Sony’s Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida was only stating the obvious when he told the audience at EGX that the “climate is not healthy” for a successor to the company’s struggling handheld console, the PlayStation Vita, but sometimes even the obvious makes for an interesting statement, depending upon who’s stating it.
The likelihood of another handheld console from Sony turning up in the foreseeable future is considered to be incredibly low by almost everyone, and it’s notable that there’s never been so much as a whisper about what such a successor might look like or comprise; it’s so vanishingly unlikely to come to pass, why even bother speculating on what might be? Yet for commentators and analysts to dismiss the notion of Sony carrying on in handheld is one thing; for such a senior figure at the company to seemingly join in that dismissal is another. The final step of the long and strange handheld journey which Sony started with the announcement of the PSP’s development all the way back in 2003 won’t come until the Vita reaches its official end-of-life, but Yoshida’s statement is the moment when we learned for certain that the company itself reckons the handheld market is past saving.
It’s not that there’s any lack of affection for the Vita within Sony, including Yoshida himself, whose Twitter feed confirms that he is an avid player of the system. Even as weak sales have essentially rendered AAA development for the Vita financially unsustainable, the firm has done a great job of turning it into one of the platforms of choice for break-out indie hits, and much of the success of the PS4 as a platform for indie games can be traced back to the sterling work Sony’s team did on building relationships and services for indies on the Vita. For that alone, it’s a shame that the console will apparently be the last of its line; there are some games that simply work better on handhelds than on home consoles, and some developers who are more comfortable working within the limitations of handheld systems.
Yoshida is right, though; mobile phones are the handheld killer. They may not be as good at controlling the kind of games that the PSP and Vita excelled at, but mobile devices are more powerful, more frequently updated, carried everywhere and heavily subsidised by networks for most users. Buttons and sticks make for wonderful game controllers, as Yoshida noted, but when the competition has a great multi-touch screen and accelerometer, a processor faster than most laptops only a few years ago, and is replaced every couple of years with a better model, the best set of buttons and sticks on earth just can’t compete for most consumers. Even if Sony could release a Vita 2 tomorrow which leapfrogged the iPhone 6S, within a year Apple, Samsung and others would be back out in front.
That’s not to say that this battle can’t be won. Nintendo has still managed to shift a dramatic number of 3DS consoles despite the advent of the smartphone era – though in typically Nintendo style, it chose not to play the competition at their own game, favouring a continuation of the DS’ odd form-factor, a 3D screen and a low-cost, low-power chipset over an arms race with smartphones (and, indeed, with the Vita). Crucially, Nintendo also pumped out high quality software on the 3DS at a breathtaking pace, at one point coming close to having a must-buy title on the system every month. Nintendo’s advantage, as ever, is its software – and at least in part, its longevity in the handheld market is down to the family-friendly nature of that software, which has made the 3DS popular with kids, who usually (at least in Japan, the 3DS’ best performing market) do not carry smartphones and generally can’t engage with F2P-style transactions even if they do. Vita, by comparison, aimed itself at a more adult market which has now become saturated with phones and tablets.
So; is that the end of Sony’s handheld adventure? Trounced by Nintendo twice over, first with the DS’ incredibly surprising (if utterly obvious in hindsight) dominance over the PSP, then with the 3DS’ success over the Vita, Sony nonetheless carved out an impressive little market for the PSP, at least. Vita has failed to replicate that success, despite being an excellent piece of hardware, and 12 years after news of the PSP first reached gamers’ eager ears, it looks like that failure and the shifting sands of the market mean Sony’s ready to bail out of handhelds. With the stunning success of PS4 and the upcoming PlayStation VR launch keeping the company busy, there’s seemingly neither time, nor inclination, nor resources to try to drive a comeback for the Vita – and any such effort would be swimming against the tide anyway.
