The Vita is in big trouble, but it can be saved

You don’t have to be a high-paid analyst to see that the PS Vita is in a tough spot. You’ll find many stories headlined “3DS outsells PS Vita 46 to 1” or “3DS crushes Vita during Black Friday week.” Add to that the poor reception of some high profile recent releases, the negative news about Sony’s overall business (opens in new tab), and the heavy shadow cast by mobile gaming, and the Vita seems all but dead before its first year of international release comes to an end. But don’t worry, there’s still time for course correction, just not as much as Sony would like.

How can the Vita be saved? You’ve got to start with its most obvious flaw: the price. When Sony announced the $250/$300 price tag at E3 2011, the price drew applause for matching the 3DS’s. But by the time the Vita came to the US, the cheapest Vita was $80 more than the 3DS, and that price disparity has hurt it ever since.

The “charge less to sell more” strategy will work–and we’ve already seen it happen with the Vita. On November 22, many retailers cut a normally $250 Vita bundle down to $200, while Amazon slashed the price to $180. Though Sony didn’t exactly laud the move, the company did call out the promotion (opens in new tab) as a major source of Vita sales that week. Hopefully this was a sign of Sony testing some future, permanent price points for the portable, but the company needs to stop dilly-dallying.

The price cut needs to extend to games, too. $40 for a top of the line Vita game is a fair price, but $20-$30 would be a far better for the majority of its library. In a world with $1 apps and great mobile games under $10, $40 for almost any portable title is a stretch. The price on storage also needs to come down, given that a $60 16GB memory card is only good for about six or seven games.

And lowering the price of storage drops will make it even easier to download the free games offered on PlayStation Plus. The free games so far have been great, but Sony needs to keep that ball rolling, and it doesn’t even need to offer Vita games. In this day and age it’s hard to imagine there are many who would pay full price for PSP titles like Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny, Riviera: The Promised Land, or Secret Agent Clank, but all would be quickly embraced as freebies. The same goes for the huge backlog of PSOne games on PSN. Throw Klonoa, Destruction Derby, or Crash Team Racing to Vita owners gratis and it’ll feel like manna from heaven instead of dusty leftovers.

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