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Retail

PS Vita UK Launch: A Sign Of The Times

Wed 22 Feb 2012 6:30am GMT / 1:30am EST / 10:30pm PST
Retail

A sparse crowd at Game's Oxford Street branch proved Sony's brand loyalty, but posed some important questions

Sony Computer Entertainment

Sony Computer Entertainment is a Japanese videogame company specialising in a variety of areas in the...

playstation.com

The Oxford Street branch of Game at 9pm on launch evening isn't expected to be as busy as at midnight, by which time around 100 people will have braved the cold for the launch of PlayStation Vita, but for many of the 20-odd people queuing early it feels like a disappointing turn-out.

And if any of the people here would know its Michael Cruz, a 23 year-old self-confessed "Sony fanboy" who was here for the launch of the PSP.

"I was expecting the queue to be a lot bigger," he says. "I must admit, I am slightly surprised, but at the same time I can understand it... A lot of my mates who I've asked about it have said that they'll hold out until the iPad 3 comes out. For a lot of them, it's a decision where they have to sacrifice one for the other."

Most have people will have pre-ordered it and got it delivered for far cheaper than what I'll pay here. It's a shame, because from what I've seen the PlayStation 3 launch was a lot of fun

Jonathan Beecher, 35

Cruz's words touch upon a key source of the pessimism surrounding the release of Sony's cutting-edge handheld. When the PSP launched, iPhones, iPads and Android didn't exist, and it remains to be seen whether their arrival has forever disrupted the market for companies like Sony and Nintendo. The very existence of the Vita suggests that Sony has identified opportunity where many cannot.

Sony has positioned the Vita as a device that can offer console-quality games to the core audience, of which 35 year-old designer Jonathan Beecher considers himself a part. Beecher acknowledges that, for a midnight launch, the crowd seems "a bit quiet", but he was prepared for this possibility.

"The Japanese launch didn't really attract masses of kids," he says. "Most people will have pre-ordered it and got it delivered for far cheaper than what I'll pay here... It's a shame, because from what I've seen the PlayStation 3 launch was a lot of fun."

Beecher addresses two important issues, the first being that, however many people attend tonight's launch, the declining fortunes of high-street retailers like The Game Group will also play a significant role. But standing in the cold for hours on a chilly London night is more difficult to justify when Amazon can offer next-day delivery, and it's difficult to identify what attendance at this kind of event signifies about the Vita's fortunes.

1

One thing is certain: the people here associate Sony and PlayStation with quality, almost without exception. Beecher has been buying and enjoying Sony products for years, but beyond any lingering brand loyalty he believes the Vita serves a need that the 3DS and the iPad cannot satisfy.

"I'm the kind of gamer that wants to play FIFA and things like that, or I want to kill something, and the 3DS isn't set-up for that," he says. "I had a play on the 3DS before Christmas because they were doing ridiculous deals - 150 and you got a free game. But I just couldn't imagine myself playing it a lot."

When I draw a comparison with the iPad, iPhone and other tablets and smartphones, Cruz dismisses it as "apples and pears" - a common reaction among those queuing for their Vita.

"They do their jobs very differently," he says. "The amount of input control you've got on a Vita compared to an iPhone. Fair enough it's still borrowing from the iPhone family, so you can see at least they're taking a look at the market, seeing what people want and what people are used to, and trying to cater to that as well."

Sony has invested a great deal of effort in making sure retailers around the country had Vita handsets to show to customers upon request. Given the similarities between its design and that of the PSP, there was a pressing need to give consumers first-hand experience of its numerous additions and improvements.

For Ivan, a 24 year-old assistant manager in retail, the strategy proved decisive for his launch day purchase. "Once I put it in my hands that was it," he says. "I knew I was going to by one, I just wasn't sure how quickly. But I picked it up and I was pretty much sold... The fact that they've got controls and the touch-screen, it caters for everyone. You can't really say that you don't like it."

