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PlayStation Vita - Doomed to Fail?

Games Retail is failing

The limited attractiveness of Vita's smaller games, forces the commercial spotlight onto retail, where the outlook in the UK isn't good. The downturn in gaming retail is already having a serious effect on the PlayStation Vita's £30-40 boxed games. Top high street retailer Game failed to offer stock for any of Ubisoft's titles at the console's launch, including highly-rated titles like Rayman Origins, fuelling rumours that its financial situation is so severe it is affecting its ability to buy up stock. And with the situation among specialist gaming chains set to worsen, the Vita may have to rely heavily on the limited selection of games supermarkets will be willing to grant shelf space.

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Ailing retail does new consoles no favours

A spot on the high street remains important if a console wants to go mainstream, but Sony does let Vita owners buy games directly online - especially important at the moment giving how many titles are missing from the top UK games retailer. However, in traditional Sony fashion, this has also been mismanaged.

Money-saving site Savygamer reports that game downloads on PSN are roughly 17 per cent more expensive than the cheapest "hard copy" price, which are already expensive at £30-40. This extra expenditure is made all the worse by the additional cost of proprietary memory cards. Although similar to microSD cards in size and design, the Vita's memory card slot will only accept Vita cards, used to store downloaded games. PlayStation Vita 13

Proprietary memory cards - it's a hate-hate thing

A 16GB card costs roughly £40 - a significant chunk to add to a £200 entry price for the console - and yet will only house around four retail-quality games. Launch title Uncharted: Golden Abyss weighs-in at around 4GB.

Taking up a lot of space, taking a lot of time to download and taking a fair wedge of cash from your pocket, the merit of buying top-end games from PSN seems minimal at best. And having to pay for the necessary memory card will be the nail in the coffin for many less dedicated prospective buyers.

Sony has already admitted to having fouled-up its memory card strategy in some respects. It may not have apologised for the irritation of the proprietary format, but has apologised for offering just 4GB and 8GB cards in the UK and Europe. Early adopters of the Vita are all the more likely to be hardcore gamers, who are also likely to want higher-capacity cards. It's more evidence that Sony hasn't quite thought enough about the end user.

The portable console dream - better off in dreamland?

As if we hadn't discovered enough Vita drawbacks already, there's a question of whether the proliferation of mobile gaming - and its acceptance among "hardcore" gamers - has already shrunk the desire for a "second PSP" beyond commercial viability. Are most people happy with the bitesize gaming chunks of iOS games? Telling yourself you want to play Call of Duty and actually wanting to boot the thing up on a 20min train journey are two different things.

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There are times when a more engrossing gaming experience will fit the bill - a long-haul flight, for example. However, the hardware puts a damper on such ideas. Its power and large screen mean its 2000mAh battery only lasts for 3-4 hours of play time.

The numbers don't lie

Early figures from Japan, where the PlayStation Vita first launched on 17 December, paint a grim picture - the time of traditional handhelds may be coming to an end. After strong sales in its first week, sales have since plummeted. The new device has been outsold not only by the Nintendo 3DS in this time, but by its predecessor the PSP too.

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Sales in Japan in its first six weeks. Not so hot.

Japan has traditionally been a receptive market for the PSP, although this is in part down to the monstrous success of the Monster Hunter games. Within a few weeks we'll know whether the Vita is headed for a similar damp squib fate in the US and UK. However, its refusal to take a sufficiently different approach to the handheld conundrum gives us cause to worry.

Sony appears to be in denial about what heldheld gaming means today, and the Vita shows that it has failed to realise many of the people that bought a PSP back in 2005-2006 have already been indoctrinated into the new iOS-led regime by Angry Birds, Flight Control, Infinity Blade and a hundred other cut-price slices of casual and semi-casual gaming.

As a piece of hardware it's fantastic, and won our Recommended award at review, and we at TrustedReviews hope it manages to get out the rut it seems to have been born into.

We'd love to hear what you think about the chances of the PlayStation Vita succeeding, so let us know your thought in the comments.

For more information on the PS Vita, check out our comprehensive round-up of reveiws, games and news here.

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