This is a staff response piece to this week’s “Weekend Wondering” community poll question: “Which Should Come First for Vita, a Price Cut or More Games?” Feel free to share your own thoughts on the subject in the comments!
The Vita may not be selling well at the one year mark in its life, but there’s definitely interest in the system. A recent Famitsu poll indicates that Japanese gamers are more interested in buying a Vita than any other system in 2013. So how does Sony transform that potential into sales?
For most, the debate comes down to two options: a price cut or more “must have” games. In time, we’ll see both of these come to pass on the Vita, but which one does the system need more? In a way, the two are connected. It’s true that nothing sells hardware quite like good software, but a price cut is just the jumpstart that the Vita needs to build up its software library.
Our recent poll has been neck and neck for a while now, but at the time of this article’s publishing, our readers have given the edge to a price cut. Like the 3DS during its sluggish first year, a common sentiment is, “I’ll get it when the price drops.”
Fellow GenGAME writer Alex Plant made the point that a lack of “system sellers” is hurting the Vita, and part of that can be attributed to the high price of the system. While there are a number of quality titles, such as Little Big Planet Vita and Uncharted: Golden Abyss, only the release of Persona 4 Golden really caused an impressive increase of Vita sales when it launched.
The Vita isn’t likely to get a game with the system-selling power of titles like Mario or Pokémon, but it doesn’t need to. The Vita doesn’t need that one big game to come along and save it. The Vita’s library may be small at this point, but there are still enough quality titles in well-known franchises to interest players, but only if the price is right. At $250-$300, it may take a “must have” game to convince consumers to buy a Vita, but a $200 price tag and a library of respectable games will accomplish this as well.
If we look at how the 3DS recovered from its slow start, it’s not hard to see how the Vita could do the same. Nintendo didn’t wait until they had a big seller like Mario to offer before they cut the price. They chose to make the system more affordable months before releasing big name content in order to establish a better install base. The 3DS price cut launched alongside the release of Star Fox 64 3D. It may not have been one of Nintendo’s big franchises, but the combination of a few interesting titles and a price cut got them back on track in time to make their big push for the holidays. If Nintendo had waited longer on the price cut, the 3DS would not have had the immensely successful first Christmas that it had.
Prior to the price cut, the poor sales of the 3DS saw developers cancelling and delaying games left and right. Software is needed to move hardware, but if there isn’t at least some momentum going for the system already, developers aren’t going to bring software to the platform. The sales surge following the price cut helped build up confidence in the system, and although there’s still room for improvement, third party support for the system has been much stronger.
Sony has admitted that they’ve struggled to gather any third party support for the Vita, and even called on third party developers to start bringing better content to the system. It’s a good step to see them reaching out, but developers aren’t interested in sincere requests. They want to know that if they spend the money to develop on the Vita there will be a solid install base. A price cut for the Vita will lead to increased sales, which will in turn lead to stronger third party support, just as it did with the 3DS.
Killzone Mercenary is set to release on September 17. It may not be the type of “system seller” title that Alex is calling for on the Vita, but combined with a price cut, it has the ability to help the Vita begin building the momentum it needs, just as Star Fox 64 3D did for the 3DS. The Vita may need more big titles for a strong holiday season (looking at you, Tearaway) but Sony would be wise to cut the price of the system first.