For 18 year-old student Ali Tarrigi, the sophistication of the hardware justifies what he admits is a high retail price that "could be a problem for some people."

"But from what I've seen they've packed into this, the power of it, the graphics, the front and back touch-screens, the OLED screen. You can see where the price-point is coming from."

Perhaps inevitably, Uncharted: Golden Abyss is the most popular launch title among the almost entirely male audience gathered here. WipEout 2048, Gravity Rush and Lumines are also highly anticipated.

"I'd say that this is the best launch [line-up] I've ever seen for a console," says 23 year-old charity worker David. "In previous launches it's only looked like there were a couple of really worthwhile games, but with PlayStation Vita it looks like nearly every one is worthwhile."

If the core audience is its focus, Sony has accomplished that rare feat of marrying strong hardware with an appealing launch line-up. If the dissenters are to be believed, the Vita's fate may be sealed by the popularity of smartphones and tablets as gaming devices, but there are other concerns.

The problem is that, yes, the games are cheaper, but that's only after you've got the memory

Tom, 21

Tom, 21, is applying for the new MA Game Design at the Royal College of Art next year, and he found the promise of smaller, download-only releases particularly interesting. However, he claims that a game like Motorstorm RC at 5 will make the prices of blockbuster games seem unreasonable.

"When I first saw Motorstorm RC I was quite impressed, and then I found out it was going to be 4.99 online. Obviously, Uncharted is a complete rip-off, even though everyone is going to buy it anyway."

Of greater concern are memory cards, which are a basic necessity to play games on the system. With a 16GB card retailing for around 40, many of those about to spend hundreds of pounds are doing so with a touch of bitterness. Tom calls the price of memory cards "absolutely ridiculous", explaining that he had purchased a 16GB SD card for his 3DS that morning - it cost 8.50, including delivery.

"The problem is that, yes, the games are cheaper, but that's only after you've got the memory. I think you can't even buy a 32GB card, because they're probably scared to release it here because it would probably have been 100. Ultimately, it depends how big the games are, because if they're 500mb..."

2

On this matter, Ivan is in full agreement. He insists that, if Sony is selling the digital versions of their games cheaper, it is a "great thing" for the platform. But if digital was such a core focus, some local or peripheral memory should have been included in the price.

"It looks like they've just taken a memory card, changed the shape and made us buy it," he said. "They should have just thrown it in with the price, really. You know, give is a gig."

"I might not want 16GB, but throw in a gig so at least I can play it."

46 Comments

Richard Gardner
Artist

123 32 0.3
I have a smart phone and use it all the time, but the gaming experience you get from it is very minimal. I can completely see how different the VITA experience would be and I'm sure many others will once they try it. But the closer Sony moves to a console like experience the closer they need to follow a console launch. Nearly all console launchs have had that big game, the one everyone talks about and wants. Although the line up for the VITA is stronger than the DS it just feels like it needs that one great game.

Sony are going to face tough months ahead, but as long as they can keep it slow and steady until Christmas they will be able to blow everyone away, invest in the Christmas market and launch Call of Duty as if it was first party. Then, in my opinion. It will sell like hot cakes, assuming the game is good and stands on its own.

But in contrast to that with low sales numbers so far it will become a massive worry and turn of for third party developers. Luckily lets hope Sony can claw onto developers by using the 3DS launch as an example of how things will hopefully turn around.

Posted:2 years ago

#1
I am not sure what the appeal is for a store launch. Surely its more convenient to have it pre ordered and delivered safely

Posted:2 years ago

#2

Bruce Everiss
Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
This is Sony's Gizmondo moment.

Posted:2 years ago

#3

Terence Gage
Freelance writer

1,288 120 0.1
"This is Sony's Gizmondo moment."

That's dangerously close to trolling Bruce. Maybe you'd have more faith in the Vita if it had some F2P games and a couple of MMOs, huh?

