Sony today confirmed their plans to cease production on the Playstation Vita in Japan sometime next year. Japan remains the only location where the woeful handheld is still produced — the US and European versions went out of circulation years ago.
The PS Vita was launched as a successor to the PSP and a potential competitor to Nintendo’s DS. Despite the smaller screen and underpowered hardware, the DS left the PSP in the dust saleswise. The PSP was far from a flop despite this. The Vita can’t be described as anything but.
Vita launched in Japan in 2011, and in Western countries in 2012. As bad luck would have it, this was precisely the time when smartphones started seriously overtaking dumbphones, and the new games for those phones took a large chunk of the casual market away. The remaining audience — kids and hardcore gamers — were more satisfied with Nintendo’s 3DS.
Some of the blame for Vita’s failure lands at Sony’s feet. Post-launch, Sony barely promoted the device, choosing instead to hype their PS3 and PS4 games at industry trade events. Consumers did not appreciate the overinflated prices Sony charged for their proprietary memory sticks — the only way to save and store games on the handheld. An overall wave of lethargy hung over the Vita from the start; it seemed like a product no one really wanted, including Sony itself.
And yet despite everything we just said….Vita has a devoted cult fanbase to this day, and if you can believe it, physical games are still being sold for it. Limited Run Games has singlehandedly kept the Vita alive with their low print runs of indie and JRPG titles — over fifty so far. Sony has spoken about shutting down their production of physical game cards, but for the time being they appear to be content with letting Limited Run continue to order them.
The Playstation Vita lasted eight years altogether, and though it barely survived through most of them, that’s still a respectable run. Sony has no plans to introduce a successor handheld in the line.