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Daily Reaction: How To Fix The Vita’s Sales Woes

August 20, 2012 Written by Sebastian Moss

Daily Reaction is a PSLS exclusive feature where Sebastian Moss & Dan Oravasaari discuss today’s most hard-hitting topics every single weekday.

With the news that Sony’s Vita has sold less than half what the PSP did in the same timeframe, Daily Reaction discusses what Sony should do next, taking a look at the realistic measures the company could take to turn the handheld into a success story.

Seb: So the Vita hasn’t had the best of starts, but there’s no point going over what Sony has done wrong so far. It’s time to talk what they should do right. The obvious one is memory cards, they are an immediate turn off for anyone looking into a device “Hmm, ok I can stomach $250, let me pay… wait what I have to buy a $20 memory card that isn’t even that big? In 2012?”. Sony, stop expecting to make big bucks off of the memory stick premium – that only works if people buy the thing. Bring the cost down, it’s a great way to cut the price of the Vita without the embarrassment of actually cutting the price.

Then there’s the issue of ports. If you have a PS3, why would you buy a PS3 game and then a virtually identical-or-inferior PS Vita version? Sony understands this, so they announced Cross-Buy at gamescom. Problem is, it’s only on their games and they aren’t going to get any major third party publishers on board unless they foot the bill of every lost sale. Let’s not kid ourselves, publishers aren’t going to ‘be nice’ to help the platform out, they are in it for the money (and fair enough). And Sony is unlikely to pay for 3rd party Cross-Play, because they’re clearly unable and unwilling to invest too much in the platform. So here’s what to do – offer a discounted digital version of the Vita game with every PS3 purchase. A publisher has to pay a retailer, retail tax, manufacturing costs, shipping costs and Sony’s fee to have a product in stores. Cut that all out by having it digital, including Sony’s fee – they get the PS3 fee anyway – and the game can be offered at a much lower price, and make it a much more reasonable investment for a PS3 and PS Vita owner. And if a PS3 owner suddenly realizes they have a bunch of vouchers to own tons of PS Vita games, or buy them at a discount, it makes their Christmas wish-list all the more likely to be in Sony’s favor. While they’re at it, do what I keep saying – change Assassin’s Creed 3 Liberation‘s name to Assassin’s Creed Liberation.

Dan: The memory card issue was something that I thought was just false rumors being spread by fanboys online, sadly Sony really is trying to gouge Vita owners post sale. The inclusion of a memory card with a minimum of 32gb, and keeping the price point high (but not as high) would be manageable for most customers. As everyone would have enough space to keep a few games and demos on their system at all times, and release a larger set of cards that could sell to those willing to pay a premium (but not outrageous) price. The fact that Sony even sells cards that can only hold one game on it, was simply outrageous.

Besides Sony’s Cross-Buy program, Sony really needs to give PS3 owners a true reason to need a Vita. Much like Nintendo has set their newest console to become a new tool to break past the TV screen, Sony needs to incentivize Vita capability for PS3 titles, much like Microsoft has been pushing the Kinect into 3rd party titles. This in itself might not intrigue everyone, but could increase game sales and give people more reasons to own a Vita, as well as become the main reason you do not need to buy Wii U. Sony just needs to set the Vita apart from the 3DS, instead of trying to compete for a market that will not pay the $250 price tag. By creating unique and interesting ways that do not become cumbersome, Sony could prevent the Vita going the same way as their Move controller.

Seb: Yeah, they really need to make the Vita appeal to PS3 owners – these are the guys that actually buy PlayStation products and games. That’s why I’m so surprised the PS3 itself does so little to push the Vita – plaster the console with Vita promotions and ads, all saying how awesome it is. When you play PS3 games, have it say “This game is better with Vita connectivity”. Get as many PlayStation owners as possible to grab a Vita.

Then there’s the actual advertising itself, a problem that Sony has always had. For their home consoles, Sony seems to be hiring advertising agencies who are far more interested in winning an award for artiness, than actually selling a single system. For Vita? They’re either not advertising it at all, or they’re running adverts that make it look like a PSP, or focus on features that aren’t special – “IT HAS WIFI, BUY NOW”. Dumb.

Sony can’t afford an ad blitz, so they have to be smart with their ads. Kevin Butler had a cult following, but he wasn’t a massive success for the average consumer, so bring him back for a few funny, well thought out internet ads. Put them on YouTube, show them off on the PS Blog, send PSLS the link, and there you have a few hundred thousand views of an ad for virtually nothing. That’ll help a little, and then do some actual TV ads, but don’t try anything special: “The only handheld to play proper games, it has real buttons that are awesome”. Show someone trying to play an FPS on an iPhone, then Vita. Easy, simple, not groundbreaking, never going to win an award. But it works. It sells products, and that’s what Sony needs. Let’s make this a holiday period to remember.

Dan: Before Sony can start trying to fix their ad campaigns to push the Vita, Sony needs to adjust their target demographic. Their products always release in simple black, and their idea of a colored version is white, leaving a product line-up that looks like Seb’s closet, plain boring and something with little inspiration. Sony tries to keep this aura of high-end gadgetry about its products, but never seems to get that will only have mass appeal to males in their 20’s, who probably can’t afford the product in the first place. Sony needs to just do a color explosion, and realize people enjoy being vibrant and feel unique when they step outside. This is the same concept that saved Apple, when Steve Jobs came back to Apple and released the iMac line-up. The colored sets, became instantly recognizable and attractive to audiences around the globe, turning Apple from a company going under into the biggest consumer product company in the world. They do not need to lose their identity and completely switch over to color splashing everything they do, just simply release more colors early instead of trying to just stamp Darth Vader on a PSP and call it a day.

What do you think Sony should do to breathe new life into the Vita? Share your suggestions below and help make the platform a winner. And, while you’re at it, be sure to follow Seb and Dan on Match.com.