Posted:2 years ago

#4

Scott Davis
Games Analyst

18 30 1.7
The images posted on MCV show a lot more than about 20 people queueing up for this:
http://www.mcvuk.com/news/read/in-pictur...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Scott Davis on 22nd February 2012 10:20am

Posted:2 years ago

#5

Rodney Smith
Developer

81 40 0.5

Posted:2 years ago

#6

senar koraltan
QA Technician

9 0 0.0
I agree, store launches are not the way to go anymore unless the publishers are willing to team up with retailers and splash out on making an event of the launch. I will probably purchase a Vita later in the year, even though the line-up is great I still can't justify purchasing one right at this moment.

Posted:2 years ago

#7
The number reported is from around 9pm, as stated in the article. Customers grew a little more, but this is a long way from the glory days of 2008 when hardware and software releases invited huge turnouts at HMV, GAME etc.

Posted:2 years ago

#8
I had mine preordered from Amazon, but cancelled when they said they were using the Home Delivery Network to deliver it - no end of problems with them. Stopped off at HMV and Game in Victoria, expecting to pay a bit more than I would have paid at Amazon, but at least I wouldn't need to wait in all day for it to not arrive.







Anyway, surprised how good HMV's deal was. Went to game to compare, but they didn't have any deals in store - had to go online for those. No wonder they're struggling.

Posted:2 years ago

#9
Oh, and on memory cards, and card sizes, here's a list of game sizes I found - puts into perspective what each card will hold:

Asphalt Injection - 724 MB
Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 - 1350 MB
Uncharted Golden Abyss - 2777 MB
Digi Q [AR tank game] - 220 MB
F1 - 1435 MB
Katamari - 744 MB
Good People Die Demo[999 sequel] - 121 MB
Little Deviants [20k yen which is about half the price of most] - 869 MB
Army Corps of Hell - 598 MB
Shinobido 2 - 1057 MB
Kyoukugen Dasshutsu: Zennin Shiboudesu[visual novel with ghost thingies] - 693 MB
Dynasty Warriors - 1485 MB
Dungeon Hunter - 1057 MB
Dream Club Zero - 2835 MB
Virtua Tennis - 1241 MB
Blaz Blue - 3180 MB
Mojohng Fight Club - 793 MB
Michael Jackson Experience - 1225 MB
Disgaea 3 - 1699 MB
Friends Network [doubt this will release outside JP] - 168 MB
Hot Shots Golf - 1100 MB
Monster Radar - 1640 MB
Twitter App - 5760 KB
Ridge Racer - 561 MB
Lord of Apocalypse - 1427 MB

Posted:2 years ago

#10

Terence Gage
Freelance writer

1,288 120 0.1
Not forgetting the (bloody excellent) MotorStorm RC, which as I recall was about 640MB.

Posted:2 years ago

#11

Jim Webb
Executive Editor/Community Director

2,266 2,405 1.1
@Scott Davis,
That's the official launch store so of course it's going to have a higher turn out than the other stores.

Posted:2 years ago

#12
@ Fran - Crickey! I guess it should last us a good selection of top 10 games at least

Posted:2 years ago

#13

Joe Barron
Community Evangelist

5 0 0.0
The memory card prices are ridiculous. If Sony had just used SD memory then they would be massively cheaper and more people would purchase digital copies of games.

Of course, in the UK, the digital versions of games aren't being discounted and have even been reported as costing 17% more than the retail copies (in some cases). Expecting people to pay more on the PS Store than they would for the physical item is mad.

Posted:2 years ago

#14
Terence, mine did, but the guy at the counter said it was a "while stocks last" promotion.

The memory card price is annoying, but I'm telling myself it's a one off purchase....

Posted:2 years ago

#15

Bruce Everiss
Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
@Terence Gage

Maybe Gizmondo moment was a bit harsh. Maybe WonderSwan will turn out to be more apt.