I would not go so far as to say that Sony is dropping out of handheld and portable gaming entirely, though. I think it’s interesting, in the context of Yoshida’s comments, to note what the company did at TGS last month – where a large stand directly facing the main PlayStation booth was entirely devoted to the Sony Xperia range of phones and tablets, and more specifically to demonstrating their prowess when it comes to interacting with a PS4. The devices can be hooked up to a PS4 controller and used for remote play on the console; it’s an excellent play experience, actually significantly better in some games than using the Vita (whose controls do not perfectly map to the controller). I use my Vita to do simple tasks in Final Fantasy XIV on my PS4 while the TV is in use, but it wouldn’t be up to the task of more complex battles or dungeons; I’d happily do those on an Xperia device with a proper controller, though.
Remember when the Vita launched and much of the buzz Sony tried to create was about how it was going to interact with the PS4? That functionality, a key selling point of the Vita, is now on Xperia, and it’s even better than it was on the devoted handheld. Sony’s phones also play Android games well and will undoubtedly be well-optimized for PlayStation Now, which means that full-strength console games will be playable on them. In short, though the Vita may be the last dedicated handheld to carry the Sony brand, the company has come a long way towards putting the core functions of Vita into its other devices. It’s not abandoning handheld gaming; it’s just trying to evolve its approach to match what handheld gaming has become.
It’s not a perfect solution. Not everyone has or wants an Xperia device – Japan is the best performing market for Sony phones and even here, Apple is absolutely dominant, with iPhones holding more than half of the market share for smartphones. If Sony is being clever, though, it will recognize that the success of the PS4 is a great basis from which to build smartphone success; if the Xperia devices can massively improve the user experience of the PS4, many owners of those devices may well consider a switch, if not to a new phone then at least to one of the Xperia tablets. It might also be worth the company’s time to think a little about the controllers people will hook up to the Xperia to play games; I love the PS4 controller, but it’s bulky to carry in a bag, let alone a pocket. If the firm is serious about its phones and tablets filling the handheld gap, a more svelte controller designed specifically for Xperia (but still recognizably and functionally a PS4 pad) would be an interesting and worthwhile addition to the line-up.
Nonetheless, what’s happening with Xperia – in terms of remote play, PS Now, and so on – is an interesting look at how consoles and smartphones might co-exist in the near future. The broad assumption that smart devices will kill off consoles doesn’t show any sign of coming true; PS4 and Xbox One are doing far, far better than PS3 and Xbox 360 did, and while the AAA market is struggling a little with its margins, the rapid rise of very high quality indie titles to fill the gap left by the decline of mid-range games in the previous generation means the software market is healthier than it’s been for years. If consoles aren’t going away, then we need to be thinking about how they’ll interact with smart devices – and if that’s what Sony’s doing with Xperia and PlayStation, it’s a strategy that could pay off handsomely down the line.
Sony is denying that its PlayStation Vita is dead in the water, despite ignoring it during its E3 2015 presentation.
Slim PlayStation Vita went on sale in February and was greeted by a loud sounding yawn by the hand-held game community. Since then we have heard very little about it, and like most of the world, including Sony, did not really care.
PlayStation Europe boss Jim Ryan insisted to Gamespot that the system is still selling well and has “hundreds” of games in development.
“We’re still selling respectable quantities. We have a hundred games in development, and you might say, ‘Well yeah but they’re all indie games’, but many of these games review very highly. Also the PS4’s Remote Play feature is something that is valued a lot.”
Ryan also insists that the handheld market still exists, despite being gutted by tablets and smartphones.
He admitted that it was not as big as it used to be, but hell what these days is.
” A much smaller market than when the DS and PSP were in their glory days. But that market still does exist,” he added.
Despite his enthusiasm we don’t hold out much hope.
Word we are hearing is that Sony is planning to discontinue the PSP (or PlayStation Portable) and will end shipments later this year. If this ends up coming to pass, the handheld console which was a first for Sony, was launched way back in 2003 at E3, but it took some time for Sony’s first portable console to be available worldwide.
The PSP has gone through several revisions including the removal of the Universal Media Disc (UMD) and the release of a revised version known as the PSP Go which was a download only version that was a total failure and quickly killed off in 2011. A very popular revision of the console known as the slim and lite version known as the PSP-2000 sold quite well and it was followed by the PSP-3000 version which was tweaked and available in several special edition versions.
