The PlayStation Vita is in dire need of a pick me up. As it approaches its first birthday, the Vita continues to build an impressive array of original titles. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, Sound Shapes, and Gravity Rush, alongside high quality versions of console games like Mortal Kombat, Need For Speed: Most Wanted, and Metal Gear Solid HD Collection have made the handheld a formidable venue for quality video games. Those games haven’t, however, enticed people to actually purchase the device. Sales have been abysmal. PlayStation Plus support, due next week, may be just the fuel the Vita needs as it enters its second year.
Sony will release PS Vita firmware 2.00 on Nov. 19 bringing PS Plus with it. Vita owners will get the same access to discounts on games that they do on PlayStation 3 with PS Plus, but the real draw is a selection of full games available in the Instant Game Collection. The initial line up for PS Vita includes Gravity Rush, Wipeout 2048, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Jet Set Radio HD, Mutant Blobs Attack, and even the PSP game Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions.
The Instant Game Collection is the biggest draw for Sony’s premium subscription service on PlayStation 3, and the support on Vita should help incentivize leery players to actually give Sony’s handheld a shot. The Vita’s PS Plus support, like Cross Play, comes closer to building an ecosystem between Sony’s portable and home consoles.
At this point, though, Sony isn’t aggressively promoting PlayStation Plus or Cross Play in its advertising campaigns. In fact, marketing support for the PlayStation Vita has been relatively low. Sony committed a huge amount of money to marketing the PS Vita in the US ahead of its spring 2012 release. Senior VP of marketing Guy Longworth actually confirmed that the $50 million budget committed to the Vita earlier this year was its biggest advertising push by dollar amount ever in the country. Heading into the holiday season, the Vita isn’t receiving nearly the marketing attention it did earlier this year.
Those marketing costs may not have been worth it for Sony. As of August, Sony had only sold 2.2 million Vitas worldwide. The company then confirmed at the beginning of November that it had sold just 1.6 million PS Vitas and PSPs combined between July and September.
The PS Vita has great games and strong services, but those aren’t enough to make it a success it seems.