Something funny’s going on with Sony’s PlayStation Vita handheld.
As Joystiq reports, several Sony stores around the United States are selling the 3G Vita for $200, which is $50 less than the Wi-Fi-only model. Some other stores told Joystiq that Sony is discontinuing the 3G model altogether.
Meanwhile, Sony’s online store has dropped the price of the 3G PS Vita down to $250 — same as its Wi-Fi counterpart. That 3G bundle also comes with an 8 GB memory card and a free PSN game.
It gets weirder. If you go to GameStop’s PS Vita landing page right now, the retailer only lists refurbished units and a $300 bundle of games and hardware. If you want to buy a new, standalone Vita from GameStop, you can’t; the full list of Vita hardware on GameStop’s website shows that all models are out of stock, both Wi-Fi and 3G, with the exception of that $300 bundle. Best Buy is still selling the 3G Vita for $300, but only for in-store pickups.
I’ve reached out to Sony to find out what’s going on, and will update if I get a response. (Update: “The reduction in price is the result of a limited time sales promotion through retail,” says Sony.)
In the meantime, consider that Sony recently dropped the price of the PS Vita in Japan — a move that reportedly quadrupled sales. It’s not crazy to think that a U.S. price cut for the PS Vita is imminent, despite the insistence to the contrary by Sony Worldwide Studios head Shuhei Yoshida.
The other possibility is that Sony is preparing a 4G LTE version of the Vita, which would of course greatly improve data speeds on the handheld. But the only evidence I can find on that front is one pretty sketchy rumor.
As my colleague Matt Peckham wrote back in August, the Vita’s $250-and-up price tag is just too high compared to what people expect for a handheld, and sales have been predictably slow. This creates a vicious cycle where software makers become afraid to invest in the platform, as Gamasutra has pointed out. It’s possible that “remote play” features on the PlayStation 4 will spark interest, but that won’t happen until at least the end of the year. A Vita price cut, however painful for Sony in the short term, would at least help get the handheld on track, just as it did for Nintendo’s 3DS in 2011.
For now, $200 seems like a good deal for the Vita — 3G or otherwise — if only for the included 8 GB memory card that usually sells for $30 on its own. If you actually have a Sony Store in your area and have been considering a Vita, it could be worth investigating. Otherwise I’d hang tight and see if any official price cuts or new bundles are on the way.