Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida suggested this weekend that Sony won't make another handheld. Asked about the PlayStation Vita at EGX 2015, he said that the "climate" for dedicated portable platforms is not healthy right now because of the dominance of mobile gaming. This made a lot of people angry, with many blaming the Japanese giant for the failure of its pocketable appliance. But is the company really to blame?
There are parts of the Vita project that were colossal clangers, of that there's no doubt: the memory card gouging was a disgusting tactic, the marketing was never particularly good, and the organisation's inability to secure strong third-party support was always going to be its undoing. But you can't point pitchforks at the platform holder for that final one – it somehow secured an original Assassin's Creed and Call of Duty, after all – and you can't crucify it for a lack of effort either.
For starters, the handheld's launch lineup was outrageous – it's still the best in PlayStation history, even after the PlayStation 4. There was the decent Uncharted: Golden Abyss, the excellent WipEout 2048, and even quality downloadable titles like Super Stardust Delta and Escape Plan. That little selection was soon followed by other good first-party games like Gravity Rush and Unit 13 – the former of which looks set to become an important property for the PS4 moving forwards.
Some will argue that the support stopped soon after launch, but Sony did give it another push. Killzone Mercenary is the best first-person shooter ever released on a handheld system, while Tearaway quickly became a critical darling that nobody bought. To say that the handheld was ignored by Sony's first-party studios is unfair – the company tried with various new and old brands, but the market simply didn't bite.
Some may point to the Nintendo 3DS as evidence that the climate is rosier than Sony's suggesting, but it's not true. The firm's current handheld – which is surely in the twilight years of its lifespan – has sold just over 50 million units to date, a significant reduction compared to the Nintendo DS' incredibly impressive 150 million units. You could argue that this was an anomaly, but the Game Boy Advance surpassed 80 million units and its predecessor 118 million units. The market has shrunk.
And there's no evidence to suggest that it's going to grow any time soon either. More and more people are playing mobile games – smartphones and tablets are currently the top grossing platforms for children aged 2 to 17 according to the NPD – and subsequently it wouldn't matter if a hypothetical Vita 2 launched alongside Half-Life 3, because it still wouldn't sell. You can point to the poor selection of PSone Classics available or the cancellation of BioShock Vita as shortcomings – but do these things matter in the grander commercial sense?
We suppose that there's an argument to be made that Sony could have done more with the system, but a stronger E3 press conference presence wouldn't have convinced supermarkets to carry the device. Fans think that they know best, but they also begged for a retail copy of Freedom Wars – which subsequently sold like s***. And yes, you could argue that $250 was too much for what the console is – but we remember when the price was announced, and people were dancing in the streets. Practically everyone expected to pay much more.
We're not trying to absolve Sony of all blame, but we reckon that people are being harsh burning the organisation at the stake. The reason that so many are passionate about the platform is because the company made the best possible portable that it could at the time, but the reason that we're in this situation is because not enough people wanted it in the first place. That's not your fault, but it's not entirely Sony's fault either. The market has quite simply changed.
Do you blame Sony solely for the Vita's problems, or is the situation more complicated as illustrated above? Go mobile in the comments section below.
Is Sony to blame for the Vita’s demise? (108 votes)
Yes, it should have put a lot more effort in
Partially, but it was mostly out of the firm’s hands
Not at all, the market has massively changed
I’m not really sure anymore
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