Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Vita Price And Release Date Announced... Too Much?

The Sony PS Vita finally has a price and release date: The Wi-Fi model is $249, the 3G model is $299, and it's coming out on February 22nd. The hardware looks great, the launch library seems good, everything about it looks nice. The touchscreen on the back of it means that your hand is off of the screen when you're trying to control the system with it.

We need to back up a bit, though. Let's talk about the perception of this news among commenters and the perception of the 3DS' launch price. Some comments from the comment thread at ArsTechnica:
"I got a chance to play around with it at E3, and it is a REALLY solid piece of hardware. The games were quality too, and the $250 price point is impressive. Keep in mind though, that there is no onboard memory unless you buy some (a big mistake imo). I had one pre-ordered for X-mas, but I cancelled it after the delay. Might pick one up as a birthday present to myself in March, but so much depends on the economy and if I can find stable employment haha. Seriously though, it's a portable worth checking out."

"It's going to cost more than $300 when you factor in the (proprietary) memory stick that it uses. The higher capacity ones can run up to an extra $100. On the plus side, this machine is such a little beast, that it has backwards compatibility with PSP games purely through software emulation."
Compare this to some initial comments from the 3DS launch:
"Isn't that a lot of dough for a handheld? What was the MSRP at release for the other DS versions? Didn't the Wii retail for $250 when it came out?"

"$250?! Ouch. I doubt enough games will take good advantage of 3D to justify buying another DS (and I think just about anyone who would possibly want one has one already)"

"Seems to me this will end up even worse then the Play Station 3. Too much money for what it does. 3D is hardly going to spur much interests especially on such a small form. How many games will actually take advantage of 3D? Wait a few months for discounts! I think they will come."

So let's recap. The PS Vita could cost you $249 for the Wi-Fi version, plus $50 (at a conservative estimate) for internal memory, plus $40 for one game. That means that in order to get started with the PS Vita, you have to shell out $339 at launch for a system that has beautiful graphics and intriguing ideas but sharply limited battery life.

The 3DS ran $249 plus $40 for a game at launch. That means you needed to shell out $289 to get up and playing for a system that has decent graphics and intriguing ideas, but mediocre battery life.

Yet, the 3DS is viewed as overpriced but the Vita isn't? Why is that?

We're dealing with two different markets here. The Game Boy, Game Boy Advance and DS were always marketed to families and children. The Vita is sold as an upmarket solution, aimed at teenagers and young males with disposable income.

Since the Vita is aimed at that group, they have games and features that will specifically appeal to that group. Uncharted, Assassin's Creed, and Call of Duty et al don't appeal to families. 3G connectivity doesn't appeal to families, nor do all the other amazing things the Vita can do.

Nintendo, on the other hand, knows where their bread is buttered. They know that families care about family things, so they focus on Mario, Zelda, systems with pretty colors and the like. That's why an online presence for them is on the back burner, for better or worse. Families, especially mothers and fathers, are typically viewed as being afraid of what their children could get in to online.

So when Nintendo sold the 3DS at $249, they overreached their audience. When Sony prices the Vita at $249, they nailed their audience on the head.

Now, which one is going to be more successful? That's a trickier question to ask.