Since PSP games can be played on the PS Vita that came from the PlayStation Store, that also had to factor into the company’s decision as well. Word is that the decision to end the sales of the PSP does not and will not have any effect on the PlayStation Vita which will continue on as Sony’s portable gaming platform. Due to the included streaming gaming support that is included with the PlayStation 4 using the PS Vita, it is unlikely that Sony will be planning to discontinue the PS Vita anytime soon, but a lower cost hardware revision is likely in the cards at some point in the near future, sources tell us.
Total sales of the PSP in all of the console revisions is over 80 million consoles worldwide according to a number of sources.
Several Sony stores in the US have discounted the 3G PlayStation Vita by $100, with some branches asserting that it’s because the 3G machine is due to be discontinued.
A news story at Joystiq discovered the price cut, which extends to many but not all of the Sony stores in the US. Wi-Fi only models have not been discounted.
Sony employees from Denver, Las Vegas and New Jersey told Joystiq that the model is being taken off the market, but others were uncertain. Nobody was able to say whether the model would be replaced by a 4G machine or if we’d only see Wi-Fi only Vitas in the future.
The 3G package, which includes an 8GB memory card and a PSN voucher now costs $199.97 and comes with a data plan contract – which would seem to run contrary to any discontinuation rumours. However, if a 4G Vita is in the works, continuing data plan deals with networks would make more sense.
Sony has been contacted for clarification on the story and whether any price cut will become global.
There were quite a few things in Sony’s final results for fiscal 2011/12 which raised eyebrows – not least of all the headline figure, a vast loss of ¥456.7 billion (around $6.4 billion) whose only redeeming feature is that it’s not quite as high as the forecast made last month. Most of Sony’s real losses originated in the Consumer Products and Services Division, which filed an enormous ¥229.8 billion operating loss. That’s relevant to us, because along with LCD TVs, Vaio PCs and digital cameras, that division also houses Sony Computer Entertainment and the PlayStation business.
Away from the headline figures, though, it was an omission that really got eyebrows around the industry heading for the hairline. Sony, like most hardware manufacturers, generally tells the world how many units of hardware it sold in its financial results. That held true in today’s financial figures, with the company confessing to dropping sales across the board – figures for everything the firm sells were down, including the figures for its three game platforms, the PS3, PSP and PS2.
Wait… Three? Yes, in spite of the detail being provided elsewhere, none of which was particularly flattering (PS3 software sales were the sole bright point), the PlayStation Vita wasn’t anywhere to be found in the report. That omission was corrected by Kaz Hirai on the earnings call a little while later, with the newly anointed company boss revealing that PS Vita sales sat at 1.8 million worldwide in March. The lack of figures in the report, however, was enough to draw attention to the struggling handheld, and has raised the question of the prospects for the device once again.
Speculation as to why Sony didn’t simply cite Vita figures in its report is a fairly fruitless thing to engage in. 1.8 million by the year’s end is a weak figure, significantly behind the 3DS at a comparable point in its life (ahead of the steep price cut), but it’s more likely that Sony simply didn’t want to include a system only launched last December in a table of year-on-year comparisons than that it thought it could hide poor sales by leaving them out of the report. Vita is Sony’s latest device and the focus of intense interest from the industry and media alike. Nobody was ever going to flick through Sony’s presentation slides and just forget that Vita existed. Information like that simply doesn’t hide or slip by quietly in the internet age.
Regardless of motive, Vita’s figures are out there now, and they’re dismal. The console seems to be in a very peculiar place in terms of its market position. Unlike the 3DS, which was widely derided at its launch, with every two-bit pundit having a view on why it was destined for miserable failure, the Vita seems to be genuinely well-liked. I’ve yet to speak to anyone, within the industry or outside it, who has a strong view that says that the Vita is a poor system, or that its software line-up was disappointing (slow since launch, perhaps, but not disappointing overall). Yet the system is struggling to achieve even the modest success (and I’m really being kind there) which the 3DS enjoyed prior to its price cut.
