December 28, 2012, 8:30 AM —
A few weeks before Christmas Best Buy was having a sale on Nintendo's 3DS XL handheld gaming system. The 3DS was the only 'current gen' gaming system I didn't own and I'd been curious about it for a while, so I snagged a pair of them for my gal and I. We put them under the Christmas tree so as of today it's still a very new system to me.
After the holiday a friend of mine, flush with gift cards and working at a job that has him traveling a lot, asked me if he should get a Playstation Vita or a Nintendo 3DS XL. I'm not the least bit shy about being something of a Playstation fanboy so I think he knew what my answer was going to be, but then I surprised him and told him to go with the 3DS XL.
So why did I cross party lines? Because I don't think Sony loves the Vita as much as I do, and I didn't want my friend stuck with a dead-end system. The Vita is roughly a year old now (we're between the anniversary of the Japanese and North American launches) and I don't think it takes an analyst to see the system is struggling. This isn't exactly a scientific study, but head over to Gamestop.com's Coming Soon page and look under the Vita heading. You'll see four titles listed between now and the end of March and one of them (Warrior's Lair) is, I'm thinking, a speculative release date.
It's not that the 3DS XL is swimming in upcoming titles either, but it's an older system and has had more of a chance to build up an existing library, and it's a system that seems to be gaining traction. Japan just saw its first 2 million seller in the 3DS library (Animal Crossing: A New Leaf — a title which should be released in North America later this year). I've found a few interesting titles that are available now and a few more coming in the next 6 months or so that I think will be must-haves.
Of course the 3DS struggled in its early months too. The difference is that Nintendo worked hard to turn the system around, giving it a drastic price cut just six months after launch, and supporting the system with quality first party titles. A year in and Sony has given no indication that it's considering a price cut for the Vita and rather than stepping up first party titles it's doing things like closing down Zipper Interactive (developer of the Socom games and the Vita's Unit 13).
It's hard not to get the feeling that Sony has decided the Vita was a mistake and, given the company's financial woes, it may not be able or willing to invest in the system to try and save it. I'd love to be wrong about this and maybe by the time 2013's E3 rolls around this entire post will seem ridiculous. I hope so, anyway.
The saving grace for the Vita is in its library of $5-$15 downloadable titles. In that space Sony still seems to be working hard to support the Vita via financing smaller developers in exchange for them releasing their games on Sony systems. While I (and I suspect, many Vita owners) really appreciate this constant stream of smaller titles, I'm not sure they're enough to sell systems. Over in the Nintendo world, the eShop has a nice selection of titles in the same price range, too.
So yeah, I suggested my friend get the less interesting but better supported 3DS XL instead of the sexy beast known as the Playstation Vita.
Do you think I've steered him wrong? As far as I know he hasn't purchased anything yet so if I'm wrong, it's not to late to save him from making a bad decision! Convince us!
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.