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.