It’s been almost a year since production stopped on the PS Vita. Despite that, it’s fans still haven’t given up on the machine. Games are still being released at a steady rate. Physical games are still coming out of Japan, and limited edition releases are coming from the likes of Eastasiasoft. Indie developers are continuing to bring us a steady stream of games in the West. In fact, over 100 new releases made it to the console in the EU and US in 2019 – a fact that has been overlooked by many. But in just a couple of short years, the Nintendo Switch has beaten the Vita in hardware sales. How did this happen and who was to blame?
At the time of writing this, the PS Vita ended it’s lifespan with sales of 16.2 million. In contrast, the Nintendo Switch has beaten the Vita considerably with an astonishing 50 million units sold worldwide. It’s a remarkable figure bearing in mind the difference in time that both have been on sale, but things could – and should – have been so different. The recent release of the Nintendo Switch Lite would indicate this quite clearly. When first announced, the dedicated handheld created quite a stir, and demand certainly seemed quite high at retail, but has it really been as successful as we have been lead to believe?
Enter The Switch Lite
Releasing a handheld version of what was already a handheld hybrid was an incredibly huge gamble for Nintendo. Many felt that they’d have more success using a list of the best casinos in NJ than trusting Nintendo’s judgement on this one. Why invest time and money in R&D to re-create their own product? Wouldn’t Switch owners just take their consoles on the go with them as they had been doing for some time? Set up for a simultaneous global launch at £199 it proved doubters wrong, achieving an impressive 1 million sales in its first three months. No doubt this was helped with the already substantial games catalogue available and the comprehensive marketing campaign. But was it really that impressive?
Not really. If we look back to December 2011, the PS Vita was launched in Japan. 19th December to be exact. It was priced higher than the Switch Lite and by 26th February 2012 it had sold 1.2 million units (only a week into its global rollout). So in around 10 weeks the PS Vita outsold the Switch Lite with a fraction of its software library, and with its sales coming predominantly from a single territory. It does beg the question what might have been had things been handled differently…
Then And Now
When you look at television advertising for the Switch Lite, it’s clear what they are trying to achieve. Nintendo have always understood what gamers want from their consoles. More importantly, they acknowledge what and when they play. The adverts target both the casual and more serious gamers, with a range of titles showcased. From titles that can be played in short bursts for quick fire gameplay, to highlighting major Nintendo franchises, the campaign promotes the Switch Lite perfectly. It makes it perfectly clear that gaming comes first with the console and that it offers something for everyone.
The Vita, in contrast did none of that. Despite a solid start and promises of console quality gaming on the go, Sony didn’t capitalise on it. Marketing needed to push the quality of the gaming and players could have forgiven the relatively small initial library. What would have been essential to maintain the early momentum would have been a steady flow of high end games. While many cite the high cost of memory cards as being a factor in the failure of the Vita, this didn’t seem to impact on its early sales figures. But with a small early catalogue, this needed to grow quickly and many of the early promised titles took a long time to appear. Far too long in the case of games like Killzone Mercenary.