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Analysts unsure whether Vita 3G will be popular with US consumers

Thursday, 22nd December 2011 19:04 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Industry analysts have expressed confidence in the Sony’s decision to release a Wi-Fi version Vita, and feel that it will be a much bigger hit in the US than the 3G version, which could end up collecting dust on retail shelves.

“I think 3G is one of those nice to have features,” said Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter to Industry Gamers. “but not essential for most people. 3G is essential for a phone, obviously, so we aren’t offered an alternative. I think that a lot of iPads are sold with 3G because they are bought by existing iPhone customers. However, unless the user is out and about with an iPad, they don’t really need 3G. We have three Wi-Fi iPads in my house, and nobody complains.”

EEDAR analyst Jesse Divnich agreeed, stating tat he expects the 3G version of Vita to be more popular in Europe than North America as “Americans haven’t taken to 3G in independent technology devices as quickly as their European counterparts. Despite the aggressive growth of tablets, some consumers have shied away, and maybe the Vita could potentially sway new consumers into the market, especially those who consider themselves hardcore gamers.”

With a higher price point that he Wi-Fi version, the 3G Vita could be considered more of a a luxury item to those in the US, and analysts believe that in order for this particular model to succeed, Sony needs to convince the American public to shut off their iDevices and Androids fire up a Vita in their places.

“Three hundred dollars for a handheld device that doesn’t do everything an iPhone or Android can is just not competitive,” said Asif Khan, CEO of Panoptic Management Consultants. “The data plan will discourage consumers that already have data plans on phones, tablets and even their home Internet service. We saw this when the iPad 1 came out and the Wi-Fi model outsold the 3G handily.

“While I applaud Sony for trying to bring added connectivity to its games, at the current price point, it [3G Vita] will not be a massive success. Sony has not shown it can make a compelling user interface. In a world where new tablets come out from Apple and Samsung each year, how is Sony supposed to keep up with the rapidly improving hardware and graphics of their competitors?”

“I don’t find the 3G feature interesting or attractive, so I wouldn’t buy it,” added Pachter. “I think that Sony is doing the right thing in making 3G available, and essentially charging a small premium to cover their cost. If people want it, it will be available. If not, they can buy a less expensive Vita.”

RW Baird’s Colin Sebastian agreed with Pachter, stating that the Wi-Fi version will contain enough “functionality for most users, despite the obvious convenience factor of having 3G.”

“Keep in mind Sony’s history with connected portable devices (PSP Go), and the fact that the dedicated handheld game market remains very challenging,” he said. “It will all come down to accessibility and functionality. Sony must demonstrate a reason for consumers to turn on their Vitas instead of their smartphones. I believe Sony is making a compelling case, and it has a line-up of strong, if not standard apps.”

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