Posted:2 years ago

#16
Lets give it a few weeks, and see how the actual numbers and software turn out before crucifying anyone. Im more interested/concerned about software sales figures (even big 3DS games are struggling on the charts) - securing long-term developer support is the key for Sony.

Posted:2 years ago

#17

Wesley Williams
Quality Assurance

133 72 0.5
"A lot of my mates who I've asked about it have said that they'll hold out until the iPad 3 comes out"

This quote is most significant. Not only does it reflect my own view (and I've never owned a single Apple product before), but I fear it reflects the views of many others. Even with a huge launch line-up, they have a massive job ahead to convince people the Vita is a must own device.

It's also going to be very interesting to see how the Wii U launch goes with the iPad 3 likely to have been on shelves for 6 months by the time it gets here.

Posted:2 years ago

#18

John Bye
Senior Game Designer

480 451 0.9
The 20 people mentioned in the story is at 9pm. Looks like things picked up a bit later on, eh?

Posted:2 years ago

#19
I wonder - if we take a trip to the continent, does it mean our Vita digital downloads are automatically cheaper??

Posted:2 years ago

#20
Hi John.

Yes, evidently the queue had grown to about 90 or 100 people by midnight. The point in the story about the turnout at 9pm being disappointing was based entirely on the responses of those I talked to at 9pm. More than half the people there said that they had expected a significantly larger queue, and in most of those cases that was based on their experience at previous hardware launches.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Matthew Handrahan on 22nd February 2012 2:28pm

Posted:2 years ago

#21

Michael Wiessmuller
Managing Director & Business Development

18 1 0.1
Sony needs to create a Playstation app for iOS as well as Android to remain relevant. The days of dedicated consoles (especially handheld) and walled gardens is over.

Posted:2 years ago

#22
@ Dr. Chee Ming Wong -
The appeal with a store launch for me personally is mainly to do with the feeling of solidarity I would get queing up for Halo or Gears etc.
Kind of a show of support for the game developers who have spent so long working so hard on something. I feel the least I can do is preorder it and turn up for a midnight launch. In fact most the time I go to a midnight launch it is PURELY so that I can do that. I'll go home and go straight to bed! But at least I know the game is there, in the bag on the sofa, waiting for me...

I worked the Skyrim midnight when i was in retail not long back and it was amazing - there were groups of people just sat on the floor excitedly talking about the game and they all wanted to talk with the staff about it.

I am loth to buy a game online because i like knowing i have it in my hand right now and the faster i walk home the faster i get to play it and i hate waiting for deliveries. I'm a nervous wreck!

Posted:2 years ago

#23

Jason Marchant
Editor/Journalist/Copywriter

8 1 0.1


I liked the PS3 sales model where everything you needed to get playing was in the box. No HDMI cable sadly, but all the kit to play and save your games was in the box.

Of course, Sony makes the rod for its back even stiffer by insisting on proprietary memory and (in most cases) peripherals. It's what has turned me off off their compact cameras and it's what will cloud the appeal of Vita - which is a shame, because it looks like a good piece of kit. I can only think greed and a desperate need to control everything is at the heart of this.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jason Marchant on 22nd February 2012 3:21pm

Posted:2 years ago

#24

Peter Dwyer
Games Designer/Developer

481 290 0.6
Got the 3G on the belief that Sony can take stuff away (look at the PS3) but, they rarely add anything after the fact (or launch in this case).

I fully expect to see a Vita thin and lite a year down the line with wifi, no blue tooth (excuse most likely that no-one used it) and no 3G option. Then I'll be praising my fat and heavy ;)

Posted:2 years ago

#25

Yannick Boucher
Project Manager

27 1 0.0
The whole iPad debate is slightly moot, to be honest. What are you expecting from
an iPad 3 exactly? We at least already know for sure that it won't have buttons, won't have thumbsticks, and at the very least won't see the release of a ton of Sony-exclusive franchises that core gamers have come
to know and love. In my opinion if you are choosing between a Vita and an iPad or a phone, you're already slightly outside of the demographic targeted for the Vita.

