The PlayStation Vita looks awesome and I want one. In fact, I’m a Sony fan and I personally think the upcoming handheld is exactly the kind of device the average “hardcore” gamer could love like no other before. Two analog sticks? Yes please.

After research and some rather unwanted personal financial honesty, however, I can no longer recommend picking up a launch Vita in good conscience to those on gaming on a budget. I say this for two reasons, number one being the tendency of handheld makers to release improved versions of a device throughout its lifecycle.  We’ll come to number two later.

With reason number one, we look at the evolution of Vita’s predecessor, the PlayStation Portable. The PSP had several regional launch dates, finally becoming available worldwide in September 2005. Less than two years later, Sony released the PSP 2000, also known as the Slim. Lighter and thinner, it was a welcome change to the rather bulky original. Unfortunately, buyers of the PSP 2000 were, only thirteen months later, informed of yet another, vastly superior revision.  In October 2008, the PSP 3000 was launched, this time featuring a built in microphone, an improved LCD screen featuring an increased color range, five times the contrast ratio, half the pixel response time, new sub-pixel structure, and anti-reflective technology to improve outdoor playability.

Thus we see that the 2008 PSP 3000 was immensely better than the launch version.  However, the advantage, doesn’t stop there. Not only did you get a better handheld for the money by not purchasing at launch, you also had a far larger game library to choose from and notably cheaper prices on proven hits.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m well aware that buying a launch PSP and then a PSP 3000 three years later was not a problem for the truly dedicated gamer with plenty of funds for gaming. For many others though, such as several college friends who jumped on board early, it was a blow.

The second reason I can’t recommend purchasing a Vita at launch is the now surprisingly high price of entry.  Recent revelations made clear that Vita requires a memory card to play most games. The memory card, however, is not included in the purchase. Worse, the card – which comes in 4, 8, 16, and 32GB sizes – is proprietary and ranges from being three to six times more expensive than identically sized cards. This means that the entry price for the cheaper, Wi-Fi only PlayStation Vita with the smallest, 4GB memory card will be at least $275.  That’s BEFORE any games, cases, or accessories. You don’t want to know the price for a 3G-enabled model with a 32GB card. That baby will cost you about $420, and that’s without buying a game!

So what happens if you want to actually play a game on your Vita the day you buy it? Considering the rumored $40 price tag of Vita retail games, it is literally impossible to get a Vita that can run a full retail game for less than $305.  Yes, my gaming friends, the cheapest Vita, with the smallest 4GB memory card and one game, is more expensive than a brand new 320GB PlayStation 3.  If you are looking for the 3G version, a game, and the maximum available memory, your wallet will be $460 lighter.

And thus, I can’t recommend a launch-day Vita purchase to those on a budget and still feel good about myself.  With what they could get alternatively for those same gaming dollars, such as a 160GB PS3 with a game or 4GB Xbox 360 with Kinect – both of which now have massive libraries – the value just isn’t quite there.

Think I’m a moronic, flame-war fanning, hit-seeking jackwad that should rot forever just for writing this drivel?  Tell me about it in the comments section, I dare you. Happy gaming to the rest of you. May we all one day enjoy our own lovely PlaySation Vitas whether purchased at launch or some later date.

  1. Jason says:

    It never was a buy to begin with. It’s a $ony product and has so many restrictions you’d have to be crazy to buy it for that price.

  2. VeeS says:

    High price of memory cards? There will be adapters within a month of launch that will allow you to use MicroSD/M2 cards. Same as what happened with the PSP. As for the hardware revisions…yeah, they happen but what are you going to do? Wait 6 years until the final revision is released? You can always sell your Vita when the second revision is announced to get some money back. Hell, stores usually offer special deals like they did with the PSP. Something like “Trade your PSP & $50 for a brand new PSP Slim and Lite”.

    If you have the money and it has games you really want to play, just go for it.

