Sony's next-generation portable, Vita, is almost available in the US. Starting tomorrow, you can buy the $350 "First Edition" bundle, which houses a 3G / Wifi model with a case, a copy of Little Deviants, and a 4GB memory card. On February 22, the device will see a much wider launch, as Sony will unleash the cheaper Wifi-only models into the wild.
Most, if not all, of the device's launch games are available in retail as well as in company's digital store. Interestingly, they're a hair or two cheaper in the latter.
More interestingly, Sony isn't going to be afraid to play with pricing models. Unlike Nintendo, Sony is acknowledging the existence of the App Store, its developers, and its millions of consumers. It seems to realize that people have an option or two when it comes to handheld games, so it's staying limber by allowing $5 or $10 or even $30 games to hit the PSN Store in this magical age of $.99 titles.
In a recent interview with GamesBeat Sony Worldwide Studios' Shehei Yoshida talked just about as openly as one in his position can about this.
"We have a theory that if we create really compelling, engaging experiences that you can spend hours with, you’ll see the value of spending 40 dollars against one dollar," he said in the interview.
"The good thing about $1 games is that people are not spending too much money on them. If you buy 40 of those, you might be spending $40, but still..."
"Gamers love all kinds of games. I totally understand people who like games like Angry Birds, but if you’re a gamer, you’re also interested in trying different kinds of experiences, bigger games," he said.
As for Vita game pricing, it'll be about matching perception, Yoshida said. Sony will somehow measure the value and scope when pricing. Also, it won't just focus on the $40, blown-up AAA production.
This is a great direction, and we say that with our iPhones firmly clutched in our hands and iPads sitting on our desks. Mobile needs more engaging experiences, and we're stoked that these will have a going rate of only $30-$40. But this is also a new digital reality. We want low-cost, low barrier of entry titles for time-waster prices. Acknowledging this, as Sony is, makes Vita an actual competitor.
If Sony wants to keep any sort of competition in the mobile space, it's going to have to compete price-wise. Its head, at least, is in the right place. Flexible models, flexible pricing, and good games sounds like a solid plan of attack. If people are going to buy into this, however...
Well, we'll just have to see if Sony "Sonys" this up.