Posted:2 years ago

#26

Robert Barrow
Programming (AI), Web Development, Security (Pentesting, Recovery)

27 18 0.7
One thing that gets me is that people almost always refer to the Vita as a new console and not a new handheld or portable. I wonder if, as the gaming market has grown, the distinction between devices has blurred so much. Or do people view it as a new console simply because it's Sony?

Posted:2 years ago

#27

Charlie Moritz
Studying Philosophy with Psychology

19 0 0.0

Posted:2 years ago

#28

Jim Webb
Executive Editor/Community Director

2,266 2,405 1.1
Robert, many people have referred to portable consoles as just consoles for simplicity sake. There is no inference to a mergence of home and portable consoles.

Posted:2 years ago

#29

Iain McNulty
Software / Game Developer

26 17 0.7
As if GAME didn't have enough worries, I cannot imagine how many Vitas they still have on their shelves after their recent financial fiasco.



It makes one question whether GAME actually stock what the customers actually want, or just what they want the customers to want. Plus If they can so easily be undercut by the likes of Asda then I cannot see them being around for too much longer.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Iain McNulty on 22nd February 2012 4:41pm

Posted:2 years ago

#30
Too many gaming options on the market. The industry is stretched thin with IOS, Droid, 3DS, PC, consoles and legacy consoles being handed backwards. I will be interested to see how sustainable and deep the next console launch will be, mainstream consumers may grow tired of having to reinvest in the video game library to gain a few pixels and some storage capability.

Hats off to Sony for giving it a run, time will tell if consumers really want an iPhone, tablet, and a Vita...

Posted:2 years ago

#31

Wesley Williams
Quality Assurance

133 72 0.5
@Yannick I'm looking for a different experience. I have a PC, Wii, 360 and DS Lite. All of those give me varied experiences. The Vita offers me little outside of the rear touchscreen that I'm interested in. The iPad however, offers both myself and my family a piece of technology that will provide varied experiences outside of those I've already had or got. Hardcore games on the move is a nice to have, but it's never been something I need to have and I don't think it's something the majority of the prospective market needs to have.

If the Vita sells better than the PSP in it's lifetime I'll be very surprised. That's not to say it'll be a flop, but it has limited appeal to an audience that is shrinking, not growing.

Also, while the iPad may not have the controls or the fidelity of the Vita, it's screen size in combination with services like OnLive provide other areas of appeal for hardcore gaming on tablet devices.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Wesley Williams on 22nd February 2012 5:07pm

Posted:2 years ago

#32

Neil Freeman
Retail Consultant

3 0 0.0
I think we should wait for on line sales / other retailers to be published before judging this launch as for me Game were not publishing in store bundle prices up to close of business the pre-launch day evening.

Posted:2 years ago

#33
I fully agree with this. The current position of high-street retailers makes a launch event proof of nothing more than who's willing to stand in the cold for five hours rather than buy through Amazon.

Posted:2 years ago

#34

Iain McNulty
Software / Game Developer

26 17 0.7
Launch events do not even prove that, I was not even stood in the cold, it was pretty warm inside Asda for the whole three minutes I was waiting.

Posted:2 years ago

#35

Yannick Boucher
Project Manager

27 1 0.0
@Wesley : I totally understand your point. Frankly I don't know if it will sell more than the PSP, that would already be quite a feat (we tend to think of the PSP only as a 2nd runner to the DS, even though it was wildly successful, at least in terms of hardware sales).

What I meant though is that the Vita vs iPad debate is pretty similar to the "console vs PC" debate. I'm not gonna repeat all the bullet points on that one but you can see the similarities. In my opinion it's a bit oversimplified.

