Vita was simply too late - Tretton

Former SCEA CEO says Sony's latest handheld was a great machine launched when few people wanted a dedicated gaming portable

Now that it's been a couple years since Jack Tretton left Sony Computer Entertainment, he doesn't need to tiptoe around the company's shortcomings. In a new interview with IGN, Tretton discussed one of the biggest disappointments of his tenure, the PlayStation Vita.

"Now that I don't work there anymore, I think internally it was: 'This is a great machine, it's just too late,'" Tretton said. "The world has shifted to portable devices that aren't dedicated gaming machines. And I think PSP was incredibly successful. I loved what it did and I thought it brought a console-like experience and genres to an older gamer that typically didn't have console-like games to play on a portable platform. But Vita was a nice machine at a time when very few people felt they needed a dedicated portable device."

The Vita launched in Europe and North America in February of 2012, and was quickly labelled a disappointment. That August, Tretton was already having to defend the hardware's performance in interviews.

"In this industry, you can't get too high or too low, because it moves very quickly," Tretton said at the time. "I think there's an acceptable number - and [the number] we've sold: That's acceptable. If it was triple that, I'd be happier. If it was one-third, I'd be disappointed."

He added, "Anything with great rewards is going to come with great challenges. We felt if the tech was there, and the game support was there, then the audience would be there. ... I feel much better about it now than I did four months ago."

Though the Vita has not yet been discontinued, it has been largely abandoned by Sony in the West, with the company considering it a "legacy platform" for over a year now.

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Latest comments (13)

Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game5 years ago
Of course they added an almost pointless rear touch panel, and expensive proprietary memory system making it cost prohibitive.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew Goodchild on 1st October 2016 7:13am

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Jason Sartor Copy editor/Videographer, Florida Today5 years ago
@Gareth Jones:

Not all may be lost yet, Gareth. The Nintendo NX could very well be your answer for a gaming system that allows for high-end portable play.

Considering Nintendo still is having success with the 3DS (Pokemon Sun/Moon, RiverCity Tokyo Rumble, Suer Mario Maker, DragonBall Fusiion, DragonQuest VII and VIII, Urban Trial Freestyle 2) among many others coming out or just released, I do not believe they will be abandoning the market any time soon.
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Reza Ghavami Marketing Analyst, NVIDIA5 years ago
I'll take Soul Sacrifice over Pokemon Go any day of the week.
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Show all comments (13)
Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany5 years ago
Still happy with it. The indies I get from PS+ are great during my travels. Plus I'm a big fan of jRPGs and the Vita currently has the biggest library of those.
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Jordan Lund Columnist 5 years ago
"at a time when very few people felt they needed a dedicated portable device."

The problem is that Sony reached that conclusion internally, without discussing it with their potential audience, and decided to curtail support based on that concept rather than actual support in the community.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 5 years ago
Funny thing is... the last two years have been the BEST for the handheld. My Vita goes with me everywhere, but yeah, yeah, the 3DS gets the StreetPass love while near sort of just acts as a kind of odd pedometer. Ah well. I'm not calling it "dead" at all as it still works fine and has stuff I want to play on it (he says, while downloading Superdimension Neptune to review)...
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 5 years ago
I always wondered why Sony didn't try to save the Vita by packing it in with PS4 consoles. I think some stores might have done that as a limited time special bundle offer during the holidays but Sony should have pushed that for a good 6 months or more to see if they could make the Vita catch on with consumers.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 5 years ago
@Paul they did do that for a short period of time

The remote play thing was never that appealing to the masses to justify it.
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James Prendergast Process Specialist 5 years ago
@Jeff Kleist: Also, having been suckered into remote play, it wasn't that great a quality either - literally couldn't move more than a few feet from the PS4 and the control setup wasn't great due to the use of the rear touch panel. I imagine for some games it was okay. It wouldn't have been a problem if they had enabled the use of the DS4 controller at the same time (which you could do if you logged in to view the game stream on the vita under a different account... but then the vita didn't support having multiple accounts per piece of hardware (stupidly) so you had to completely wipe the vita to do that.... and then back to the original profile if you wanted to play the games you'd bought.

Eventually, after a few months of doing that, I just moved my PC monitor next to the TV so I could play near my SO in the evenings rather than being away somewhere in the house. Still, it's a great holiday device and the library is pretty fantastic, IMO.
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany5 years ago
@James Prendergast: I was able to play with my PSVita from Spain while my PS4 was in Germany, although the lag made it uncomfortable...
Also, the back pannel not properly supporting hold-touch makes it impossible to play shooters (for example) at all.
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee5 years ago
For me it came across as an over-engineered product, which carried on many of the same flaws that have caused previous Sony electronics devices to fail. It also had a significant issue with software support, not least when SCE decided to drop first party development for the platform. You have to go in with an approach that solves customer problems and then commit to what you've built.
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Richard Browne Head of External Projects, Digital Extremes5 years ago
What's truly amazing about this whole story was - they knew it. The minute they took the VITA out to Publishers in the US they got an immense amount of critical feedback about how this was simply not going to work. Sony Japan simply didn't want to hear it.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 5 years ago

Sony experienced the same issue Nintendo does:They designed a device for the Japanese market that no one else really felt a need for. It's not that it's bad, great system mind, you, but no one else wants a powerful portable in the numbers to support it as a platform.
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