Why People Will Buy the Vita and 3DS

The Playstation Vita launched yesterday and already articles like this one are coming out:

“It almost feels like Sony designed a product for a world where smartphones and tablets don’t exist,” said Gartner Research Director Michael Gartenberg. “It costs more than most phones and the same as most gaming consoles. It is hard to say who is the market for this.”

Somebody go tell Gartner, the market is consumers who want to play the best AAA games out there, not bored housewives.   Somebody also tell them that an iPad costs $500-$900, an iPhone costs $300-500, and an iPod Touch costs about the same as a Vita and you still have a ton of people who fork out their money to replace one or more of these devices every year.  Contrast this with a  $170 3DS or $250 Vita that won’t have to be replaced for half a decade and suddenly the pricing is not that big a deal.

If the Vita doesn’t click with consumers, it would not be the first handheld device to disappoint.

Consumers shrugged off Nintendo’s last handheld, the 3DS, when it came out last March. Less than four months later, the company had to cut the price by $80 from $249.99 because of disappointing sales.

Over the holiday season, the 3DS became a success.  It is now the best selling console of all time in Japan and has outsold the DS in its first 12 months to market.  The writer must’ve been asleep for the last 6 months.

Here’s another one.

Sony tried this once before. People had serious doubts about the Playstation 4, a bulky, expensive piece of powerful hardware that powered through early lackluster sales and established itself as a viable and dominant home console.

The fact the guy thinks the Playstation 4 actually exists makes me scratch my head.  That he put a picture of the original PSP instead of the Vita makes me scratch it again.

 Even as Sony attempts to position the Vita as the only mobile gaming device worth having, the hardware seems self-conscious of its own relationship to modern handhelds. It looks like an Apple device, with its rounded edges and shiny black finish. And it’s loaded down with all manner of gizmos that the core gaming audience they’re aiming at usually spurns: tilt controls, front and rear cameras, not one but two touchscreens.

Piano black is not an Apple attribute.  The DS came in piano black.  So did the first PSP.  The one industrial design attribute that’s strictly Apple is a gorilla glass encasing.  But the Vita doesn’t use that.  It uses a plastic bezel.  So what is he talking about?  Who knows.

And there’s a difference between shunning the core gaming audience and supplementing a core gaming device with features to capture other markets.  I don’t feel like explaining it right now.

You don’t buy hardware just to marvel at hardware specs.  You buy it because serves a purpose.  The one that serves this purpose better than the others wins.   For gaming hardware, the purpose is to play games.  If both smartphones and dedicated devices lacked games worth playing, they would both fail at their purpose.  Thus the software becomes as definitive a factor as hardware specs, if not more, in everything from customer satisfaction to profitability.   Thus it makes more sense to scrutinize the gaming experience on these devices than to talk something as derivative as industrial design.  Which analysts and journalists are not doing.  The “in” thing to do nowadays is conflate $1 minigames with $50 console games.

Bottomline, for tablets/smartphones to make dedicated gaming devices obsolete, they have to have games that are as good as the ones on these devices.  But they don’t, due to reasons I talked about in a previous post.  Because of this and because mobile developers have no way/plans to remedy this, dedicated devices will continue to have a market and the 3DS and Vita will do quite well.

Other thoughts:

  • You know how you go to Fry’s and next to the AAA PC games they have a shelf full of cheap $5 games in cardboard sleeves?  App store games are the portable equivalent.  Budget software galore.
  • The rule on mobile is the minigame and Freemium pricing that degrades quality.  The rule on dedicated handhelds are AAA games with a price point that mandates quality.
  • The smartphone/tablet is a launching point for minigames.  Every single one of these minigames can be ported to the Vita without a loss in user experience.  Yet, on a Vita, these games are now second tier to exclusive AAA gameplay, just extra diversions on the side.
  • The opposite doesn’t work.  You can’t take a Vita game or 3DS game and port it to iOS without loss – both because of hardware limitations and because of pricing.
  • There’s conflation about the direction the gaming market is headed because of Apple and Android’s success as platforms and the influx of tablets.  Reality is, while the platforms and their accompanying hardware are successful, the app store business model sitting on these platforms is flawed.
  • The 3DS is a launching point for beloved Nintendo IP that can’t be found anywhere else.  Nintendo is a company that has proven it knows how to make games and is all about innovation.  Gamers will buy and have been buying the 3DS for these reasons.
  • The Vita is the closest thing on the market to having a AAA console experience in your hands.  It’s the device best suited to porting best selling AAA console IP such as FPS’s and sports games.  Gamers will buy a Vita for this reason.

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One Response to “Why People Will Buy the Vita and 3DS”

  1. ps1 Says:


    […]Why People Will Buy the Vita and 3DS « Jia's Sounding Board[…]…

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