Sony's (NYSE: SNE ) next portable gaming system now has a name. PlayStation Vita will hit the market later this year, hoping to give the beleaguered electronics giant a new shot at wooing die-hard gamers on the go.
It won't. Let me go over the reasons why Vita is dead before it was even officially birthed.
1. The name is silly
Vita? Is this a handheld or a new brand of vitamin water? Vita sounds more like fitness gear you'll see on a late-night infomercial, or a senior assisted living facility, than something you want to play with.
"Junior, did you remember to pack your Vita?"
That doesn't sound right, unless mom is talking about some chewable vitamin.
I realize I may be nitpicking here. We all laughed when rival Nintendo (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK) went with "Wii" as the name of its console a few years ago, and it wound up revolutionizing the industry. I still don't like the name Sony went with.
2. The price is too high
When did handhelds begin costing more than consoles? Vita will hit retailers in time for the holiday shopping season at $249 for the Wi-Fi version and $299 for the 3G model.
Nintendo's 3DS already costs $249, so Sony isn't even trying to undercut its larger rival in portable gaming. Perhaps more importantly, Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) more versatile iPod touch sells for as little as $229.
Sony and Nintendo will argue that Apple isn't really a competitor, given the light nature of App Store diversions. But Apple now has 100,000 games and entertainment titles available, with many offered up by attention-seeking developers for a buck or less, if not free. There are now 200 million iPads, iPhones, and iPod touch devices running Apple's iOS, and 50 million people on Apple's GameCenter gaming platform.
Sony could've turned heads at $199. Instead, it will just shrug shoulders.
3. Sony blew it with its 3G carrier
Reports indicate that E3 attendees openly booed when Sony announced that AT&T (NYSE: T ) would be Vita's exclusive 3G provider. Why would Sony go with a network frequently vilified in attack ads? AT&T is also expensive, limiting its appeal to cash-strapped teens.
Bulls will argue that years of AT&T exclusivity didn't get keep Apple's iPhone from becoming a trendsetting success, and that AT&T is making strides in improving its network. However, there's an even bigger reason why AT&T was the wrong choice.
Xperia Play -- the PlayStation-centric smartphone that Sony teamed up with mobile partner Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERIC ) to put out last month -- is exclusively on Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) . Hard-core PSP fans are therefore flocking to Verizon Wireless. Now they're being told to buy a new handheld on a different wireless carrier? That just doesn't make sense.
4. Counting the days until the Vita hack
I'm not sure who has been hacking Sony's network over the past few weeks, but I don't want to bet against them.
"Nobody's system is 100% secure," Sony CEO Howard Stringer said in a Bloomberg interview last month. That's true, but Sony's been made a target, which could well be a dealbreaker for folks who've grown fond of keeping their personal information and credit card data secure.
One of the games announced, Ruin, will be available for both the PS3 and Vita. Server-stored saves will allow gamers to keep playing as they go from one platform to another. Folks normally get excited about any cloud-computing initiatives, but for Sony, this cloud's looking ominously stormy.
5. Handheld platforms are a dying breed
The 3DS may have sparked some initial interest, but smartphones, tablets, and media players have redefined the portable gaming market.
If you don't believe me, just watch Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) . I have my beefs with Mr. Softy, but the world's largest software company has at least gotten gaming right. The Xbox 360 is making the most of Sony's hacking fiasco and the Wii's flimsy spec sheet. Microsoft gets gaming. So where is its handheld?
Microsoft could have easily morphed its Zune into a PSP-DS rival, but it didn't. Instead, its handheld efforts rest largely on mobile operating systems.
Critics will argue that Microsoft isn't an innovator -- that it copies the success of others on a larger scale. Well, what does it tell you that Microsoft isn't paying attention to the 3DS or the Vita?
When even Mr. Softy's laughing at you, you know your technology's doomed.
Is Rick wrong? Does Vita have a shot? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.