E3 2012 was a chance for Sony to show that no, they’re not going to give up on the Vita and only release two more important games for it this year. Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed are well and good, but Sony has so much more up their sleeve, right? Wrong. The Vita, it seems, is a $250 PSPgo that doesn’t even play most of the PSOne Classics on the PlayStation Store. The larger problem, though? Sony has marketed the Vita as a one-stop handheld entertainment Mecca, incorporating all of the now-standard multimedia apps like Twitter, Skype, Netflix, Facebook, and 3G wireless (not to actually play online, but still)… you know, all that stuff we’d normally have to pull out our smartphones to access. Yet, it seems they’ve given up on the non-game side of the Vita, as well. It’s not the first time they abandoned a handheld before giving it a chance to reach its full potential. Let’s look back a few years, and we had the PSP, and the Universal Media Disc format.
A full 1.8 GB of storage! The ability to play DVD-quality movies on the go! A sound system that – at least with headphones – far outclassed the technologically inferior Nintendo DS! UMDs could also hold music, although there wasn’t a single album released on the format (the closest we got was a few “Classic Album” documentary movies previously released on DVD). There was even a Metal Gear Solid: Digital Graphic Novel released on the system (which was totally sweet, by the way).
However! UMD movies cost as much as DVDs and included less content – PSP movie sales never rose above a trickle, and they haven’t been sold in major department stores since 2006. Using this bulky handheld – complete with its comparatively short battery life – as an MP3 player was a huge hindrance to on-the-go-ability. Most (especially early) games were little more than PSOne or PS2 ports, again with less content than the originals. Yet, in no small part due to Monster Hunter, the PSP was a powerhouse in Japan, to this day outselling other current-gen consoles almost on a monthly basis. That doesn’t really help us over here in the States, but it seems like Sony thought they could just do the same thing over again, this time with the Vita.
Ah yes, the Vita. It’s a PSP with dual analog sticks, some pretty fancy graphics, and a complete incompatibility with roughly half of the PlayStation Store’s current offerings. Even the Vita and PSP launch lineups were similar. Lots of titles – but nothing new. Nothing that pushes the boundaries of what this little console, with its new dual touch pads, could do. Worse, it’s now late June, and it looks like the next Vita release isn’t until August 7. Is that right? This system has been out less than a year, and there’s already a full calendar month with no new releases? Sony hasn’t announced a PlayStation 4. There aren’t even any huge PS3 exclusives coming out in the foreseeable future. This month’s E3 was the perfect – and for many, the last – chance for Sony to show that they mean business with the Vita, that they were finally ready to step up and give Nintendo a real competitor in the handheld market. Instead, while Microsoft was upselling new non-game technologies like SmartGlass, Sony didn’t even give us those.
No Vita games. No new apps. Not even a price drop. Instead, they tell us we can use our $250 paperweight to finally play a handful of PSOne classics like Final Fantasy VII. We consumers didn’t give up on the Vita. Sony did. We want to play it; it’s an amazing piece of technology. But Sony… you’re not giving us anything to actually do with it that I can’t do with the smartphone and the PSP I already have. At least the 3DS has the always amazing Mario games, as well at that whole 3D gimmick that people were tired of before the console was even announced. When the 3DS didn’t work out in the first months after launch, however, Nintendo cut the price $80 and showed the whole world what’s coming out in the future. They now have a bona fide hit in the 3DS. Sony has already buried the Vita, thrown the shovels in the back of the truck, and headed out for pizza.
Stick a fork in Sony’s handheld business. It’s done.