The Vita’s Problem Is Not Its Price

Simply G explains why he feels the root of the PlayStation Vita's woes doesn't come from its price.

Note: [All opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of GamerXChange]

The PlayStation Vita is approaching its one year anniversary here in the West and the system has received its fair share of praise and criticism all throughout. Most people who own, or have used a Vita are more than happy with the system itself. Still, the handheld has struggled to sell itself within that time period – selling just over 4 million. In comparison to the sales of its predecessor (PSP) and current competitor (3DS) within the same period of time, the Vita looks as if it could be facing quite a bit of trouble. Some attribute these failings to a number of things including the memory cards and games. One of the most common criticism the system receives is that the price is just too high. This following post will just go through some fleeting thoughts of mine, the reasons why I believe that price is not the reason the Vita isn’t selling well.

The PlayStation Vita launched in the U.S. with two models. There was the WiFi only model at a MSRP of $249.99 and the 3G + WiFi version for $299.99. Some say this price is just too high for the system and I say this price is just fine. Many reasons people give as to why the Vita’s price should be lower is because the Nintendo 3DS’ price dropped within a year of its release from $249.99 to $169.99. Thereafter, the system saw exponential growth. At the same time, others might point to the Vita’s big brother, the PlayStation 3. You can snag a brand new PS3 with 250-500 GB for the same price as a Vita. All of these are seemingly convincing points, but they’re also flawed.

All we need to do is step back and take a history lesson, one that gamers seem quick to forget. Let us go back to the PlayStation Portable’s release. The PSP was a considerably successful handheld, selling over 70 million units and still selling down to this day. Yet, many forget that at the system’s launch, the PSP was similarly priced to the Vita. In 2005, the PSP launched at a SRP of $249.99 USD. The launch lineup wasn’t all that impressive either. Still, within its first year, the PSP sold almost 5 million in the U.S. alone. One should note, not only did the PSP have the same price as the Vita at launch, but it was also more expensive than the PS2 which was still a hot item. The games too, were being sold at the same average retail price of $39.99. Would it be wrong to say that the Vita, a device that is undoubtedly a superior device than the PSP from a technical standpoint, is priced fairly? In fact, for the technology it offers, it is selling at a price below the standards of this tech world. No doubt, the PSP was priced at $249.99 at a time where the economy wasn’t at the state we see it in today. Regardless, even a tough economy doesn’t necessarily hold people back from spending big bucks.

Let’s take a look for a moment at the prices of other electronic devices on the market. Right now, some of the world’s best-selling devices are tablets and smartphones. Millions line up to get the latest iPad or iPhone – devices that can set a consumer back $700 or more! Yet, they sell like hotcakes. Strangely enough, many of those who complain about the Vita’s price are the same ones who go out and purchase these other items at the drop of a dime. Why? No, I’m not comparing gaming devices and these other pieces of technology in respects specs and functions; And while I’ll concede that many of these items are well manufactured products, the answer to that question, “why?” really boils down to one thing – Marketing.

Marketing and advertising are big business, it is business. The best marketed items are usually the best-selling ones too. Microsoft and Apple can attest to these facts. Sony as well. Sony used to market the PSP, PSOne, and PS2 all so well. Which brings us to the root – Sony’s marketing in recent years has been abysmal. If PlayStation played its cards right, marketed the Vita and its games, offered better promotions and set out a clear idea of what the device is and does – I believe the Vita would be in a much better position sales-wise.

So you might say, well, the Vita has no games; A tired argument. You may just not know about the Vita’s games because they’re not promoted, they’re not marketed or advertised the way they deserve to be. According to Metacritic, within one year, the PlayStation Vita has become home to almost the same amount of high rated games as the Nintendo 3DS has in two years. The 3DS, a system that is selling massive amounts at this point – a system that is marketed well. For sure, the Vita does need more recognizable titles to help give it a boost. Games sell systems too. Yet, that alone isn’t the problem either.

Yes, we live in tough economic times. Yes, it would be nice to get everything we want for a penny; But we need to be realistic. I’ll agree that a price cut on the proprietary memory cards would be much appreciated, or at the very least add a larger size to each Vita system sold. What’s more, PlayStation could open the door for third-party manufacturers to make cheaper memory cards, the same way they did with the PSP. This could lift a bit of the financial burden. Would I call for an immediate price cut on the Vita? No. Eventually the price will go down. In fact, that price cut may even come sometime this year; But even if $50, $80, or even $100 were cut off from the Vita’s price, that would do very little for sales if the product and its games are not advertised. There are a number of contributing factors as to why the Vita isn’t selling well. Price may be part of it, but it’s also probably the least of the reasons. So hopefully PlayStation will get its act together to support and promote its baby the way it deserves.