Lyle Hall and Matthew Seymour at Heavy Iron Studios recently spoke out against Sony's upcoming PlayStation Vita, calling it a "car wreck" mostly because consumers only want to carry around a single device. They're not willing to shell out $249 and $299 for a device that mainly only has one function: playing games.
"If people aren't willing to pay $249 for a Nintendo 3DS, why would they pay $299 for Vita?" Hall told GamesIndustry.biz. "People don't want to carry more than one thing in their pocket, that’s why Android and iPhone have done so well, they are the devices of choice, they offer multiple functions outside of gaming. People don’t want [to carry more than one thing]. That's Nintendo's huge challenge - how do they add value to [a single platform]?"
Seymour, whose 20-year career includes tenure at Microsoft Game Studios and 2K Games prior to Heavy Iron Studios, was a bit more blunt with his observation. "With all due respect to Sony and Vita, it's a car wreck," he said. "And how about Xperia Play? I'd love to pull up the numbers on that."
Recently Nintendo dramatically reduced the price of its 3DS handheld by $80 USD, bringing the March launch pricetag of $249.99 down to $169.99 just months after its North American debut. Although initial lackluster sales may be due to the handheld's lackluster library of games, it may also be a reflection of old-school console manufacturers releasing hardware in a new Apple-dominated app-based market.
Seemingly addressing this, Sony Ericsson launched its PlayStation-branded Xperia Play smartphone here in the States back in May. The device is the first to sport Sony’s PlayStation (One) emulator and a slide-out PlayStation gamepad in addition to Android 2.3 "Gingerbread," dual cameras, hotspot capabilities and a nice load of pre-installed games. But this gaming phone seemingly hasn't caught on – possibly because of its underwhelming hardware – and now only costs $99.99 USD with a new 2-year contract with Verizon ($449.99 USD without contract). That's a dramatic drop in price compared to its original launch pricetag.
With that in mind, if console manufacturers dumped their handheld plans and focused on a single smartphone, they'll likely face the Xperia Play scenario where the branded phone launches but is quickly overtaken by phones sporting better hardware and features just weeks later. Because of this, the seemingly best scenario is to approach the smartphone market with a package similar to the PlayStation Suite – a branded emulator that works on multiple devices. Currently Sony's PlayStation Suite is heading to Tegra 2-based platforms in the near future.
But until that software-platform-only future is realized and the transition begins, Nintendo and Sony will likely keep pushing the dedicated handheld platform because it's what they know best. Developer Heavy Iron Studios still wants to see the PlayStation Vita succeed, but say that it's obvious that consumers aren't willing to spend huge amounts on a dedicated, limited unit.
"The technology is sweet, I'm a huge fan of mobile technology, but I just don't know there's a market out there anymore for the hardware," Hall admitted. "I can’t see why you would want to put a device out that only does games. [But] the consumer has spoken. We wanted to see that world exist - more players, more opportunities for us, but at the same time people don't want that. Unless there's a super technology paradigm shift, it’s not going to shift back."
As it stands now, the Wii U may suffer the same fate as the Nintendo 3DS which is why Nintendo investors want to see a shift towards the mobile sector. Unfortunately, old habits/traditions are hard to break.