When the PlayStation Vita first launched, Sony pitched their new handheld as a beefier alternative to smartphone gaming. With a touchscreen on its front, a touchpad on its rear, two analogue sticks and a camera, the PS Vita would be able to offer sillier games such as Frobisher Says, as well as more hardcore and mature games such as Killzone: Mercenary. While this strategy made sense in theory, in practice the PS Vita hasn’t exactly ignited the sales charts, and as of July 2014 (just over two years after its release) the handheld had sold around 10 million units worldwide.
Interest in the PS Vita has been boosted by bundles that sold the PS4 and the PS Vita together, as well as the Remote Play feature. Moreover, Sony has also released a second-generation PS Vita, the PS Vita Slim, which is 15% lighter, has an extra hour of battery life, and is cheaper due to its LCD screen. But these new offerings have all been offset by the lack of first party titles, the shutdown of the PlayStation Mobile program, and the fact that Sony considers the console to be a “legacy” platform. And then there’s the biggest factor of all: the rise of smartphone gaming, which even a dedicated gaming handheld struggles to compete against.
It’s unclear what Sony should do next to get the handheld back on track (if at all) but some feel that it would be better for the company to cut its losses and start work on the PlayStation Vita 2. Unfortunately, smartphone gaming is such a huge obstacle that during a Q&A session at EGX 2015, Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios, told attendees that the climate is “not healthy” enough for Sony to release the PS Vita 2 right now.
“People have mobile phones and it’s so easy to play games on smartphones and many games on smartphones are free, or free to start. I myself am a huge fan of PlayStation Vita and we worked really hard on designing every aspect. Touch-based games are fun – there are many games with really good design. But having sticks and buttons make things totally different. So I hope, like many of you, that this culture of playing portable games continues but the climate is not healthy for now because of the huge dominance of mobile gaming.”
While many people will be disappointed by Yoshida’s words, he is correct in saying that the smartphone market is a tough place to compete. This year, mobile gaming revenues are expected to overtake that of console games, with titles like Clash of Clans, Angry Birds 2, and even the new game from pop singer Demi Lovato making bank from microtransactions.
It’s also important to consider that Sony itself is contributing to the obstacle of mobile gaming. The company’s smartphone business may not be doing so well (investors have called for them to sell it off) but they just announced their Sony Xperia Z5 Premium flagship phone and with that handset having a 4K display and 3GB of RAM (almost six times the Vita’s 512MB of RAM) it gives consumers yet another reason not to buy the company’s handheld games console instead.
Do you think that Sony is right to hold back on the PS Vita 2? What do you think the PS Vita 2 needs to be successful? Leave a comment and let us know.