'The price cut announced is for the SCE Japan region only and we have nothing to announce at this time regarding pricing within our own region.' That's what Sony told us after the news that PlayStation Vita is getting a price cut in Japan. The lack of movement in the west has come as a surprise to many, especially as Vita has suffered one of the most difficult and trying first years of any console we can remember. Or, to put it more starkly: Few consoles have endured this bad a first year and actually ended up surviving.
But as luck would have it, two consoles that eventually came through to flourish after a frankly abysmal start are recent and high-profile successes: 3DS and PlayStation 3. And why was that? In both instances, a price drop kick-started growth. Vita must, must, must follow suit soon...
Nintendo’s 3DS was in a very similar position to the one Vita finds itself in now, to the point where we were asking, completely straight-faced: Is Nintendo in trouble? when a huge $80 price cut was announced a mere 4 months after launch. Honestly, the answer to that question at the time was a succinct 'yes'. The launch was one of the worst in years and the price drop was a drastic, unprecedented, obviously-last-ditch attempt to defibrillate a flatlining new handheld.
It was totally necessary, too. Besides the ludicrous initial RRP, not only were there not enough AAA-quality games at launch, there weren’t enough games on its release schedule and third-party publishers (like Konami) were holding back releases in the hope the market would grow a little before taking the plunge. Sound familiar?
The audience may have applauded when Vita’s price was announced because at that moment in time, it matched the RRP of Nintendo’s system, even though the specs were considerably higher. To bring this wondermachine to market at the same price as its direct competitor looked like a masterstroke. But by the time the machine was a reality, 3DS was cheaper, better supported and picking up 10/10 reviews.
While nothing essential has come out for Vita, there are plenty of good games for it. So the first year hasn't been a total washout, although it would benefit from a fresh start now. In its favour, the Sony handheld is still young enough for its impressive technical specs to remain undiminished after its troubled first year on sale. It’s still the most powerful handheld available by far.
And Vita does have an ace up its sleeve...