Does that reflect a dangerous disconnection between the games industry and its consumers? While the industry loves the Vita, consumers simply don’t seem to care about it. Viewed from certain angles, that’s a fairly worrying situation – but then again, it’s hardly the first time this has happened. Games industry types love underdogs and have a taste for the obscure. The Neo Geo, the Saturn, the WonderSwan, the Dreamcast, the GameCube – hell, even the original Xbox – all of them are consoles resoundingly rejected by the public but utterly embraced by those within the industry. Watch the eyes of any game developer or journalist (two species with more in common than they like to admit) light up when they find a truly obscure piece of failed game hardware in a Japanese second-hand emporium, and you’ll see what I mean. It’s not wrong or strange for creators and those most tightly engaged with a medium to root for underdogs, and it doesn’t necessarily imply that they’re out of touch with their consumers.
On the other hand, that’s not a very reassuring idea for Sony, who would definitely rather that its new console didn’t get added to a list of companions like the DreamCast or the WonderSwan. On that front, there’s good news, and there’s bad news.
The good news is that Nintendo has proven firmly that even in a post-iOS world, there’s a market for dedicated handheld game consoles. Worldwide sales of the 3DS are poised to blast through 20 million (if they haven’t already done so), which frankly, is far ahead of what even the most optimistic observers thought possible from the device’s first year or so on the market. Apple’s devices dwarf Nintendo’s sales, of course, but Nintendo doesn’t really care – if it can maintain and even grow its market even while all of us are carrying around game-capable iOS devices in our pockets, it’ll be a happy (and profitable) company. A year ago, few people thought that was possible. Once again we’ve been reminded that you never, ever bet against Nintendo.
The bad news is that Sony isn’t Nintendo. PlayStation has extraordinary brand recognition, but the rapid rise of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 as a PlayStation competitor in the home market demonstrates just how precarious even a strong brand position can be – and in handheld gaming, PlayStation has never enjoyed the same sort of position it occupies in the home space. Moreover, Nintendo’s strengths lie in different places – not so much in its own brand (although “Nintendo” is still a great company brand in itself) as in its character and game franchises. Sony simply doesn’t have anything that competes with that, a fact which it has thrown into stark relief with its recent attempt to ape Nintendo’s Super Smash Brothers franchise. Time and again, Nintendo can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by rolling out a superb Mario or Zelda title, or dipping into the deep waters of its lesser (but still much-loved) franchises. Sony can’t.
That’s not to say that Vita can’t pull itself out of this slump with some strategic (and truly excellent) software titles. More than anything else, that’s exactly what the console needs – superb software that puts clear blue water between the capabilities of Vita and of 3DS, while also making the difference between Vita and iOS devices more clearly defined. That software needs to accomplish some difficult things. It needs to be a handheld title (not a home console title shoe-horned onto a smaller device, despite the dull refrain of “console quality!” we hear from so many publishers and developers), but one which leverages the power and capabilities of Vita to great effect. It needs to build fantastic word of mouth. And once Sony has one title that achieves that, it needs to repeat the success again. And again.
That’s the kind of software we’re going to be looking out for at E3 this year. Sony’s press conference needs to be a Vita showcase of epic proportions. It needs to thrill and amaze us with the software it’s got lined up for the new platform – to get fence-sitters like myself to actually get our wallets out and buy into the Vita dream. This is a rare chance to change the narrative – to stop us all from talking about how little Vita is selling, and get us all talking about how exciting the line-up is. A price-cut won’t hurt, of course – it’s probably essential – but even more than price cutting, that’s how Nintendo pulled the 3DS out of the fire, and that’s what Sony needs to do with Vita.
Sony’s PlayStation Vita will get another firmware update that has just been released. Coming in at 97MB, the latest firmware is said to address a number of stability issues and make the system more stable with a number of PlayStation Vita titles.
The version 1.67 update comes hot on the heels of a mandatory update that just dropped about a week ago. The last update seems to have caused issues for some users and created stability problems, while other users claimed to have no issues. It does seem to be related to the particular games you are playing.
If you own a PlayStation Vita, then you might as well update it, as we doubt that it could make things much worse than they already are for those having stability issues.
Sony has managed to sell 1.4 million PlayStation Vita consoles since December, in spite of a pretty slow start.
The Vita launched in December and it was met with a “meh” from quite a few consumers, but it is slowly starting to gain ground, although it is still behind Nintendo’s handheld console, the 3DS.
