Friday, February 17

The PlayStation Vita will not survive in Australia

Ever feel like something that you desperately want to succeed is destined to fail?

I have before, and now I do again. The PlayStation Vita hits Australian stores next Thursday, but it's already looking to be somewhat of a lost cause. Why? Because three of Australia's biggest retail chains are refusing to stock the dedicated gaming device on their shelves at launch or - in the case of K-Mart - have ruled out stocking it altogether.

The news first broke on Kotaku AU, with the normally Nintendo-focussed writer, Daniel Vukovic providing statements from representatives of Big W, Target and K-Mart. Sony seemed nonplussed by the announcement, claiming that they had identified the "active gamer" as "the specific target market" for the Vita. As a result, Sony had "chosen to launch the console with a focussed retail channel strategy across national specialist game and specialist technology retailers".

Now, not only does this effectively kill almost any competition for price, but it should serve to prevent the console from appealing to anything other than its - in my opinion - shallow target market. I say shallow because there's still something of a stigma associated with gaming in Australia; particularly that of "Teh h4Rdc0r3z" variety. You may have read one of my older posts entitled "Enough room to swing a gyroscopic cat" where I examined this phenomena in more frivolous detail. If you're short on time, however, the message contained within reads thusly: unless you're gaming on an Apple device, be prepared for the cold, judgmental stares of an at best casual gaming audience.

So, Sony's dick move to bypass the country's biggest and most far-reaching network of retailers should mean two things:
  1. The PlayStation Vita is doomed in Australia: granted it should survive longer than the PSPgo, but it won't enjoy the enduring, though limited shelf space that the PlayStation Portable (models 1000 through to 3000) still manages to occupy.
  2. The market for dedicated gaming portables in Australia shrinks even further.
Luckily enough, the Vita is region free; so the inevitable trickle of games to retail can be eschewed in favour of grey importing. The only trouble is for those who wanted to ride that digital marketplace wave, where I foresee publishers not even bothering to engage with Australia's costly and nonsensical rating system; which will in turn see less games arriving on the PlayStation Store (and at brick-and-mortar stores).

I'll still be there on day one. My Vita has been pre-ordered for months now, and I have every intention of experiencing more fulfilling gaming on the go. The only question is: how long will I be able to without having to look to purchase games and accessories abroad?

Are you picking up a PlayStation Vita at launch? Is the stigma associated with dedicated gaming devices perceived on my part, or have you felt it too?

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