  3. tarbis says:

    Seriously Kory! It’s already common knowledge that Sony always introduce new memory cards. From the PS1 to PS2 to PSP and now PSV. So, why complain now? If you are truly a Sony fan, you should have already known this by now.
    Also, game saves don’t amount to GBs that makes the 4GB useless. It’s more than enough until you wait for 3rd party mmc developers to introduce a cheaper version which I’m sure it’ll be a few months after the PSV’s release.
    New tech is always expensive so don’t complaining right away. If you want get it after 10 years then go ahead.

    • Kory Baldwin says:

      Good points, Tarbis. However, being a fan of Sony in general doesnt mean one has to like everything they do. Knowledge of Sony’s history with Card storage doesnt mean I should support it universally.

      Moving on, the fact that all new tech tends to be expensive doesn’t change the validity of asking if specific products are worth the early price. Some are, some are not. I was an early PS3 adopter and purchased the original 60GB SKU. It is vastly superior to following PS3 models. My brother’s 2005 launch Xbox 360, however, is vastly inferior to SKUs on shelves today. Hence the reason for the piece; an evaluation of a specific product’s launch ROI.

  4. Jared says:

    Definitely a valid argument…the problem is the fact that this is the case for EVERY console..and just about EVERY product out there, from consoles, to computers, to cars…it’s the same old game. I’ve been in the market for a (particular Truck) lately and have been weighing the same questions. The problem is tha the answer is completely subjective, provided you actually have the money to make a purchase at all.

    Yes, like the PSP if you waited a few years you got a cheaper lighter, slimmer, faster handheld, and of course a vast new library to persue (does that really count though? I’m still buying PS2 games for crying out loud)…

    But conversely, opting to wait for the (greener cheaper) PS3 Slim, you lost backwards compatibility, 2 extra USB ports, multi-card reader (great if you have a psp).

    The point is, choose your battles. When you make a purchase, buy it for the moment if you can afford it… but be weary that prices always decrease over time. (Assuming the Vita sells well, I bet the first price drop will come around the christmas season, if the sales are abysmal it may only take weeks.)

    I too am debating on a day one purchase. February is a bad month for me (not to mention including Valentine’s day) But the problem is that the other consoles are releasing a metric tonne of decent games the following month, so even if I bought the Vita, I’d toy with it throught the last week of February, then when Ninja Gaiden 3, Yakuza:Dead Souls, Quantum Conundrum coming out, not to mention time sinks that I’ll already be invested … FFXIII-2, I may just wait til summertime on it as well.

    Thanks for allowing me to comment and spill my ideas, I think you helped me make up my mind too. Haha!

    • Axe99 says:

      Well said! I mean, really, for _any_ gamer on a budget, then _any_ console shouldn’t be a day-one buy, it’s that simple, which makes the author’s arguments a bit of a straw man (and I suspect not entirely necessary – gamers on a budget will have already realised that it’s either too expensive for them at launch, or they need to save hard and early).

      As Jared says, exactly the same thing goes for computers, other consoles, cameras, tablets, mobile phones, books, cars, trucks, boats – hell, even clothes drop in price over time in many cases! So good to point it out and all, but hardly necessary unless you’re writing for kids that have only just got some money of their own to spend and aren’t used to looking after it.

  5. Joe says:

    Well, this year I bought a 3DS + Super Street + Pilotwings = U$330.

    I’ll do the same next year: Vita Wi Fi + Gravity Daze + 4GB Card = U$315.

    Probably get one psn vita title only for U$15. Hope Stardust.

  6. seriously says:

    Does anyone remember the price of the original psp at launch? if you think 250$ is pricey you need to find a job. its no secret getting hardware at launch has its drawbacks but some people don’t care there are those that just can’t wait for the next new gadget and as long as those people exist they will sell at launch anyways. Im not dieing to get a vita but ill probably get it at launch or shortly after memory cards are going to be pricey but 120 for 32gbs isn’t bad i paid that much for a 1gb back in the day also they are probably more reliable and faster.

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