The PlayStation Vita is in a unique spot. Almost the same spot where Microsoft’s KIN was a long time ago. It’s a finished device that went too upscale. Where KIN targeted youngesters who didn’t need or want a smartphone, PS Vita targets people who don’t need or want a powerful smartphone.
The only real difference is that PS Vita doesn’t have phone calling capabilities. Seeing as feature phones are pratically free, even on prepaid, that’s not a big deal.
What KIN lacked however was proper data pricing and an app strategy. Verizon blew KIN out at the knee-caps by making KIN cost as much per-month as a typical smartphone. Only after Microsoft bailed on KIN did Verizon allow stock to be burned off as the “ONEm” and “TWOm” which basically lacked some data-connected features, but supported feature phone data plans.
Had KIN come out of the gate with that data pricing, I believe it would have been a hit. Microsoft would have had time to roll out a Windows Phone strategy. And, families would have been happy because they could have given their kids a powerful device without a $30/month data plan.
PS Vita is in the same boat, today. It delivers pretty good gaming by today’s standards, outclassed only by expensive smartphones and gaming tablets. If PS Vita can thrive from a hardware point at a $99 Wi-Fi and $149 3G+Wi-Fi pricing, it could stay in the game. Long-term, Sony had better hope component prices keep sliding though, because at some point they’re going to have to figure out how to make a $79 PS Vita.
I’m starting to get the impression that PS Vita really is being abandoned by Sony. It could fill some niches and gain traction as a utilitarian PDA, an alternative to iPod touch.
Think about it. PS Vita 3G+Wi-Fi has a built-in A-GPS. It could be taunting iPod touch by offering up offline turn-by-turn GPS. It doesn’t. It could be offering WhatsApp or other IM features without a big wireless bill. It doesn’t.
Instead, it just sits there, the 3G version is pretty much an eyesore at this point. Few, if any people are going to pay AT&T $15/month to leave it active with a paltry data allocation.
PS Vita 2?
Personally, I think Sony is working on a second-generation PS Vita. They’re probably working hard on a revival of the Xperia PLAY, a device Sony abandoned, failing to even deliver a promised Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwhich update.
Sony wants to take on Apple, directly. PS Vita today can’t do that. Not without an app economy. Sony clearly is showing no interest in making an app economy for Vita. But, a Vita 2 powered by Android would solve those problems nicely.
As someone who is walking into Sony’s crosshairs, I encourage them to go for it. Save Vita. Build it again on Android. This time, though, Sony needs to stay the course, or it will start to become irrelevant. We’ve had three false starts now from Sony; the PSP Go, the Xperia PLAY, and the PS Vita. Let’s hope, for the entire mobile gaming industry, that Sony doesn’t trip over its own weight once again.