A post-Christmas launch date isn’t the only battle Sony’s handheld will have next year. This isn’t an argument about which devices will provide better gaming experiences; that would be ridiculous. What I’m doing here is taking a look at the impact of Amazon’s entry into the handheld entertainment device space and what it means not just for those who currently inhabit it but also those that plan to like Sony’s PlayStation Vita.
You can’t really call this one “apples to oranges” because of how Sony is treating their handheld. By adding services like Skype, Facebook, and Twitter, it’s clear that they’re trying their very best to play to the tablet/smartphone crowd as much as they say that they’re aiming for a “core” audience.
Earlier today Amazon unveiled their first entry into the “post iPad” tablet arena with the “Kindle Fire.” We’ve already seen how a company like Apple has managed to throw a wrench into the gaming world with iOS, and now Google’s Android (which is running on Amazon’s new tablet) isn’t too far behind. All the big players are now taking their success from Apple’s App Store and bringing those gaming experiences to the Android market.
Publishers like Square Enix, Capcom and EA have not just seen the power of mobile platforms but have begun to fully embrace them, while console and handheld makers scramble just to keep up with the times. Then you have companies like Rovio and HalfBrick Studios that have proved that games don’t have to be biggest budgets to have a major impact on the market.
So how does the Vita play into all of this?
With all the bells and whistles thrown into the upcoming handheld, Sony is certainly swinging for the fences, and they’re doing their best to surround their “core” titles with “casual” extras . The question is whether it will be enough to protect it from these mobile powerhouses.
As it stands right now the iPad is the only “real” tablet according to analysts and that is because of the device’s reach and its current hold on market share. The device alone has no doubt put more than a dent in the bottom lines of Sony and Nintendo, with the iPad 2 being the most wanted Christmas gift this year, and its predecessor the year prior. Amazon is now following Apple’s lead but putting their ideas into a much more affordable but just-as-desirable package, making a “traditional” handheld like the Vita nowhere near a compelling choice, even with all its non-traditional offerings.
Why should “core” gamers care?
Whether you like it or not there certainly is a change in focus for a lot of the publishers out there. EA CEO John Riccitiello shifted the company’s strategy and that message couldn’t have been any clearer when the world’s second largest publisher showed up with nine console titles (that weren’t yearly sports titles) at E3 2011. Nine.
The big picture here is this: while a complete mobile takeover is still a couple of years off, one thing that cannot be denied is the inevitability. Eventually, all of your favorite (3rd party) games and franchises will make the jump, and when they no longer see profit in the Vita (or the 3DS for that matter), they will no longer develop for them. Tablets are only going to speed up that process. Publishers are in the business of making money; they’re not in the business of keeping your favorite handheld’s library alive and healthy, especially if no one’s buying.
Amazon jumping into this space is dangerous for anyone that stands in their way. While they haven’t talked exact sales numbers, analysts put the current line-up of Kindles around 7 – 8 million units sold. And all it offers is books. BOOKS! With the new “Fire” offering a complete suite of Amazon services with the ability of playing games from the Android market, and the fact that it’s priced under 200 bucks – it will be a no brainer. The better this thing sells along with Apple’s iPad, the faster actual handhelds become irrelevant.
The bottom line.
Convergence is key here. And yes, we all know that Sony kept that in mind when building the Vita considering its a do-it-all social device. However, it doesn’t come close to what Amazon’s offering at 50 dollars less. With that said, when you’re all playing Final Fantasy XV on a 7-inch touchscreen and with one finger don’t say that I didn’t warn you.