PS Vita Price Cut Talk Highlights the Skewed Value of the Gaming Dollar

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The past couple of weeks have brought pretty good news for the frugal gamer. Nintendo slashed the price of their 3DS by $80, and while its current library is lacking you can always count on a Nintendo handheld to deliver in the long run. This past week at Gamescom Sony gave the PS3 a global price cut, a system that already has a fantastic library of games and even more coming down the pipeline this holiday season.

For some reason, though, both of these announcements have undercut the value of Sony’s upcoming Vita handheld. Considering the positive buzz that Sony had built after they announced the $249 price tag for the machine, seeing some of the same people that were once excited by the Vita — especially analysts — rail against its price now is especially confusing.

In each case, though, there are major differences in hardware that make this kind of mindset unfair. While people are certainly free to decide whether they’re willing to pay $249 for a gaming handheld, these comparisons simply don’t make any sense.

Let’s begin with discussing the price differential between the Vita and 3DS. There are obvious reasons to compare the two systems, of course. In fact, I already did in the article linked here, well before we knew what the price of the then-NGP was going to be.

When the price of the Vita was revealed, everyone was excited. The 3DS was $249 at the time, too, and seeing how much more capable the Vita was really drove home how much value packed into its machine. Considering that the 3DS is only slightly more powerful than a PSP while boasting 3D, Nintendo’s handheld suddenly seemed downright overpriced. At its new price point of $169, it’s become reasonable again.

Yet people are suddenly calling for Sony to lower the price of the Vita as well. When you consider the raw hardware — the near-PS3-level graphic capability, the dual analog sticks, a 5-inch OLED touchscreen, a rear touch-pad, and 3G for the $299 model — such a proposition becomes ludicrous. At the price announced at E3, Sony will certainly be selling the Vita at some sort of a loss. Meanwhile, Nintendo makes money on every 3DS sold, even after slashing the price by a third.

If analysts really want Sony to do something to up the perceived value of the Vita after the 3DS price cut, they should be calling for something much simpler: Games sold on the cheap.

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The handheld market has changed considerably, with Apple’s iOS platform and Android phones offering many great gaming experiences for just a few bucks, and sometimes for free. Meanwhile, Nintendo has the gall to charge $40 a pop for their games. While a game like Ocarina of Time 3D is a beefed up version of one of gamings greatest accomplishments and merits such a price, mirroring that  for Super Monkey Ball 3D is obscene. Not only can the game be completed in no time at all, but its iPhone equivalent, which has more content, can be had for just $3.

Ideally, Sony would have the foresight to sell big-time releases like Uncharted on the Vita for just $30, and convince publishers of smaller scale games (similar to those found on iOS) for even less. If they do, they would go a long way into swinging favor in their direction when the portable market is shifting away from Nintendo.

Meanwhile, the recent PS3 price cut has also raised questions for the Vita. Namely, why would someone want to pay as much, and maybe more, for a Vita as they would for a home console? Once again, people are simply reacting to what they see on the surface.

Obviously, the PS3 is the superior machine in terms of raw power and options. While the Vita seems to come close in terms of visual fidelity, it’s not quite there. The Vita also has fewer buttons than a DualShock 3, and you can’t enjoy its games on a 1080p screen with surround sound like you would with a PS3.

However, that doesn’t mean the price isn’t justified. Simply put, putting the technology you enjoy at home into a shell that you can carry with you anywhere doesn’t come cheap. For example, take a look at Apple’s line of Mac computers. For $1199, you can buy an entry-level iMac desktop or an entry-level MacBook Pro. The iMac is superior in every technical sense — its screen is 8.5 inches bigger, its CPU is way better, and it has a bigger hard drive. That doesn’t make the MacBook a bad purchase by any means, though. It may not be as big or powerful as the iMac, but it has much of the same functionality and is extremely portable.

To bring this thing around full circle, think about the 3DS’s price in relation to the Wii; it has always been the more expensive of the two. When it launched in late March, it was $50 more than Nintendo’s home machine, and $100 more when the Wii’s price dropped in May. Even after getting a price cut of its own, the 3DS is still $20 more than a Wii. While I’m not going to bail on the point that I made just one paragraph above — both of Nintendo’s machines are fairly priced — it’s interesting on what people will focus on or ignore when they want to argue a point.

To reiterate an earlier point, people absolutely have the right to argue that something is too expensive. After all, $250 is a lot of money to spend at any one time, and everyone values these things differently. Instead of making comparisons that aren’t totally there, though, why not decide something’s worth on its own merits? As it stands right now, the PS Vita is an extremely capable piece of tech, and is reasonably priced. Unless the 3DS and PS3 are given away for free, I think that it will do just fine.

Readers Comments (11)

  1. people afre f-ing retarded
    they should look at it this way
    you can get a basic ps3 for 250, just as you can get a basic vita for 250,
    but if you want more you can get a ps3 with extra hdspace for 300, just as you can get a vita with built in 3g for 300

    sure youre ps3 can do 3d and in 1080p, and its more powerful
    but the vita makes up for it with a beautiful oled hd touchscreen
    and all of it fits in youre pocket

    (that was in euros, thats what our prices look here in slovenia, i know! it susks!)

  2. The Vita is perfect the way it is. Just because Nintendo’s hardware wasn’t worth the price they original had on it doesn’t mean the PS Vita will be the same. It literally is a mobile PS3. With what you’re getting it’s a bargain.

  3. Great read. I’ve always felt that the software pricing for portable systems has been too high, and can ultimately add leverage in favor of the vita if they adjusted the pricepoint of the games. It’s funny when people bicker about pricing of the Vita, but will immediately turn around and say that the ipad is a direct competitor, yet it costs twice as much for the entry level ipad. Granted a price cut on anything is always welcome…when I feel like I’m paying too much I just compare the hardware of what I’m looking to the apple equivalent and think to my self.. ‘Yup, those guys are suckers.’ They may argue that apple has the quality assurance and sleek looks down pat, but it lacks the standard features that come in most of its competitors devices, things like memory cards for additional and variable storage (on ipods ipads iphones, entry level mac books and imacs..that us normal people can afford), video output, and…well buttons for that matter.

  4. Don’t care. $225 Vita Wifi, $275 Vita 3g. If we can’t do that I will wait a year for a better model and better price.

    • Wow man that’s sad knowing your time is only worth $25 a year. (Barely $0.07 a day) I’m not ballin by any means, but really? $25 bucks, heck, greatest hits games cost $30. You should consider selling whatever you have and buying a Ps1 or a Nintendo 64. No offense but if your holding your breath for $25, gaming shouldn’t be your hobby homey.

  5. Personally, I don’t care if the price is lowered. I bought an original 60GB PS3 on launch for £460 and the console has grown over the years as the price has lowered. I don’t regret paying that money for it as I still believe it was a good price. Even stand-alone Blu-ray players cost that much at the time. Paying £230 for a Vita seems like a good price considering it’s technical abilities and eventually the price will come down again and again, as always as the cost of production decreases. Sony still need to make money to invest in the future of the console so they won’t lower it, and they shouldn’t. Look what happened to the PSP. Lack of investment and support made it difficult for it to succeed.

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