However, Sony is now saying that shipments are exceeding its own predictions, but there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Many observers believe handheld gaming consoles are dying a slow and quiet death, as an increasing number of consumers shift to smartphones and tablets for gaming on the go, or on the bog.
Sony is already gunning for the smartphone space and it recently introduced a couple of tablets, so it could adapt to new market trends and it seems to be in a much better position than Nintendo. We wonder if Nintendo execs and engineers are scratching their heads and thinking about some sort of cheap and cheerful gaming tablet.
Sony has said it’s already sold around 1.2 million of its latest Playstation Vita handheld gaming devices.
The unit represents the firm’s return to a games console line that has enjoyed no little success. However, with mobile phones increasingly being used for gaming its future did not look certain.
But the Playstation Vita has got off to a bright start, and although the firm did not break out figures for individual countries, it did say that it has sold 1.2 million worldwide, a figure that has beaten its own estimates. Software sales, games to go with the devices, stand at two million.
“PS Vita was designed to deliver the ultimate portable entertainment experience, and we couldn’t be more thrilled with the reaction we’re seeing from consumers and the pace at which PS Vita is selling,” said Andrew House, president and group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment.
“The market has responded and there is clear demand for a mobile device capable of providing a revolutionary combination of rich gaming and social connectivity within a real world context.”
House said that the firm will try to keep up this momentum by working closely with third party developers to create a fleet of unmissable game titles.
So far less than 30 titles are available for the PS Vita, with around 70 still in development.
Rumours of PlayStation Vita developers abandoning the platform in favour of working on 3DS titles, which surfaced via an anonymous quote in Japan’s Nikkei, have been refuted by Sony’s senior VP of Worldwide Studios Scott Rohde.
Speaking to Gamasutra, Rohde said that the report was inaccurate, although admitted that there will always be a fluctuating platform preference in a changing market.
“I did not see that quote, but you see extremist quotes like that all the time,” said Rohde when asked about the Nikkei article, which was written by the head of the Japanese branch of the IGDA, Kiyoshi Shin.
The unattributed quote, said to be from a senior member of the Japanese development community, was unequivocal in its assessment.
“Major Japanese companies are canceling all projects intended for the Vita and are changing development to the 3DS,” the source claimed.
“Obviously, there is no way anyone could stand in front of a camera and say that all developers are changing focus from one platform to another, no matter what it is,” countered Rohde continuing that the report was “largely exaggerated. I know many, many, many third party developers and publishers are feverishly working on Vita titles, not just for now, but for the foreseeable future.”
“There’s always going to be the hot platform of the moment in our industry,” Rodhe told Gamasutra. “There’s always going to be reason to talk about a story like that.”
“You can, whatever – rewind two years ago. Every developer was you knew was selling – going towards – I was going to say ‘selling their soul’, it almost came out – to go build games for Zynga and the Facebook platform. And there’s another time when you see everyone is going to do smaller iPad games, or iOS games in general. Then it was PS3, it was 360, it’s Vita, it’s 3DS. It’s always, constantly changing. It’s not something that concerns me whatsoever.”
Sony’s platform could certainly use a boost. Australia’s three largest retailers have announced that they won’t sell Vita, whilst the system continues to struggle on home turf in Japan.
Sony can’t be happy with the news that they only moved another 19,000 PC Vita units last week. While the company is busy spinning the fact that they have sold over 500,000 units, these numbers in our opinion make long-term success questionable at best.
The PS Vita needs software; that and that alone is the key right now, and Sony just does not have enough of it yet for the platform. With sinking sales, Sony might have to deploy a price cut just to keep units moving until more software is released.
If we go by the recent Nintendo experience with the 3DS, a price cut could happen sooner than Sony might like; Nintendo was forced into making this play when it only had sold about 1.3 million units. With the sales numbers that Sony is doing right now, it is going to take almost the rest of the year to reach the 1.3 million number.
Unless it gets off to a hot start in North America and Europe, we have to believe that a price cut is coming. This is evidenced by the lack of software that normally should be plentiful and available near launch time. Once again, the line-up and number of choices isn’t what Sony might like. It is all about software; and unless you are moving units, no developer is going to take the risk to produce software for it.
