Not only had Sony demonstrated a substantially more capable handheld platform than its peers, it also seemed to show a reasonable understanding of the current market-place. Handheld platforms need to both accompany the home-console experience, and differentiate from it. Vita can do that. Sony seems to understand that it can't compete with the device in everyone's pocket. Vita, then, is a companion device. It also happens to be carrying a sensational price-tag.
When Kaz Hirai announced that $249 base price-point for PlayStation Vita, the audience at the Sony press conference erupted. It's the right price, it's a competitive price. Based on the scant offerings Nintendo had to show for its 3DS platform — admittedly we will buy Luigi's Mansion 2 — Sony must smell the scent of blood.
Even the most ardent Nintendo fan would find it hard to make a case in favour of the 3DS' value when compared to the PlayStation Vita. Sony's device is literally in a whole different ball-park to the 3Ds, and that's exciting. What's most intriguing is just how complimentary the device appears to be to the PlayStation experience. Sharing functionality with the PlayStation Network, it's staggering just how far Sony has come with its infrastructure. While its tender ground to tread in wake of the PlayStation Network data breach, it's certainly something the company doesn't get enough credit for. Remember the state of the PlayStation Network in 2007? Sony's accelerated in that space at an alarming rate.
But while positivity for the Vita is high, Sony seems destined to squander its opportunity at really putting Nintendo under pressure. Despite announcing a "global calendar 2011 release" for the PlayStation Vita during its press conference, SCEA president Jack Tretton back-tracked during a live interview with Geoff Keighley yesterday. He said Sony was targeting a "fiscal year" release for the new handheld worldwide, indicating some regions outside of Japan would be forced to wait as late as March to get hold of the system.
It just feels like Sony's dallying. Admittedly we don't know anything about the company's production process, and we understand its main manufacturing plants have been hit by the recent earthquake in Japan — but missing that important holiday season, especially in the West, seems like a missed opportunity for the PlayStation Vita. What's worse is that Tretton committed to a Japanese launch this year, despite the strong Western focus of the device's launch software. Why release in a region where the PlayStation Portable is still the top selling system with a bunch of Western focused games? It's baffling to us.
Sony could really eat into the Nintendo 3DS' sales this holiday. It's obviously not doom-and-gloom for Nintendo — Super Mario will always sell systems — but from a value proposition perspective, the PlayStation Vita could kill it.
It seems like Sony's biggest enemy right now is itself. Enhance production, or put that Japanese launch on hold for a couple of months — North America and Europe needs the PlayStation Vita this holiday. It's baffling to us that Sony would even consider squandering the advantage it held at the climax of its E3 press briefing.