Former CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America Jack Tretton, who capped off a 19-year tenure when he departed the company in 2014, says the PlayStation Vita was a great machine that became irrelevant before it even hit stores.
"Now that I don't work there anymore, I think internally it was: 'This is a great machine, it's just too late.' The world has shifted to portable devices that aren't dedicated gaming machines," he said in an interview on IGN.
Although little reliable sales info for the Vita exists, comparing its numbers to those of the PlayStation Portable and 3DS provide some context. Sony's PlayStation Portable was in production until June 2014; in 2012, the last time Sony announced sales numbers, the Associated Press reported that Sony had sold more than 76 million PSP units. PS Vita emerged as its successor in 2011, and sold 11 million units during its lifespan according to Tech Radar.
Labeling the Vita a flop should be considered just shy of hyperbole. After all, it's sold more than Nintendo's Wii U (13 million units worldwide as of June 30, 2016) but still considerably less than its primary competitor, Nintendo's 3DS, at 59.79 million units as of this June.
Ultimately, mobile devices such as Apple's iPhone changed the landscape of portable gaming—so much so that Nintendo is likely building its NX console as a successor to both the Wii U and 3DS, a handheld/console hybrid.
David Craddock posted a new article, Former Sony executive: PlayStation Vita came "too late" to find a target audience
I'm probably in the minority but I love my Vita and I only picked it up a few months ago. I mainly use it for cross-save games because I got sick of phone games at work. Cross-buy only titles are also great, but swapping saves between systems is so great when it works. There is so much that could be improved (that fucking UI) and I know it's basically abandoned but it works really well for what I want out of it.
Hah. I mean, I love my Vita and play it a lot more than the 3DS, but 3DS came out not too long before Vita and wiped the floor with it. I highly doubt the 10 month head start 3DS had made a big difference either, since 3DS was struggling when it first came out.
I feel like memory cards really hindered the Vita. The fact that Sony charged so much for them, and that they were basically required to save ANY game on the Vita, even ones you owned physical cartridges for.
And then the physical cartridges... basically an afterthought on Vita. I imagine the focus on digital content making life a bit easier for adult gamers, but all that more confusing for younger gamers who don't have their own playstation accounts and credit cards and whatnot. And if you have a cartridge for a game, I can imagine kids having trouble understanding how to put it into the vita, and how to start the game once you've turned it on. It doesn't simply start a game once you've put it in and powered on the Vita, it "installs" the game and puts an icon on the homescreen. Homescreen may not be the first screen you see if you have a lot of other games installed.
One of the biggest draws to the Vita over 3DS back before it came out was that Vita would provide a home console experience on a portable. Turns out people don't want to deal with a bunch of installs and updates and managing limited storage space and all that console shit on a portable. When parents buy a game for their kids, they want the kid to be able to put the game in and play it themselves.
Don't blame it on the mobile market and say portables can't thrive in it, because 3DS did. Sony just fucked up on a lot of things with Vita.