Posted:2 years ago

#36

Paulmichael Contreras
Contributing Editor

10 0 0.0
That event looks pretty full, actually. But anyway, this is a sign of the times, but for another reason others have mentioned here - plenty of people would rather be sleeping and have the console arrive at their doorstep thanks to Amazon or any other online retailer with release day shipping. Midnight launches are mostly for the incredibly dedicated/loyal/impatient.

Posted:2 years ago

#37

Adam Campbell
Associate Producer

1,169 953 0.8
With the flexibility of phones and tablets, and the inventiveness of the software coming out of them, I struggle to see a reason why I should buy another handheld console. Its simply amazing what you can get in mobiles and how innovation has come back to gaming in a big way and at a rock bottom price for the software. To top it off, I expect Playstation Suite to eventually show more interesting offerings than Vita and we expect to see it launch across Android devices...

Posted:2 years ago

#38
Battery life

I need my phone to work and not to be sucked into oblivion playing games. Ios is great as a newsprint and article reader, with a jack of all trades appeal for some games, productivity

But what would really be good is a console like experience on the go. It wont appeal to everyone but seeing as time poor folks who dont have time to play after work, and rather enjoy good family time, the Vita has a good niche market

Posted:2 years ago

#39

Peter Broughton
Recruitment Consultant

6 2 0.3




I have an iPad, iPhone and iPod. I love apple items. I even play games on them. But comparing FIFA on VITA to FIFA on iPad. Not the same game. Not even close. It's like comparing Accrington Stanley to Barcelona. I agree that casual gamers will not buy this & will use their smart devices. But how many of those casual gamers owned a PSP? Heck, how many casual gamers own a PS3 or bought one when they first came out at full price? I think this will sell. How many, I don't know. Whether it will sell enough to stop a price drop that will come if it doesn't do well is another matter.

Posted:2 years ago

#40

Posted:2 years ago

#41

Rupert Loman
Founder & CEO

139 45 0.3
"Do HMV have the financial clout to compete with Amazon?"

Posted:2 years ago

#42
Yeah, given HMV's widely known cashflow problems, it's a bit ridiculous to suggest they can compete with Amazon - no offence. I personally think HMV will be gone in a year, maybe an online only operation either as the current company or with the IP in the name spun off into a new one.

Amazon are able to sell their stuff so much cheaper partly because of their lower overheads, and partly because of the VAT loopholes the government is looking to close.

I still can't believe Game didn't have any bundles listed in store the night before launch. there were one or two bundles the staff member I spoke to knew of, but no signs up, no nothing. And their bundles didn't match HMV's, let alone Amazon's.



Loving the Vita though. Lots of trash talk with some industry friends all day yesterday then two 9-1 and 6-1 FIFA wins made my night:)

Posted:2 years ago

#43
The OLED screen is gorgeous!

Posted:2 years ago

#44

Tony Johns

520 12 0.0
I love BlazBlue and Touch My Katamari.

I know they are not everyone's cup of tea, but I feel like that SONY had made a better release launch than Nintendo did with the 3DS.

Even though some games like BlazBlue are also on consoles, while touch My Katamari is another crazy game based on the Katamari series, with some newer games struggling to get any interest, I guess that trying to sell familiar games on a new system has worked out well for SONY.

Posted:2 years ago

#45

Michael Murdoch
Financial Blogger/Tech segment

4 0 0.0
@Mr. Barrow - it's mostly the financial industry. In financial reports we (well, namely NPD) tend to refer to hardware, somewhat erroneously as "consoles"

I'm curious if this is a symptom oif the demise of the midnight launch, GAME (they're going bankrupt), or a portent for poor Vita sales.

I'm kind of worried when I don't see any great zinger launch titles (and the psp didn't have any either honestly, Metal Gear Acid wasn't a metal gear game, and Lumines was the closest thing to a success), besides Uncharted, which while great doesn't have the brand notoriety of a Square-Enix title or something.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Michael Murdoch on 25th February 2012 5:16pm

Posted:2 years ago

#46

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