Opinion: The PlayStation Vita Conundrum

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The prospect of a powerful, portable gaming machine is just about the most that an avid gamer can ask for. A solid game library, remote play, and games that offer two versions for one price add value to an already attractive proposition. The Playstation Vita boasts all of these key hardware specifications and features, not to mention dual analog sticks and a touch screen. So what kills the Vita’s impulse buy authority? The answer is quite simple, entry cost and proprietary memory cards.

I’ve been in the market for a Vita for some time, but can’t get myself to pull the trigger. I commute via mass transit and the ride isn’t short, so owning a PS Vita seems like a no brainer. That is until you’ve given yourself a moment to step back and contemplate. The Vita’s steep initial investment can easily be overlooked due to the value that an inexpensive Playstation Plus subscription adds. For some time I’ve been stockpiling Vita games on my Playstation 3 HDD in anticipation of a future purchase. The Vita’s value doesn’t stop there. Plenty of games on the market are starting to offer Cross Buy for no additional cost, and as we all know, Sony is making a real push for the Vita when the Playstation 4 gets rolling this holiday season. The recent addition of the Vita Store‘s Indie category allows for a greater selection of economical titles as well.

The Vita has so many things going for it.But one enormous, yet tiny requirement stands in the way of a purchase. The lowly 4GB packaged memory card doesn’t allow much more than game saves, and a single retail release to populate it. And let me tell you, it’s not cheap to upgrade. The standard MSRP for a 32GB micro-SD card is under $30, however with Sony’s proprietary ways, their card comes in at a staggering $81 on Amazon. That single fact devalues the overall package so badly that there’s 10-20 page threads in gaming forums all over the internet talking about it. I can look past the fact that a Vita costs as much as an Xbox 360, but I can’t step over a dime to pick up a penny.

With all of Sony’s effort to make the Vita more attractive to consumers, why don’t they just lower the price of additional memory? Most prospective buyers would be more than happy with that. I, for one, would rather spend the same amount on the hardware and enjoy a decreased rate on expandable memory. Reducing the cost of admission, only to keep proprietary memory at a standstill may not be enough. At this point a 32GB Vita memory card accounts for 30% of the cost of ownership. If Sony were to reduce the Vita to say $200, additional memory would then amount to 40% of the system cost itself. Which would be bananas, baby.

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At this point you may be saying to yourself, ‘Then don’t expand the memory, dummy.’ but one of Sony’s many selling points, free games via PS+, literally requires additional space for game installs. Not to mention the fact that Cross Buy games require a software install. Vita’s all around the world are collecting dust on account of this fact, and a simple reduction in the price of removable memory would do wonders for the fledgling handheld.

We’ve heard a few rumblings of a price drop at this years Gamescom, so on-the-fence buyers may just want to hold out until August 26th before pulling the trigger. Even if Sony doesn’t want to ‘price match’ every other SD card on the market, a considerable drop would do just as well.

The Playstation Vita is responsible for leaving me confounded and contemplative. The value that cross buy, remote play, and Playstation Plus add to the equation are almost fully washed away due to Sony’s stubborn proprietary ways. To me, it’d make more sense to lessen the price of admission, or the price of continued platform support rather than heaving free software installations that many folks simply don’t have room to utilize. Sony could easily crack the Vita case with a simple compromise, but until then, my conundrum may continue to be a partially solved rubik’s cube.

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Dylan Zellmer

Dylan splits time between games journalism, designing video games, and playing them. Outside of his deep involvement in the games industry, he enjoys It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Shameless, A Song of Ice and Fire, fitness, and family.
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