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Talking Point: Sony's Bold Move with Vita First Edition Bundle

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Genius or madness?

Today's a big day: Sony’s latest plunge into handheld gaming, the technologically brilliant Vita, is out now. Well, sort of.

It’s available in the U.S. and Canada for those who pre-ordered the First Edition Bundle, only available from selected retailers. For gamers who are keen enough, and willing to pay a premium price, they can enjoy the console a week before everyone else outside of Japan.

On the surface this seems like a strange promotion, and we say that as a team that has lived through plenty of console releases. The official launch date is 22nd February, but Sony has wilfully broken that, and in effect redefined what it means to be a launch day buyer. For those in Europe, for example, there’s no choice in the matter, but gamers in North America will always have to clarify which launch day in which they participated. It’s easy to disregard this as unimportant, but it’s worth looking at this in terms of its impact on the overall launch of Vita.

The bundles themselves were certainly priced to target loyal, die-hard fans of Sony gaming. Sony’s official First Edition unboxing showed off a case designed to keep the shiny OLED screen in decent condition, a boxed retail copy of Little Deviants and, most importantly, a 4GB memory card. These extras are attractive, but the devil's in the detail. In order to get the console early you had to play by Sony’s rules, which meant that U.S. owners not only had to take the 3G model, but also pay a hefty $349.99. The Canadian equivalent cost $299.99 and came with the Wi-Fi version, but each region was restricted to a single choice, unless consumers ordered from across the border.

A packed-in 4GB memory card may sound great, for example, but in practice is barely enough for a retail download of Uncharted: Golden Abyss and some small PSN extras.

Fans and eager gamers can rightly point to the earlier release date and the included accessories and game as a worthwhile trade-off for a premium price and lack of choice, and it’s ultimately down to individual opinion whether this represents good value for money or not. There’s little doubt, however, that the pricing and contents of these bundles was carefully put together by Sony to provide a sense of value for money, while actually giving away the minimum extras necessary. A packed-in 4GB memory card may sound great, for example, but in practice is barely enough for a retail download of Uncharted: Golden Abyss and some small PSN extras.

Beyond debates about the true value of the bundle, it’s the release date that raised our collective eyebrows here at Push Square. As mentioned earlier, the fact that no such advance bundle exists in Europe is quite a surprise in the modern age of worldwide coordinated release dates. This edition caters for loyal PlayStation gamers, so it seems strange that no equivalent opportunity exists outside of North America.

What this does, in all regions, is essentially divide some of the hype around the launch of the system. The negative perspective is that this dilutes the launch day buyers, and a group of gamers will be well into a week of gaming on their shiny new handhelds before the majority can join in. It could also influence and confuse matters in terms of opening sales, with the gaming media now accounting for two sets of figures. It may seem minor, but with the importance of internet headlines and hype as marketing tools, this could be slightly troublesome.

On the flipside, however, this could transpire to be an example of savvy marketing from Sony. It no doubt hopes that First Edition owners will be flooding internet forums, Twitter and YouTube with rave reviews about their Vita, providing first-hand testimony of why we should all be picking one up on 22nd February: customer advocacy is vital to Vita's success. As a system facing issues about cost, not just of the hardware but also memory cards and games, it’s more important than ever for encouraging word-of-mouth to spread and dispel doubt. In the case of U.S. early adopters, in particular, it gives Sony an early opportunity to get some 3G models onto the market, which is vital after the model’s terrible start in Japan.

It’ll be interesting to see how the First Edition bundle performs, as it could set a new trend in console launches. We’ve become accustomed to fixed launch dates and images of fans gathering on a single day to queue for their new machines. If this bundle performs well, perhaps Nintendo and Microsoft will be tempted to offer advance pre-orders to loyal fans.

What do you think? Is this bundle an over-priced deal to cash in on the most loyal fans, or is it a good value package that will also generate more hype ahead of the main launch? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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User Comments (14)

NathanUC

#1

NathanUC said:

I feel the only benefit to this package over the Launch edition is the early release. In all practicality the Launch edition is probably a much smarter move due to double the memory. 4gb isn't enough (nor is 8 really, but it's manageable). The week early was a smart move by Sony though... just wish it included 8gb memory card or a better game.

CorbsAdmin

#2

Corbs said:

Might spread a little word of mouth this week, but this package is mostly for the impatient gamers (like me) who can't wait. LOL

Paranoimia

#3

Paranoimia said:

My only disappointment is that we in Europe didn't get a similar option, especially as sales suggest we are generally Sony's most loyal customer base outside of Japan.

Squiggle55

#4

Squiggle55 said:

I wanted a 32 gb card and I mostly just play my games at home, so the first edition bundle made absolutely no sense to me. I would have had to pay 450 dollars. 350 dollars for wifi and 32gb will do me just fine I suspect.

Blaze

#6

Blaze said:

I don't see why Sony left Europe out, but I think really it's evident that this was Sony's way of getting loyal fans to fork over extra money for an early console. Then again, I'm sure the NA fans will be pleased to be getting their Vita's early!

CorbsAdmin

#7

Corbs said:

Yes I think Push Square users will like the Vita. It's a remarkable little game system. Loads of power under the hood and tons of control variations. Take a look at Rayman Origins running on that baby and I think you'll see what I mean. :D

Dak_n_Jaxter

#8

Dak_n_Jaxter said:

I've waited this long, one more week's not a problem. Seeing as i don't want 3g, Little Deviants, or a 4gb card, it doesn't really make any sense to me. Wait and spend your money on exactly what you want... imo. It's gonna be a long week though :)

chiptoon

#10

chiptoon said:

I just can't get over the memory cards. Not the price, although that's a pain, but the size. Even at the largest size I would fill it up within a year. So at the moment they represent an on-going expense. And an expensive one at that.

Managing memory on the Wii was one of the most annoying things about the system (and I LOVE the Wii). It made the Wii seem out of date. Why has Sony done this to their cutting edge new handheld?

SkeeterHarris

#11

SkeeterHarris said:

Just a brilliant move by Sony to build buzz and hype for the new console. This thing is truly amazing and it literally a PS/3 in your hands. The big surprise for me was Rayman Origins... The graphics on this game and some of the others are just incredible. Yes a little expensive to be first but it always costs more to be an early adopter.

NathanUC

#12

NathanUC said:

@chiptoon 32gb might be a limitation set by the OS similar to the old FAT32 standard. I would hope this isn't the case (probably not, but you never know). When I got my PSP 1000, I paid $99 for a 1gb memory card.. just saying :P Sizes go up, prices go down.

Yankeejer

#13

Yankeejer said:

I didn't order the first edition bundle, and I still got my Vita on Feb.13 in Canada. I heard there was a ton of other people that had the same thing happen to them. I ordered the $249.99 wifi model from Amazon.ca.

Great system by the way. The OLED is magnificent. Can't wait until the Vita starts developing good games.

Sakura_Moonlight2421

#14

Sakura_Moonlight2421 said:

5 days earlier is worth shelling out the extra cash. I want a PS Vita but I'm not that impatient. What I'm impatient about is when Ni no Kuni will have a release date in the U.S.

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