updated 11:30 am EST, Tue February 14, 2012
Sony targets adult gamers, mobile users with Vita
Sony on the eve of the PlayStation Vita's first US wave has kicked off a record $50 million ad campaign to recapture its place not just from Nintendo but from Apple. The most Sony has ever spent on any PlayStation launch in the US, the campaign includes both online spots as well as traditional billboards and TV spots. Where PSP ads focused on younger gamers, though, Sony's new Vita ads (below) will focus on adults, where the allure is to "never stop playing" PS3-level games while on the road and with others.
The system is the most advanced dedicated handheld to date and has technology that might not be ready for smartphones for months, such as a quad-core processor with matching quad-core graphics, and a five-inch OLED touchscreen. It keeps the dual analog sticks and physical buttons of a TV-bound console and adds more exotic control like backside touch. A higher-end version will have 3G and fulfill some of the role of a tablet or high-end smartphone for an audience that can't necessarily justify $70 or more per month on a smartphone.
Whether or not the ads and the hardware are enough for the Vita to get a meaningful share isn't immediately apparent. Purely among dedicated handheld gaming systems, Sony is almost effectively starting from zero after trailing the Nintendo DS and 3DS by a wide margin for years. Sony is also coming in at a minimum $250 price, which for Nintendo nearly triggered disaster until an emergency price cut.
With emphases on Internet access and downloadable games, however, the Vita is still considered a litmus test of whether the category can survive the era of smartphones and tablets. Apple and Google both now outdo Nintendo and Sony in gaming revenue as the sheer number of downloads and gamers offsets the much lower game prices. The rise of iOS and Android devices as gaming systems has been attributed to factors that Sony can't necessarily fight, including not just game costs but more aggressive hardware updates and a desire among buyers to cut back on the number of devices they have to carry.
Most early looks at the Vita's US arrival, which starts with the First Edition Bundle preorder releases Wednesday and the general release a week later, have praised the hardware and launch titles, but they have also questioned whether many adults have the money, space, and time for a companion to a smartphone when most commutes and only some free time allows for the experience Sony wants to offer. [via New York Times]