Those living on Planet Earth will know that last week, Nintendo unveiled a hardware update to the wildly popular Nintendo 3DS console.
The “Nintendo 3DS XL” sports a massive 4.88″ 3D screen (that’s a little bigger than the Samsung Galaxy S3), a 4.18″ touchscreen and an overall slimmer form factor. It looks aesthetically pleasing, and the materials used to manufacture the console appear to be less costly, which is likely keeping Satoru Iwata’s promise that the 3DS would return to profitability this year.
This is all great stuff for Nintendo, but it may just spell disaster for Sony’s PlayStation Vita console which, try as it might, still has not managed to prove itself amongst the gaming public.
As PlayStation Vita crosses over the 2 million sold since launch mark, Nintendo 3DS is closer to 20 million and sure, it had a head start in the market, but if we are to believe the current state of mainstream media opinion, the first year was largely wasted anyway.
Meanwhile, Sony seem bullish and indeed ham fisted when it comes to the Vita. As far as they’re concerned, it’s out. It’s in the market. Their work here is done. They don’t believe they need a price cut, and Sony’s latest reaction to the Nintendo 3DS laments their worrisome approach to what they used to call the “Next Generation Portable”;
“I don’t think there has been a need for a re-look,” Andrew House, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. recently said. “We are in what is a very competitive space. I think we need to put more emphasis on the kinds of experiences that define and differentiate Vita. That is always going to be one of its objectives. But there needs to be a reinforcement on that.”
So, where is it? It certainly wasn’t at E3; the company was too busy launching a new product (Wonderbook) to even mention Vita at their press conference. Nintendo, on the other hand, haven’t shut up about their products since E3.
First there was the flurry of press interviews. Then the industry analyst conference. Then Nintendo Direct, a web stream targeted at Nintendo fans where they announced the 3DS XL and this week the company will go on record again in an investors meeting in Japan.
So regardless of what some people write about Nintendo and their consoles, one thing is for sure; people are talking about them! The Nintendo 3DS is being embedded into the public mind. You can’t not see an article on Nintendo or it’s consoles in any one day of casually browsing the web. But blink and you will miss the Vita.
Which is why I think PlayStation Vita is, at least at this current point in time, officially doomed. Nintendo 3DS XL looks new and fresh, there’s a huge library of games ready to go, with huge titles on the way this year and the look of the console more closely resembles the Wii U, so Nintendo’s brand image is certain to remain strong going forward.
The PlayStation Vita is a cool piece of kit, but the problem seems to be that Sony just can’t be bothered with it. Okay, so you’ve built in two touch panels – why should we care? What can that do to enhance traditional games? What new industries can be created from it? Nintendo were able to prove their hardware design concepts time and time again.
Wii’s motion controls have been copied by everyone from Apple to Microsoft and everyone in between. Nintendo DS’ dual screen set up has been proven with games like Another Code, Super Mario 64 DS and others – it’s even had a profound impact on smartphones since it was really the first device that stretched it’s screens vertically, rather than horizontally.
Nintendo DS’ touchscreen also spawned a huge industry. Since it’s release and the success of games like Brain Training, touch screens are now part of our every day life. Our phones, our TV’s, our cars – every where you look there’s a touchscreen. Apple might have taken the concept to the next level, but the artist they stole from was Nintendo.
So Vita has some cool features – but how will they enrich our games? or indeed our lives? This, above all else, is what Sony need to prove right now. Even as we speak, TV manufacturers are working on glasses-free 3D TV’s now that there’s a case for such technology out in the wild, we can envision that will be the future. I don’t really see a second touch panel being all that relevant.
But I want to be proven wrong here. Sony designed the console with this unique feature, why aren’t they exploiting it? Was it just put in because it could be? It seems every time Sony talk about Vita, they harp on about the “dual analogue sticks”.
Well, two sticks are all well and good, but why? How do two sticks and two touch panels make games more fun?
I have faith that Sony can answer these questions, I just don’t have faith that they give a damn to do so anymore. Meanwhile, Nintendo releases a new version of the 3DS, remarkets it, gets it out there and just mops up Vita’s mess.
When people get their eyeballs on the Nintendo 3DS XL’s huge screen, they will get it. They will understand what 3D gaming is all about, and how cool it is. Sony’s Vita will look dated and old by comparison.
It’s not too late for Vita – even now. But please, Sony show us something unique and truly inspiring. Otherwise the console’s fate is pretty much sealed.