Vita: Why I Skipped PlayStation Vita and Bought Nintendo 3DS

IGN Asks Questions About PS Vita vs Nintendo 3DS. AtGS Answers

IGN seems to enjoy taunting its readers with comment-bait question sessions, and for my part, I enjoy responding to them. The following is an expanded version of my reply, as posted in the article “Nintendo 3DS: Enter the Vita“.

I’ve had a lot of thought about this topic lately, actually, and very nearly did buy a Vita. These questions are a good start for the discussion.

IGN 1: Do you own a 3DS? Are you interested in a Vita? Why or Why Not?
JW-ATGS: 1a. I do own a 3DS. I bought it 2 days before the official price drop date, when Wal-Mart kindly dropped the price early. Therefore, I got the $169 price tag AND the 20 free Ambassador Program games. Pretty slick.
1b. I’m actually very interested in Vita simply because it has a great deal of potential. I’m never an early adopter anymore, but Vita tempted me mightily. At the end of the day, though, it’s just too expensive for what you get now. Some portion of this is due solely to two choices made by Sony themselves: first, that memory cards are proprietary and extremely expensive with no real consumer benefit, and second, that they require you to buy one separately to really use the system, as they opted not to include any storage. Those are mistakes, in my book, and drive up the cost of ownership right off the bat. If they’d made a smarter choice and gone with MicroSD or even stuck with the MS Pro Duo, which I already own for my PSP, they’d have had another sale.
IGN 2: Does the current performance of the Vita in Japan, and the success of the 3DS, influence your attitude or interest in either system?
JW-ATGS: 2. The relative success of either platform doesn’t hold a great deal of sway on my choice to buy, except in one area: I see the sales weakness of PS Vita on its home turf as a good reason to wait for the inevitable price drop. If US and European sales numbers work out like Japan’s have, I expect that Vita will see its first price drop within the 2012 calendar year. It’s a nice device, but $250 minimum PLUS $20 minimum for a memory card and $40 minimum for a game is a big price to pay for early hardware. Before tax you’re looking at $310 to play just one game. For that money you could buy a PS3 or Xbox 360 with a couple of games bundled, or a 3DS with several games. Factor in that Nintendo’s 3DS is only $169, does most of what Vita does, plus includes a 2GB SD card and will use any standard SD card you can find cheaply, and that’s a pretty compelling reason to choose 3DS over PS Vita.
IGN 3: What else is playing a role in whether you buy (or don’t buy) either system?
JW-ATGS: 3. See my answer to question 2.
IGN 4: Ultimately are you happy with Nintendo’s approach to the 3DS? Sony’s approach to the Vita?
JW-ATGS 4a. On the whole, I’m very happy with Nintendo’s approach to 3DS. The device is fairly powerful, offers nearly complete backward compatibility with my existing library of DS games, uses industry-standard storage and is reasonably priced. But I do have two complaints about Nintendo’s choices with regards to 3DS: A) That they weren’t ready out of the gate with a strong launch lineup of software or the Nintendo Network, which they’ve had close to a decade to build out; and B) That they failed to learn from Sony’s mistake with PSP and include two analog sticks right from the word go. That was an obvious and stupid mistake. The release of the Circle Pad Pro attachment tells me they’ve realized that error and will probably address it in a future hardware revision. I expect them to ship the all new, all giant, all-encompassing Nintendo 3DS: WTF Edition by Christmas.
4b. In terms of design, I’m about 80% happy with what Sony’s done with PS Vita. The choice to use a fairly standard ARM processor and PowerVR GPU was the smartest choice they’ve made in hardware for years; much smarter than the choices they made with PS3, for example. I’m very pleased they eschewed their prior predilection for proprietary processors in favor of a more practical alternative.
I’m also glad they learned some important lessons from Nintendo’s DS: that touch is a viable and useful control mechanism and that cartridges are superior to optical media for portable devices. But with all of those positives, I remain disappointed that they chose to introduce yet another proprietary memory card format for no good reason, then chose not to include any built-in storage for the device, thus forcing consumers to make additional accessory purchases right out of the gate. Those latter two factors put me off buying a Vita for now. This generation has taught me patience; I’ll wait for the price drop.
IGN 5: Eight years from now, do you think the 3DS or Vita will be more successful?
JW-ATGS 5. Let me just be clear: I am not a sales analyst, have no training in making the kinds of guesses they do, nor can I claim to understand the plentiful factors they look at when making predictions. But based on history and 3DS’s roughly 14 million unit sales lead over Vita, coupled with a $110 price difference in the US (factoring in the need to spend an additional $20 minimum on a memory card for Vita), I believe it’s fairly likely that 3DS, across at least two hardware revisions, will significantly outperform PS Vita in the worldwide marketplace. Sony simply didn’t learn all the lessons they needed to, but at least they made some progress in the right direction.
With the quick ramp-up of quad-core ARM processors and PowerVR GPU’s in tablets, smartphones and other devices, PS Vita will likely become dirt cheap to produce in short order, just considering economies of scale. If Sony leverages that to make some well-timed price drops, they may have a shot at catching up. Question is: will they?
Only time will tell.
But the real question is: what do you think?