If you've read any of the sensational press reports or naysaying analysts, you'll know PlayStation Vita has its sceptics.Apparently, consumers want smartphones and tablets – not dedicated, ‘expensive' gaming handhelds. And Vita's soft Japanese launch is a sign that consumer tastes are changing.
MCV put these concerns to PlayStation's European president and CEO Jim Ryan.
Myth 1. Vita's slow start in Japan is a bad omen for Europe and North America Jim Ryan says...
One of the things we have learnt over a long period of time, is that whether it is PS1, PS2, PSP or PS3, it is dangerous to the point of impossible to take any experience from the Japanese market and try and extrapolate it, and propose upon what will happen in Europe or North America.
Not withstanding the fact that it is just way too early to make any conclusions. The markets are now just so different, I actually think they are diverging to a greater extent than they were different in the past – if that's even possible. It is impossible to draw any meaningful conclusions of the Japanese launch in the context of what will happen in Europe. We are more focused on our stakeholder reaction, whether that is specialist press or the reaction from retail. The key task of allocating the supply that we have to the considerable demand, and just ensuring everything is in place for February 22nd.
Myth 2: PSP died out in the UK and Vita will suffer the same fate. Jim Ryan says...
I would humbly observe that a 75m global install base is a pretty considerable achievement for a company's first foray into the handheld market. And I think 4m in the UK – and the UK is not one of our strongest PSP markets, I will acknowledge that – is still not a bad number. All that given, you obviously have to look back every time and try and draw conclusions and learn from the past and apply them to the future.
A couple of things I would point to, one is the importance of having a wide-range of diverse, high-quality software at launch, which I don't think we did when we launched PSP. We had a number of titles, but a lot of it was really rather similar in nature and not sufficiently differentiated from its PS2 counterpart. That is definitely not the case with Vita. We are very happy with the launch software line-up.
I think the other thing we've learnt is about positioning. We tried to go rather too broad with PSP, and had ambitions to be a multimedia device with it. But in hindsight, it was perhaps not equipped to be one and our consumers perhaps didn't want all that functionality anyway. Vita is being positioned as primarily – although not exclusively because it does all that multimedia stuff – as the ultimate portable gaming device. It's been engineered from the ground-up as that.
Those two things – the software line-up and the positioning – are the significant learnings we have taken from the PSP experience.
Myth 3: Releasing games over PSN at the same time as putting them in shops means that traditional retail's role in Vita's future is diminished. Jim Ryan says...
It is certainly the case that all Vita gaming software will be available to download. But equally, all of the major, large capacity blockbuster titles will be available as retail SKUs. We will see how that plays out.
But the other area that is rather different to past formats that we have managed, is the existence of the recordable media, which retail is well placed to participate in, in a very profitable manner. Obviously, there was no equivalent facility with either PS3 or PSP prior to that. The digital download business is there, it is a factor, but equally there's this new – and potentially extremely significant – revenue stream for retail.
Myth 4: Nobody wants a dedicated handheld games console. Jim Ryan says...
One of the encouraging things about 3DS' sales performance at Christmas is that it is confounding the naysayers who say that there is no room in the market for a dedicated handheld gaming device. And to that extent we were encouraged by how 3DS did over the last month.
There's two distinct markets. The quality, the immersiveness, the richness of the experience that we believe we are going to offer on Vita, way exceeds anything that we believe to be available on any smartphone.
Myth 5: In today's 59p app market, Vita's software pricing is too high. Jim Ryan says...
This expands on one of the learnings from the PSP experience. We have taken a rather intelligent, tailored approach to software pricing this time. Rather than just sticking everything out at a double-A price and seeing what works and what doesn't. This time, we are recognising the new realities of the portable gaming world, we have looked carefully at each title and its merits. Uncharted is a title that we feel justifies that sort of high price point. Some of the other games that are maybe less grand in their scale, we've sought to price accordingly. We've tried to strike a good balance between consumer proposition, value and price.
That reality is there at 59 pence, and equally, you have at the other end PS3-type gaming experience commanding 55. It's our responsibility to our consumers that if we want to charge prices at that top end then we have to provide a gaming experience at that end.