The PS Vita is here. Or rather, it’s in Japan, two months ahead of it’s worldwide debut. I am not going to type at length about its hardware, or features, or other device specifics – there’s already an excellent, in-depth review of the Vita at Joystiq here. Simply put, the PS Vita is a not-exactly-pocket-shaped portable console, built roughly along the lines of a PSP and packed with enough hardware to blow a PS3 out of the water. It’s a dedicated, portable console.
Unfortunately [or fortunately] times have shifted since the gameboy era. Let’s consider the iOS and Android platforms: Iphones and Ipads have flooded the market. Android devices are on the rise. Developers who have not been previously able to break into the high-end mobile gaming sector due to strict regulations imposed by the likes of Sony and Nintendo, and also because of the cost of development kits, have jumped onto these smartphone platforms and are releasing wildly. Result? We’ve got Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, selling millions of copies, and and hundreds of thousands of other, innovative games on these smartphone platforms. More games than Sony or Nintendo ever had.
And there’s the fact that millions of people have an Iphone. Or a similar smartphone. Which, put simply, is a larger customer / player base that these dedicated console manufacturers have. The relative ease of use of developing and releasing games has led to lots of games on smartphone platforms that LOTS of people own. User for user, there’s more people gaming now on smartphones than portable consoles.
Which has the PS Vita outnumbered.
There will always be gamers who go for handhelds like the Vita. While mobile phones are getting better, Sony’s handhelds are getting even better in terms of hardware and features. But in terms of sensibility, Sony is simply pouring money into a dead end. Handheld consoles won’t die soon – but eventually, a few years from now, they will. Phones are catching up. 12 MP cameras, folks. Even Sony’ genius engineers will hit the line: there’s only so much power you can pack into a mobile device while keeping it affordable.
A far better option, from both a developer perspective AND from a business viewpoint, is to cross over. Handheld consoles are becoming closer and closer to smartphones – touch interfaces, WiFi, 3G, digital camera – while phones head towards console-quality VGA cards and dual-core processors. Why not get ahead of the other manufacturers by combining Sony’s industry experience and tech prowess to bring true portable gaming to a smartphone? Sony tried it with the Xperia Play. It wasn’t so successful, but it’s a start – there’s no other mobile manufacturer on the planet with as much game hardware and software development experience as Sony. Plus, Sony[Ericsson] has a name for top-notch mobile phones. More people recognize the Walkman series, for example, than the PS portables. There’s more market for a smartphone that plays “Wow! Sony’s games, dude,” than there is for an expensive, dedicated mobile console that drains its batteries within 4 hours.
An even better fact? This opens up top-notch mobile gaming to more developers. Sony could very well implement something like the XBLA / XBLIG system – where Sony’s publications, and highlights are separated from “the pool” of games being released. Sony’s platforms would get top-notch content from the likes of Gameloft, while maintaining a pool of indies they can keep an eye on. Win-win, folks.
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. And outdo ’em.