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Open Letter to Sony: here’s how you fix the PlayStation Vita

Sony, oh Sony.

You’ve had so many opportunities to give gamers a reason to purchase your amazing new handheld. We expected big things from the Vita during this year’s E3, but if people weren’t interested before your press conference they certainly weren’t interested after.

Several of your top executives said the press conference was all about the PlayStation 4 and the Vita would have its day another time. The problem with that is you’ve kind of been saying that for a while now, and Vita owners like myself are left to wonder if you can save the Vita before it’s too late.

Today, my buddy James and I are going to attempt to lay out a road-map for you which, if followed, will set the groundwork to reinvigorate the Vita and make it more attractive to prospective gamers.

1) Figure out what the Vita is supposed to be

Yay, play with your friends on the go … on just a select few games!

It doesn’t take a psychologist to see the Vita has a bit of an identity problem, and I don’t think you quite know what you want to do with it either. Should it be a pure gaming device or a “smart device” that can do just about all the fun and fancy things those rascally mobile devices do? Well, I’ll tell you what to do right now: Cut all the extraneous crap and focus on games.

There’s no reason why the Vita should have Skype, Facebook or Flickr apps. People rarely use them and they’re never as fully capable as they are on mobile phones, especially when you factor AT&T’s silly 3G data plan into the equation.

But OK, Sony. If you’re hellbent on having the Vita compete against mobile devices, then you should open app development to third parties and allow developers to create their own apps, just like they can on Android or iOS. For instance, it would be amazing to use SwiftKey’s lovely virtual keyboard instead of the default one with its terrible predictive text.

2) Fix the memory card issue

32 GB Vita Memory Card
There’s no reason a 32GB Vita memory should cost more than four times a 32GB Sony SD card.

When developing the Vita you created a proprietary memory card for the system in 4GB, 8GB, 16GB and 32GB options. This in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it gives you a fairly cheap way of ensuring a steady stream of income.

However, the problem lies in the price structure. As it stands, the Vita memory card is grotesquely overpriced. A 32GB memory card is priced right now at Amazon for about $81. Comparatively, the 32GB SD card you produce can be had for as low as $22. And guess what, one of the Vita’s biggest competitors, the Nintendo 3DS, uses simple SD cards.

This issue is a huge barrier of entry for many people and has been the sole reason for people I know not to buy a Vita. But you say you want to keep your proprietary card? That’s fine. All I ask is you price the damn thing similarly to the rest of the flash media on the market. Forcing mandatory, proprietary storage on your customer base is one thing, but when you grossly overprice it, well, then you’re just a douchebag.

3) Complete the back catalog

It’s really sad the PlayStation Portable has so many more downloadable games than the Vita.

You’ve been behind on this since the launch of the Vita. Sure, a lot of PlayStation Network and PlayStation Portable games are available for download on the PSN Store, but all too often games that were playable on the PSP are missing from the Vita store.

It’s not just junk games either. As we talked about in a previous article, some of the PSP’s most incredible games are missing from the Vita catalog. Truly phenomenal games like Valkyria Chronicles 2, Outrun Coast 2 Coast, and even your own Echochrome are either missing completely from the PSN Store or only accessible if you work some PS3 transfer magic.

Get your act together and make it so that people can play and, for your own sake, buy these incredible pieces of software. Make it simple, make it easy and the Vita will start making more money.

4) More RPGs

We need a lot more of this. Yes, more of this.

To be successful at anything you need to be true to yourself, and the PSP proved that portable Sony gamers want RPGs over any other type of game. The original PlayStation and PlayStation 2 were the unofficial bases of the Japanese RPG, and with PSP you embraced this heritage. The PSP boasts an unbelievable catalog of RPGs and fans couldn’t get enough. Need more evidence? Just look at this- the highest rated Vita game at the time of this writing is Persona 4 Golden. So, why aren’t you pushing more RPG development on Vita?

To your credit, you’ve spent some time lately trying to recapture that audience with games like Soul Sacrifice, the upcoming Ys, and the Disgaea franchise. As time goes on the Vita library of RPGs continues to slowly grow, but that’s the problem: slow growth. It’s time to open your wallet and start throwing some money around (a la Nintendo) to secure some new, exclusive portable RPGs.

Do you need us to give you Atlus’ phone number? Well, here it is: (949) 788-0455.

5) Drop the price

Not only does Japan always get the fancy colors for their handhelds and consoles, they also get price drops!

The saga of the Vita price drop has been well-covered in the gaming  and mainstream press, with everyone from IGN to TIME Magazine sounding off. A price drop was expected to be announced at E3, but it never came, and people are really starting to wonder why.

Months ago, you dropped the price of the Vita in Japan and ever since sales have been on a cosmic trajectory, selling six times the usual amount in the week following the cut. Strong sales have continued, and for some time, the handheld even managed to outsell the Wii and 3DS, an incredible feat in the land of the bouncing plumber.

So why haven’t you followed suit in the West? No one knows outside of Sony HQ, but it’s undeniable that a massive chunk of gamers are simply waiting it out. They know it’s only a matter of time until you blink and lower the cost, but what the hell are you waiting for?

Signing off

There you have it, Sony. You follow these five steps and we guarantee the Vita will get on the right track. We love the Vita hardware and think it has massive potential. You just need some help figuring out what to do with it.

Don’t bother sending us a check for our consulting duties. Just trust us and implement the changes.

(Editor’s note: James Tocchio co-wrote this article)

Chris Powell

Chris is the editor-in-chief at SEGA Nerds and Mega Visions Magazine. Over the years, he's written for publications like Joystiq, PSP Fanboy, RETRO magazine, among others. Oh yeah, he's also been a diehard SEGA Nerd his entire life.

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