Friday, June 27, 2014

Thought for Friday: Sony pivots the Vita, how, why and what next?

Since the comments from Sony execs about the Vita not being a core focus for its own developers, there have been loads of stories, tweets and bile written. I wont rehash that here, but if the tone was off, the sentiment is in the right place, and most Vita fans, including me, have thought similar things about the company we hate to love, or love to hate.

First, the good news is that games are still coming, if not exactly announced in a torrent, but with enough regularity that I can still write a few new game stories a week. Indies are certainly leading the charge, but other, smaller, developers might also step in if Sony can demonstrate some profit potential. And the big players are still around, today Namco releases a One Piece game and if that does well, Pirate Warriors 2 may follow. That's just good business after all, Sega is sticking around, Capcom might get bored of Nintendo, who knows!

This is where the trick with Sony's pivot comes in. In any other business, you pivot a product that isn't quite working, either by changing the product (Flickr used to be a game dontchaknow!), its market focus (how many niche medical apps are now general 'healthy' apps), or the financial balance (freemium, anyone?).

Sony can't change the Vita itself, like a software company can do. Sony's market focus is games, so they are a bit stuck on that road, and it is basically rather poor as a company, so its cash options are limited. Which is why a price-cut is unlikely, or a limited option.

Out of the three, the bulk of the pivot has to revolve around that market focus, nudging the handheld in the direction of the indies, third-parties and smaller developers. That's a business decision and we can either accept it, or sell our Vitas and go play on a tablet, or other gadget.

But to get those developers to bite with this pivot, Sony has to do more than just offer up some words. The Strategic Content guys are already doing a sterling effort, encouraging development, lining up publishers, partners, help and support, getting involved and acting as a rallying point.

To go along with its pivot, Sony really needs to make some big gestures. Throwing the engines that power Uncharted, Killzone and other games at studios, to get them creating new titles. Perhap blip-verts, showing the hundreds of Vita indies in super-short ads across as many formats and screens, making some effort to get the word out beyond "here's a new PS4 controller" And, of course, one big game name to get people excited in a way that even 1,000 indies never will.

Enjoy your weekend folks, and good luck Sony.

Oh, what next? Well, if it works, Sony gets some sales and the odd developer comes back. Or it doesn't and Vita drifts away into its little niche, which is no bad thing, but with NVIDIA Kepler gaming tablets coming, developers' eyes might be on the future.

No comments:

Post a Comment