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Lessons the PlayStation Vita Can Learn From the Nintendo 3DS Launch

The Nintendo 3DS is not exactly off to a great start. After launching at an unrealistic price point of $250 only a handful of months ago, the system has already been slashed down to $170. According to a rather poignant post from Nintendo, this was done to increase sales of the hardware which would in turn lead to more software sales and future development. If you can’t get the console in the hands of the consumer fast enough and build a market for games, you’re basically doomed.

But the Nintendo 3DS isn’t the only handheld coming to market. The PlayStation Vita from Sony will be trying to force its way into the scene sometime over the next year and it’s not like the PlayStation Portable had an amazing reputation in North America, especially compared to the Nintendo DS. Hopefully, the debacle that was the Nintendo 3DS launch will provide some pointers for Sony’s handheld.
1. Price Your Hardware Correctly

The first and most obvious lesson here is to price the PlayStation Vita accurately. It’s not like they don’t have folks in their company whose job it is to come up with a price point. Contrary to popular belief, economics isn’t just like some magic crystal ball that Sony can rub and hope for the best when it comes to pricing.

It needs to be competitive with the Nintendo 3DS, obviously, and the pricing they’ve already announced certainly sounds fair ($250 and $299 models), while also being lower than most were predicting. It remains to be seen, however, if this pricing will stick considering the immediate drop of the 3DS.

2. Make Sure You Actually Have Games

The software lineup provided by the Nintendo 3DS at launch was… less than stellar: When the Nintendo 3DS was announced, a Nintendo representative got up on stage and said that the 3DS iteration of Nintendogs would satisfy hardcare gamers. Without software to back it up, there was really no point in purchasing the system. In addition, even the shop that would have provided digital downloads wasn’t available immediately.

What Sony should take away from this is that unless there are games folks want to play on the system, they will have no true reason to purchase said system until there are games, and it’s hard to get developers to make games for your platform if nobody is buying it. As Mike Myers so eloquently put it, “it’s a vicious cycle.”

3. Make the Interface Customer Friendly

There have been those that have remarked that the Nintendo 3DS is a pain to navigate. The menus make little-to-no sense, the shop continues to place notices and buttons in locations that any rational mind would not and, in general, any menu involved in the Settings is just a nightmare to get through. Up until now, I had been skeptical of just how much a problem this was.

That is, until Joystiq posted about how one goes about redeeming Ambassador program games and I realized that it was actually as bad as everyone was saying. If nothing else, hopefully Sony picks up on the fact that the user interface of the Vita needs to flow well.

4. Take Advantage of Everything You Have

The PlayStation Vita has an absolute plethora of gadgets and doodads attached to its chassis. The Nintendo 3DS is, for the most part, a Nintendo DS that happens to also be able to show a kind of pseudo-3D without glasses. Now, granted, this one feature is pretty neat and could make for some certainly interesting gameplay mechanics, but the games just aren’t there. And the feature? In the fews games that implement it well, it can strain the eyes or give headaches to others. It’s a big cluster of issues that aren’t easily solved. The Vita, on the other hand, has a number of features that weren’t in previous iterations that they can utilize and hopefully utilize well.

5. Make Playing PSN/PSP Games Easy

Backwards compatibility is sort of a hushed whisper between gamers these days. If the makers of consoles even implement it, it’s usually half-baked at best and, if the evolution of the various PlayStation 3 models is any indication, if it’s based on hardware, it’ll eventually be ripped out to save money. At least the PlayStation Network allows downloads of original PlayStation titles.

Barring the Wii’s virtual console, Nintendo is notoriously bad at this and the shop that provides downloads for the 3DS is no exception. Assuming the Vita continues to allow PlayStation Network games, it would seem like a fiscal no-brainer to further expand the offering of older titles to include those released on the PlayStation 2.

6. Launch Sooner Rather Than Later

The library for the Nintendo 3DS is only going to be bolstered from here on in. More and more games are going to come down the pipeline to fill out what is currently a lackluster offering. At some point, it won’t be quite so lackluster though. Sony long ago learned that the more games they offer, the better their chances of garnering more of that elusive market share that people always talk about.

The sooner that the PlayStation Vita can come to market, the faster it can begin to build a library and the less of one its competition, the Nintendo 3DS, will have.

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