price cut, it would make the problem worse. The system is worth the $249.99 price tag because it IS at the playstation 3 level as a portable.

LastStory
LastStory

I'm not sure I agree that it's the price of the console that is the problem. Here in the UK the Vita can be had for between £180-£200 depending on where you shop. The 3DS XL, which has got off to a fantastic start, is around £175. Fair enough you need a memory card for the vita, but they are dropping in price all the time. The big difference is software. Simply put, there are just not enough big games on the Vita to draw in consumers. The 3DS on the other hand now has a large range of very good 'pick up and play' titles. Quite frankly, I just don't think consumers are willing to shell out the nearly £200 to play Uncharted or Wipeout but they are more than willing to do so to play Mario and Zelda.

Vita Owner
Vita Owner

I think it's best months are still coming.  The upcoming release of games like Little Big Planet, Call of Duty Black Ops Declassified, Assassin's creed 3: Liberation, and Persona 4: The Golden should definitely draw in sales .  The problem up to this point has been lack of killer must have titles on Vita, this upcoming holiday season should change that.

Commentonitall
Commentonitall

The claims that smart phones cost 600 to 700 to produce is crap.  It's a ploy by the cell phone makers and carriers to guarantee that people go on contract and spend money on phone insurance and other things.  It's terrible, but what can anyone do at this point?  If your phone dies while in contract then you have to pay full price for a new one, unless you pay for that insurance.  It's all a game and you shouldn't buy that price tag at all.

Dom Nicko
Dom Nicko

Nope.  You are completely wrong.  The only factor that will save Vita is reduction in price ($199 and below).

No game in the world would save that system if the price remains unreachable.

Even at reduced price, Sony MUST STOP STEALING MONEY from consumers by overpricing its proprietary memory cards for the Vita.

You're not Apple, Sony.  You're a FAILURE.

Commentonitall
Commentonitall

That and the ridiculous price of those memory cards.  Had Sony not gone the Apple and Microsoft proprietary rip off route they would have fared much better.  Most people who are Sony fans are fans because they are relatively open, ps3 can use any laptop hard drive unlike M$ and their overpriced hard drives.  That means that a lot of people who were planning on picking up the Vita were turned off from it because of the same reasons they may not like Apple or M$ products.  I think it was a poor choice on Sony's part.  Now if they kept the price the same, but threw in an 8 or 16 GB memory card I would be all over it, it's the main reason I have not picked oen up yet because the memory cards push it over the threshold of affordable.

extermin8or2
extermin8or2

But retailers filled this gap, i got mine from Amazon.co.uk on launch day with an 8gb memory card and Rayman for the RRP and then bough Uncharted seperatly which to me was a bargain (wifi model btw although 3G had a similar deal going on and still does.)

AWM1983
AWM1983

I loved my PSPs and played the hell out of various Monster Hunter games. Of course I played others on my PSP but Monster Hunter was where it was at. Did we get a Vita version? Nope. Will I buy a Vita before they come out with a Monster Hunter game? Nope.  Between the lackluster launch titles and yet ANOTHER  Proprietary memory format from Sony (which cost a lot more then similar micro SD cards), there was no way the Vita could be a "hit" by any measure of the word. Maybe it wasn't intended for the DS crowd or for casual gamers, but if so, Sony failed to market it to core gamers at an appealing price point.

AyaisMUsikWhore
AyaisMUsikWhore

Well If you go into BigBox Retailer Stores like Best buy or Target, They always throw in a memory card just to let you know and they don't even sell Vita's for more than $300 now. However i do agree. I have a very positive history with Sony that allows me to continue to buy their products but i don't cut them any slack. I am so sick of Sony fighting everyone else battle. The reason why the memory card prices are so high is because they are trying to protect their system for piracy. Why put fighting piracy your battle instead of leaving it to the developers? Nintendo does a great job locking their games down so piracy is not an option, why is it Sony doesn't force their developers to do such. Idgaf if it cost more money. They should think more about their consumers and what THEY want to buy. Obviously people are showing what they want to buy with their money and it's sadly, as much as i don't want to admit it, no one is buying it. If they can't see that this is crushing them, they have another thing coming. I love my Vita so much, i use it more than my 3DS but the small things that write off the 3DS the Vita can't get away with. 

Vita Owner
Vita Owner

Yeh, I agree, they are Waaaay overpriced.  I've heard that as expensive the ps vita is selling for, Sony is selling it at a loss and use the price of the memory cards to offset that loss. I don't agree with doing that at all, but Sony is still a business and it's main goal is to make a profit.  Also, if you buy a 32 gb memory card, the initial high price of the memory card is offset over time by the fact that buying a digital release is normally $5 cheaper than a physical copy and there is no tax.  Therefore, you could save between 7-10 dollars per game gotten digitally, and overtime that would make the overall value of the memory card be less than what is initially put in.  Although it's still a hard pill to swallow lol.  Hopefully the memory card prices continue to drop. They were going for around $100 originally at amazon for 32 gb and now it's at $80. Hopefully that trend continues to more reasonably priced territory.  Also, Sony needs to implement true remote play between the PS3 and Vita.  Hackers have managed to unlock remote play with many different games on the vita including Skyrim and NBA 2k12, so it can't be a matter of ability but a matter of economics.  Heck, the psp was able to remote play when hacked.  Sony needs to realize that if they don't release remote play naturally, gamers will find a way to do it anyway.

0pinionated
0pinionated

Personally I love my PS Vita and play it far more than my 3DS (Which I've just completed KH:DDD on.). The Problem with the vita is a premium priced memory card and a LACK of marketing. - Yeah we know about it that's why we're on this article but what about other people who don't always go into the games section of sites?. More to say on this point is the fact they won't even push their own big titles such as LBP (Which I think is the best looking vita games thus far looking better tan its ps3 counterparts - which now creates a mini-appstore in your ps vita) Assassin's creed liberation and Persona 4 Golden. Not to mention other things such as (I'm from the UK) things as small as Neflix not being implemented here in the UK despite their availability and their need to be connected throughout devices. E3 was a blunder for the Vita in a time it was most needed but is it possible it's because they had no Vita games to show? It's sad but I won't suggest they completely abandon their flagship gaming product the PS3 but if I worked for Sony I suggest they go out their and do whatever it takes to get developers on board and give the Vita a price cut of around £20 (or dollars) and have significant cuts on the memory cards - and even some titles (with the RRP on the store of Fifa 12 of 44.99 which is outrageous.) 

I don't want everything to sound gloomy though because as I said there are many redeeming games and features which is why I love my Vita, however too many missteps along the way have meant not everyone shares my enthusiasm, which is really sad and disappointing.

Kayoss860
Kayoss860

Honestly I feel that the PS vita is struggling is because Sony made big promises about the Vita capabilities but when it was released for some odd reasons they locked down most of the Vita's capabilities such as remote play and backward compatiblilities. Another reason i think why is that PS vita dont have a lot exclusive games for it. Why would people spend $300 plus another $40 for a vita and Marvel vs capcom 3 when instead they could just spend $60 for the ps3 version? They need to release more exclusive vita game and allow remote play with the ps3.

I love the vita but right now for me its all disappointment. I dont even see the point of 3G when there's nothing useful for it.