Sony's follow-up to the PSP, the PS Vita, is meant to be the Nintendo 3DS's direct competitor--but thus far, sales are a bit lacking. The handheld launched in Japan last December, and hit Western retail in February, but sales numbers dropped off sharply after its debut.
Legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto has a few ideas why, and he shared his insight with Edge Online while in Paris earlier this week. Simply put, the Vita needs games. "It's obviously a very hi-spec machine, and you can do lots of things with it," Miyamoto said, "but I don't really see the combination of software and hardware that really makes a very strong product."
Of course, sales of the Nintendo 3DS likewise stagnated following its February/March 2011, a problem that was rectified when Nintendo dropped the handheld's price and released a batch of must-have software.
Miyamoto acknowledged the 3DS's slow start as well. "When we launched the 3DS hardware we didn't have Super Mario 3D Land, we didn't have Mario Kart 7, we didn't have Kid Icarus: Uprising," he said. "We were striving to have all of these ready for the launch, but we weren't able to deliver them at that time.
"We were kind of hoping that people would, nevertheless, buy into the product, find 3DS hardware promising, but looking back we have to say we realise the key software was missing when we launched the hardware."
In other words, all these years later, game systems are still defined and sold by their software. With smartphones, function comes first, and games are secondary. With dedicated game systems, it's the other way around. Sales of the Vita aren't going to pick up until Sony gets those must-haves out the door.
Despite what people may think, though, Sony does have its hands on a lot of compelling franchises that will reverse the Vita's fortunes in time. The system has a lot of potential, and it's not dead yet. It just needs to find its footing. And, heck, one exclusive Monster Hunter game is all it'll take to get the machine back on its feet in Japan. It's good to see that Miyamoto recognizes all of this, and isn't simply trashing Sony for its misfortunes.
Barely a year ago, people were writing off the 3DS as a dead animal. Now, it's selling at a very healthy pace. No reason why the PS Vita shouldn't be in better shape a year from now.
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