I've been gaming for about 20 years now, I regularly study the workings of video games everyday and aim to know everything about the industry and add to it the best I can. Around here I'm known as very negative which may be a positive thing to some people.
It wasn’t too long ago (IMO) that I remember waves of PS2 fanboys, Tinitron TV sets, mini-disc players and the looming threat that one day a PSP could dominate in the handheld space. Sony had the brand recognition, the momentum and the market. Sony’s name had a degree of quality unparalleled in the electronic space and brands so strong they seemed unstoppable. So what stopped them?
In 2004 (from what I can remember), the talk was about the PS2 and its untouchable monopoly, announced PSP on the way about to crush Game Boy Advance, Xbox just got Halo 2, and Gamecube just got nothing. Momentum was clearly on Sony’s side.
Offering an all-in-one premium package, a product philosophy that has proven success with the PS2, seemed like the perfect course moving forward with the PSP and the PS3. But it would seem that things were bound to change.
Eventually, innovative hardware from Nintendo including the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo Wii has proven the point that innovation is what pushes the industry forward and not the “all in one” philosophy.
But does that mean there is no market for Sony then? No way. A good comparison, I think, is when we take a good look at the PSP sales relative to the Nintendo DS. Sure the Nintendo DS sold tons, but just a small fraction in that space still meant big sales in ‘console terms’, right? What the PSP has proven that there is definitively room for the all in one package in the gaming space.
Then there was iPhone and IPod Touch that revolutionized the market by just combining the two philosophies together and just seeped up the whole gaming market… and frankly, I think that was just a happy accident for them. I think just looking at Apple’s portable devices, it should be clear that these things are not only mass market, but innovative and technically ground breaking.
So the way I look at this handheld industry from the video-game-company focused perspective is the following.
Firstly, I already thought that Nintendo would be running into a dead market face first. Nintendo needs to come to terms that only old school Game Boy sales can be expected from the Nintendo 3DS because it doesn’t transcend that market like the Nintendo DS did in 2005. But that’s a whole other story.
Sony also, saw the decline of the PSP versus the Nintendo DS and decided to just slap on the Nintendo DS features on the Vita it seems, impressing no one. I am sure this all in one approach from a Sony perspective should have at least achieved the PSP mark in their mind or a profitable return at the very least.
I would submit though, that maybe Sony’s philosophy wasn’t really realized with the PS Vita. The thing does everything gaming-wise but I personally believe though that PS Vita doesn’t really do anything that much better than any other tablet or smart-phone, so, is the PS Vita ‘really’ all in one?
What if the Vita had phone radio?
Suddenly this product makes more sense, the appeal is there. PS Vita as it stands really isn’t as valuable as the PSP Go, if you think about it. The Vita doesn’t do gaming better than the 3DS, or playback as good as the Iphone or Ipad. So I recommend on Sony’s behalf to come out with a system that uses the exact spec as the Vita, same price point, the form factor of the PSP Go and the utility/compatibility of Android.
The “Vita SP” would keep all the power house features of its predecessor and combine it with the necessity of a cell phone. This market can actually parallel Nintendo 3DS’ and serve the 14+ consumer that Sony generally has in the past.
What both handheld companies did wrong this year was mistakenly forecast the trend of gaming. This Vita SP idea can really refocus Sony, and deliver a product of premium gaming content and modern utility. A product philosophy that made the PSP so significant last generation, modernized for those same consumer needs.