Apparently Sony’s Playstation Vita has not recovered from the news that it had problems.
Sony quickly moved to fix the technical issues of the PlayStation Vita, but it seems that sales of the device have fallen dramatically. Sales of the PlayStation Vita have fallen by nearly 80 percent during the week that ended on December 25. According to tracking outfit Media Create Sony sold 325,000 Vita units on December 17 and 18, but only sold about 10,000 units a day during the following week.
Sales of the PlayStation Portable beat sales of the PlayStation Vita by approximately 25,000 units. Nintendo’s 3DS sold half a million units in the same week. While analysts say that smartphones and tablets are killing off the Vita it does not explain why the others are doing ok.
Possibly because it costs shedloads? The Wi-Fi model of the PlayStation Vita costs about $320 and the 3G/Wi-Fi model costs approximately $385 in Japan. Vita also requires the purchase of a Sony memory card that starts at $20 for the 4GB size and ranges up to $100 for the 32GB card. Sony is also planning on selling a $40 “starter kit” that includes a 4GB memory card, screen cover, card case, cleaning cloth, headphones and carry pouch.
Meanwhile the Nintendo 3DS is cheaper.
The PlayStation Vita sold 321,407 units in its first two days on sale in Japan, according to research firm Enterbrain.
The data, reported by Andriasang, covers December 17 and 18 and puts the Vita behind the Nintendo 3DS, which sold 371,326 in its first two days.
The number of Vita units sold is almost half the rumoured initial shipment of 700,000.
The Vita’s predecessor, the PSP, sold 166,074 units in its first day – second day sales are not available.
The PlayStation Vita launches in the US and Europe in February. The US launch is thought to include Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Motorstorm RC, ModNation Racers: Road Trip and WipEout 2048.
To read Rob Fahey’s latest editorial, in which he considers the Vita as one of the key launches of 2011.
Pre-order demand for the PlayStation Vita has prompted Sony to ship an extra 200,000 units ahead of its Japanese launch tomorrow.
According to to a report on Andriasang, a columnist for the Japanese website Mainichi Digital heard from various sources that Sony initially planned to ship 500,000 units.
However, several major retailers – including Tsutaya, Yodbashi Camera and Bic Camera – were concerned that the high number of pre-orders threatened their ability to make the Vita available to customers who didn’t place an order in advance,
The Vita’s initial shipment is now thought to exceed 700,000.
In statistics provided by analytics firm Flurry, iOS and Android had a 58 per cent share of the revenue from US portable game software. The Nintendo DS had only 36 per cent, with Sony’s PSP trailing at just 6 per cent.
In 2009 mobile games took just 19 per cent of the market, rising to 34 per cent in 2010, while Nintendo has seen the opposite, falling from a dominant 70 per cent in 2009.
The study calculated the changing revenue totals for the portable gaming market at $2.7 billion for 2009, $2.5 billion in 2010 and $3.3 billion in 2011. Those numbers, combined with cheap and easy access to games through App Stores, and the rise of free-to-play revenues, appear to make for a profitable combination.
Flurry also points out the there are around 250 million iOS devices and 190 million Android devices currently in circulation.
What the study doesn’t make clear is whether or not the figures take into account the recent 3DS release, nor does it acknowledge the relative age of the Sony PSP, which is soon to be replaced by the PlayStation Vita, a factor that could stop consumers investing in software for a machine they’re planning to replace.
The figures were compiled by Flurry from NPD reports, public data and information from mobile devices. Figures for November and December 2011 were estimated, based previous performance ratios.
The PlayStation Vita’s browser will support part of the HTML5 standard but not Adobe’s Flash at launch, reports claim, although support may well be introduced afterwards.
Sony has also revealed that the machine will require proprietary memory cards in order to launch some games and to download and store content, giving Sony free-rein to set the price of the peripherals.
These cards will be a new format, and won’t be compatible with Sony’s previous Memory Stick standard.
The information arose from an extensive PR Q&A with Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu, which asked Sony to give details on many issues of concern to consumers.
The interview also makes clear that any movies or games customers downloaded for PSP via the PSN will be available for download on the Vita for free, although the matter of transferring save files remains unclear.