GR Showdown pits the Game Revolution staff against each other in a passionate debate on a particular hot-button gaming topic. Our self-imposed rules? There is no middle ground—all must take a side. All debates will have an equal number of representative on both sides: either 1-on-1 or 2-on-2 . And all our arguments must be made in 350 words or fewer; 500 or fewer, if it's 1-on-1. Which side are YOU on?
Alex Osborn – YES: The handheld gaming market belongs to Nintendo and smartphones, and that won't be changing any time soon, if ever. Sony made it abundantly clear that the company recognizes this fact by barely showing anything new for the PlayStation Vita during its E3 press conference.
But why is it that Sony can't compete with the likes of Apple and The Big N? The answer to that question has everything to do with where Sony's strengths lie. The company owns a slew of killer first-party developers skilled at making blockbuster triple-A titles that simply aren't conducive to portable play. The PlayStation brand is notorious for delivering some of the best long-form console-specific experiences that are best experienced on a big screen.
The Vita, however, is a small handheld device, where gorgeous visuals and blockbuster experiences simply aren't well suited. If Sony had a franchise like Pokémon or Animal Crossing, this whole situation may be very different. Unfortunately for the company, however, it simply doesn't have those high-profile portable-friendly experiences that will have consumers willing to part with $250. It's a device that caters to a very, very small demographic. So small, it isn't worth Sony's time.
While Sony's got a great amount of momentum behind the PS4 right now, it's going to need to keep that fire burning if the company hopes to stay on top. To do this, all of the company's resources should be poured into making the PlayStation 4 the best possible gaming machine. Pushing the Vita to the wayside will allow them to fully focus on the next-gen console. The only instance in which supporting the Vita makes sense is in its Remote Play interactivity with the PS4.
Daniel Bischoff – NO: Sony simply can't abandon PlayStation Vita. It cannot. Even if the company wanted to ignore it in favor of PlayStation 4 software development, Sony's bottom line simply could not support the loss it would take on Vita hardware stock it would have to buy back, on unreleased or unannounced software, and even on the handheld's original research and development.
Who knows how much it cost Sony to develop, manufacture, market, and release Vita? Certainly that hefty pre-launch price tag hasn't been surpassed by sales, despite the ridiculous markup on memory cards. Or, is it in spite of the markup on memory cards? Sony certainly shouldn't abandon the Vita, but it doesn't take an overpaid VP of Dumb Ideas and Inane Marketing to see what Sony should do about the handheld.
They need more games, they need a price drop, they need a packed-in memory card, and they need to get owners to start carrying their Vita around with them. As silly and shallow as the StreetPass mini-games seem on Nintendo 3DS, they've proven effective in marketing the handheld to people who go to theme parks, malls, and other areas with a convergence of foot traffic.
You couldn't put a number to how many 3DS units have been sold based on StreetPass alone, but you can damn sure put a number to how many times I've opened up the NEAR application on my Vita. Zero times. Don't give up on the Vita, Sony, but please make me want to take my Vita with me when I walk out the door.
Nick Tan – NO: Sony will never say that they've ditched the Vita. Nor would it make financial sense. But in my mind, they might as well have ditched it for the PlayStation 4 outside of the Japanese market. At least for this year.
But in many ways this is an awkward discussion, because the Vita was meant to be a Band-Aid for the other handheld they ditched: the PSPGo. So as much as I would like to be vitriolic for the sake of it, Sony shouldn't ditch the Vita… as much as it should ditch their approach to the Vita.
The Vita is well in its second year and there still isn't any platform-selling software in the States. As Alex pointed out, the issue is that Sony first-party developers either don't know or don't care about creating a handheld experience catered to the Vita, not just some port of a better experience on the standard PlayStation stand-up console.
Developers, similar to their perspective on the Wii U, don't want to get sidetracked on projects that hand resources away from their main triple-A moneymakers and probably aren't going sell the numbers they need given the low install base for the Vita. In their eyes now, they're doing Sony a favor by creating a title for Vita.
But yet we need many more examples of Soul Sacrifice, Sound Shapes, and Lumines: Electronic Symphony in North America. And as Daniel mentioned, the Vita needs to have a better Near system to encourage me to carry the Vita around.
But most of all, the Vita needs to shine in the one area that the Nintendo 3DS cannot: as a companion to the console. Sony could proverbially 1-UP Nintendo by integrating the Vita so well with PlayStation 4 that it becomes the best way to experience PS4 titles and features. Show us how it could and should be better than the Wii U's Gamepad just on the fact that it's mobile. Sony, give all of us more reasons to care about the Vita.
Anthony Severino – NO: I almost feel as though Sony shouldn’t have released the PlayStation Vita in the first place, but now that it’s on the market, they certainly can’t just “ditch” it for the PS4. And while it may have seemed that way at E3, I wouldn’t count the PlayStation Vita out of Sony’s future plans. The PS4 absolutely had to be in the spotlight during E3, as there’s far too much riding on the home console business, reaching far beyond the video games they sell.
The PlayStation Vita, and portable gaming-centric devices that aren’t smartphones or tablets, perform extremely well in Sony’s homeland of Japan. That, and the success Sony saw over there with the PSP, was likely reason enough for Sony to proceed with the Vita in the first place. But the 3DS got the Monster Hunter game, and it’s currently the cool thing to own multiple 3DS models, much like it was hip for the Japanese youth to own many iterations of the PSP—such as the many Final Fantasy special editions.
Like Daniel suggested, more needs to be done with Near and the PS Vita as a social device, giving more people incentive to grab it before they leave the house. The AAA blockbuster experience that Sony is marketing the Vita as isn’t exactly one you can or want to have on the road, so its value as a portable is diminished without these social aspects being a prime focus.
The right games will certainly help it both across the pond and back home here in the States. However, I think the bigger value for American and possibly European gamers will come in the form of PS4 remote play via the Vita. I can’t tell you how many times I wished I could bring my Wii U GamePad into the bedroom to keep playing, but the range just won’t reach. The PlayStation Vita and remote play can, and will, and even though it’s not doing much for its portability and it’s again stuck staying at home, it’s still a value you can’t find on the 3DS or anywhere else.