eSports is big business and a phenomenon that has made a plethora of gaming and technology companies sit up and take serious notice. Sony are just one such example; they have embraced eSports to a significant extent, holding their own tournaments and working hard to ensure that they are seen publicly as fully supportive of this growing revenue stream.
However, whilst it’s always good to see companies innovate and respond to new profit opportunities (bear in mind that eSports as a sector is predicted to be worth more than $1billion by 2019 according to cnn.com, with around 215 million global enthusiasts), there are some question marks left hanging over Sony’s head here regarding missed opportunities, considering that not all of their devices have been handed the potential golden ticket for growth that successful involvement in the eSports arena.
The PS Vita: A Missed Chance?
It is arguable that despite the incredible success of the PSP, Sony made a few mistakes when it came to launching the PS Vita into the European market in February 2012. With the changing landscape of mobile gaming over the past decade, consumers aren’t always as tempted to purchase new handheld gaming consoles when they have access to great games readily (and cheaply – the average price of an iPhone app is around $0.19) on their smartphones. In this respect, Sony perhaps failed to fully realise the market was changing quickly enough to propel the PS Vita to the success it deserved.
Factors abound as to why, despite a cult following, it didn’t hit the lofty heights it was predicted to – take the initial expense of the console and the lack of urgency with new title releases as just two examples – but did its lack of widespread appeal in part come down to Sony’s lack of innovation when it came to linking the Vita with eSports?
Had the high-spec console with its LCD touchscreen and WiFi and 3G connectivity had its marketing tweaked (even after launch) to focus on eSports, then perhaps the console could well have been seen as a pioneering way to further PvP gaming, embracing the eSports arena at the same time. There is little doubt it would have been able to handle the demands of eSports gaming, so it does seem like a missed opportunity from Sony.
Back to the Future?
All signs point to the gaming future revolving around eSports, with players now earning a fortune competing (the top players have so far raked in around $2million, with the top 31 players currently all earning over $1million) and bookmakers like Betway seizing upon the opportunity by creating markets for users to bet on live events and games like League of Legends. Even the likes of Red Bull and Coca Cola have jumped onboard, with both proving early adopters of the trend. As dry as it may sound, even insurance company GEICO partnered with Blizzard Entertainment in June 2015 to create a competition revolving around Hearthstone.
Now, though, it seems that Sony is joining Nintendo in terms of looking to go back in time to influence and create their future. Having seen Nintendo announce the 2017 return of the SNES, a games console that saw platform games reach their zenith, Sony have attempted to go back to platform games with the chance to play new crossover games on the PS4 that hark back to the real boom days of platform gaming with new titles like the recently released remastered Crash Bandicoot trilogy and the return of the PlayStation stalwart Ratchet and Clank.
This decision to try and embrace the retro past is certainly an appealing idea and does make sense when you consider the demand that is out there for retro gaming, but what it perhaps fails to do is produce a serious future for the PS Vita, which is not going to be able to recreate the nostalgia of titles like Sonic or Super Mario.
Is All Hope Lost for The Vita?
No one silver bullet was ever going to help PS Vita take on the challenge of fighting mobile gaming on smartphones, but the failure to incorporate eSports, especially given the focus Sony had placed on them with other areas of their business, and the manner in which they intend to continue doing so, means that the PS Vita arguably presented Sony with a free hit at pushing gaming on handheld consoles at the very forefront of eSports.
Had Sony embraced this opportunity, perhaps we wouldn’t be speculating about missed opportunities, but would instead be using the company as a case study of a brand enhancing their position in the eSports market by experimenting with the handheld console, as well as enjoying the freedom of trying out a range of different gaming styles to help ensure that their main market of eSports on the PS4 had games boasting a sustained test run behind them.