Why The PlayStation Vita Flopped

Why The PlayStation Vita Flopped
Image: Supplied

The Sony PlayStation Vita is officially dead. The portable gaming system – which never came close to rivalling Nintendo’s DS range – has ceased production after eight lacklustre years on the market. Here are some of the reasons it failed to live up to its potential.

When the PlayStation Vita launched back in 2011 Sony was doubtlessly expecting big things. At the time, the Nintendo DS was still selling truckloads and there was clearly an appetite for high-spec portable gaming. Unfortunately, despite a successful launch in Japan, sales of the device quickly nosedived with a reported drop of 78% in its second week.

Tellingly, by its second year on the market, Sony stopped releasing direct sales figures for the device. Third-party support from games publishers began to falter, particularly in western markets where the device sold particularly poorly.

Over the next few years, Sony slashed the RRP, released an improved ‘Slim’ model and heavily integrated it with the PlayStation 4, but these measures did little to reverse the console’s fortunes.

So what went wrong? The launch price of $349 put off a lot of prospective customers. (At the time of launch, the Nintendo 3DS was $100 cheaper.) Sony’s decision to use a propriety memory card for game and data storage also received a lot of criticism.

But ultimately, its failure can be attributed to the rise of smartphones as viable gaming platforms. This was exacerbated by Sony’s deliberate shift away from big-budget Vita games in favour of modestly budgeted titles, most of which could run comfortably on a flagship Android.

With that said, there’s obviously a market for a dedicated mobile console – how else do you explain the success of the Nintendo Switch and 3DS?

Perhaps what Sony really needed was an AAA ‘killer app’ in the mould of Pokemon or Zelda. The closest the Vita ever got was a standalone Killzone title: hardly an IP that ships units.

The Vita was officially discontinued on March 1, 2019. It marks an end of an era for Sony, with the company confirming it won’t be launching another portable gaming console – at least for the foreseeable future.

Personally, I never got much use out of my Vita but I’m still sad to see it go. The platform was a great hub for interesting PC ports and indie games that many gamers would otherwise never have got to experience. You can check out some of its best titles in the video below.

Rest in peace, Vita. You were the Dreamcast of portables.


  • I remember a snobby Harvey Norman salesman saying “We only stock Sony Vita, no one is buying Nintendo” when enquiring about where the DS games where.

  • One of the reasons the Switch succeeded where the Vita failed was because Nintendo released it with full game engine support for Unity and Unreal, which lowered the barrier for developer entry to just porting and optimisation in a development application they already knew very well.

    • Yes! 100% this was a major problem. It was an extra $100 to basically have a decent memory card on the system. The vita should have had multiple things fixed in its revision:
      – micro SD card support
      – HDMI out connection (anyone who has played on a Vita TV says the game look fine and the PSP 2000 onwards had video out for games)
      – a GTA (if Rockstar would do it), God of War or Gran Turismo game (all of which appeared on PSP and were decent sellers)

    • That there was the system’s biggest flaw. If they had allowed standard SD cards instead of their proprietary ones they sold at ridiculous prices, I don’t think we’d quite be talking about the failure of the system right now.

      I still don’t think it would have beaten the 3DS mind you because its library of great games was dwarfed by the 3DS and a lot of good games for the system for some reason never made it out of Japan, but the competition would have been closer at least.

  • I own a Vita and constantly hoped that new, good quality games would be released but that never happened. That plus the fact that FIFA was released early and at the time was decent but follow up versions were only cosmetic changes but it needed an overhaul but instead it was dropped.

    I have now modded it and use frequently.

  • “Perhaps what Sony really needed was an AAA ‘killer app’ in the mould of Pokemon or Zelda.”
    Ummmmmmm helllo
    Persona 4 Golden?
    That alone sold me on buying one . Still use it to this day with no regrets, I’m a trophy whore plus the switch was too big and uncomfortable for me to hold

  • I have one and still use it, I would buy more games for it if I could get memory cards at a decent price. I got my vita fairly cheap so it means that if I want a 64gb card it will end up being the same price as the console itself.

  • Had Sony been smart enough to just let people use SD or MicroSD cards in these, it would’ve boosted the sales immensely. Cheaper storage options would’ve been a far more attractive prospect, but as it were, when I bought one, the LEAST attractive prospect was the disgusting pricing points of the memory cards. We ended up turning to Ebay and getting knockoff cards which eventually packed it in. When they did, we basically didn’t go back to using it alas, just sorta gave up on it.

  • I find that the biggest problem was that to actually get games you have to buy them online through the Vita itself and your account has to be setup and separated by country, to even be able to get some games. I know I bought a Fate game when it was originally released on AU side, but I replaced the memory card and reset the console to US just to be able to get games that was not set for release here. Very badly planed, where as the consoles seem to have been well done since the original PS.

  • The fucking memory cards cost more than the actual console when its second hand

    Im sorry but for the price of a 64gb memory card i can buy a fucking android tablet

    Of course its going to fail, doesnt matter how much they slash the cost of the console if the memory cards NEVER GO DOWN IN PRICE

  • One good thing about the Vita is that it now has a robust homebrewing scene and you can buy a “vita2sd” which is an adaptor using the gamecart slot to add an SD card. Drawback is you can’t use game carts but you can put backups onto the sd and play from there.

  • Pretty much already been summed up by everyone. The Memory Cards were an insanely bad rip off for no other reason but to price gorge.

    Was a great system otherwise but Sony’s greed killed this system on arrival. I had one and even I could never justify the 200.00 or whatever it was for the biggest memory card.

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