We rarely get terribly colorful language in the sometimes staid world of financial analysis, but in the videogame world, that’s why we have Michael Pachter. The Wedbush securities analyst has a reputation for frank talk and more than a few extreme predictions — just now, we’ve got him talking to Game Informer about the state of the dedicated handheld market, and he’s not enthusiastic. The 3Ds, he thinks will chug along, but he has some start words about the Playstation Vita:
“The sales are horrible. My model says the Vita sold 4.2 million last year. It’s a pretty small number and I don’t think they are going to build a business selling 4 million a year — and that number could go down. Vita is a little bit too elegant and a little too expensive,” he told Game Informer. “Sony will spend the money with their internal studios, but you’re just going to see [Vita] die a slow, painful death.”
The Playstation Vita, along with the Wii U, is indeed one of the more vexing pieces of hardware on the market right now. It’s unquestionable a beatufiul machine — sleek, comfortable and functional, all topped off with a brilliant OLED screen that’s as appealing for small 2D games as it is for fancy ones. It initially launched to be a sort of uber-handheld capable of playing AAA games in the palm of your hand, but that hasn’t quite panned out. Sure, it could theoretically play those games, but not nearly enough of them have been released, and the ones that have been released haven’t been all that good. Large developers and publishers are understandably wary about sinking money into something with such a small install base.
As it stands, it remains difficult to recommend the Playstation Vita on its own: in the world of dedicated gaming handhelds, the 3Ds is a better bet because of its broader library, and phones are a better bet for the casual end because of their additional ability to make phone calls.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t avenues towards survival for the little machine. Right now, the PS Vita’s best shot at a new lease on life is as a PS4 accessory. Remote play is a genuinely cool option, and if someone has some hardware dollars to burn a year or two after picking up a PS4, a Vita could be a good place to spend them. It’s not a perfect sell — there are probably better ways to spend $200 on gaming — but there is utility there.
The other question mark on the horizon comes in the form of Playstation Now, Sony’s upcoming game streaming service. If it works, and works well, the Vita could be the ideal machine for travelers. Smartphones can use this service as well, but only with a Dualshock controller, and that could be a little cumbersome.
Those are both question marks, however, and it’s unclear if either can provide enough of a boost to return the Vita to profitability. As I suspected when it first came out, there just might not be a place for this pretty little machine in our modern world.