The PS Vita is a marvelous piece of hardware, but many wonder what market the device is going to appeal to. According to SCEA’s director of hardware marketing John Koller, the PS Vita was designed to counter current trends in portable electronics.
“It was designed with one thing in mind, and that was to supersede the mobile-gaming market for the next five to six years,” said Koller. “We think we’ve accomplished that many times over. The idea behind the specific features was that we saw a lot of research on how consumers play both handheld gaming devices, console devices, but also the emerging markets of tablets–this was back in 2008 and 2009. Seeing how those gamers played and seeing the frustrations they have with control and with graphics and with longer-form content, really allowed us to build a system that took advantage of everything we do well at PlayStation: the biggest and best gaming experiences, great franchises, and integrating new ways to control them, new ways to play as we call them.”
“We think we have created unequivocally the best handheld gaming system ever designed,” added Koller. “I think that when people get their hands on it, it is a beautiful, near-HD experience. A lot of people have called it a PS3 in your pocket. And I think that it is exactly what we wanted to get when we first started to design it three and a half years ago.
When asked about the PSP, he responded, “We really did look, not only at PSP, but also at mobile phone and tablet. That was really where we started. If the experience and the trend for casual and some core consumers is in the direction of mobile and tablet, what does Vita need to be to top that I think the answer for us was a very engaging, rich, high-definition experience that allows you to immerse yourself in the game. What we did was take the idea of people spending 80% of their time outside of their home–so if you are going to have a handheld device you need to have something that is engaging in a way that consoles are engaging to a living room.
“The way to make handheld more engaging is to take the world that you are in and allow it to impact your gaming experience, whether that’s Augmented Reality, whether that’s location-based, whether that’s 3G–we wanted to take all of those elements of where you are in the world and impact your experience,” he added. “The result are things like Gifting with Near, or Treasure Hunt, or the ability to download content wherever you are, multiplayer gaming sessions, and Augmented Reality, those that change your environment to play the game the way you like. So those were all the new ways we looked at to change the mobile and tablet experience, to improve the PSP experience, to make Vita really unique like the consoles are unique.”
When it comes to promoting the system, Koller said, “Right now we are in malls and what we’re calling social clubs, in hipster locations, throughout the U.S. and some parts of Canada, to allow people to touch and play and try. We haven’t done this before at PlayStation. We have been fairly insular that we launch a platform and the first time you play it is day one. Now we are out four months before the launch of this. And it is having a very material effect on preorders, on the impact of people talking about it and what they experienced. We will continue that through the year.
“There is a strong sentiment that the experiential portion of our campaign is really the most critical. It’s the ‘wow’ factor when people try it and play it,” he detailed. “It’s that talk factor that will help us with the casual consumer. The casual consumer is more price sensitive, they are not really an early adopter, but they want the content experience to be justified when they purchase a handheld device. So I think we are in a really good position with them.”
In order to bring in the general public, Koller says it will be vital to make it a social experience. “I think it’s underneath the new ways to play. Our tag line is, ‘Never stop playing.’ It really fits well with who we are as PlayStation. Those new ways to play, the way you interact with your environment, is really so critical. That also includes a social aspect. One thing we heard at the launch of PSP was a derisive term, calling it PlayStation Personal–it was very much between you and the device, and there was no connection to others,” noted Koller. “Vita’s been built with exactly the opposite, to connect all of us, to have all of us in a region playing together, or in a location. Everybody can become part of the Vita movement through a game, or through the Gifting, or the Treasure Hunting, or the sharing of content. It’s a very important trend in our society, but it’s also very important in gaming. You want to be able to share your content, be able to play others. I think ultimately the social component, that’s really going to be a critical part of this launch. Communication is a big part of it–we will have cross-game chat, which we are calling Party Mode. Those are really important parts of how people game outside of their home.”
Source: Fast Company