News broke late last night that the rumored deal to buy Gaikai had finally gone through. The ramifications of this are huge, of course, if Sony uses the technology to it’s fullest. But this is Sony we’re talking about, so let’s not hold our breath. But long before the Gaikai thing became real (by long before i mean about 2 days) I decided my next article after the Batman review would be what I, random Vita fan #564, would do if I was in charge of Sony. The Gaikai thing is good timing of course as it adds much more to the table.
So lets pretend I am Bob Sony (which I’m pretty sure if the Americanization of the name Kaz Hirai) and I can make unilateral decisions in regards to anything within Sony. Here’s what I would do going forward.
1. I’ve been saying for a while now that August made the most sense for the Vita to drop price. Nintendo seemingly knows this and will be releasing the 3DS-XL in early August. So I think Sony should jump the gun and drop price in July. Why July? Well, 3DS sales are going to be abysmal going into August, I would assume, as everyone waits on the new model, so with a price drop Sony could actually win the month. Not that winning a single month will change the tide of the war (and nor do I think Sony will win this war, they will always be in second place and that’s fine as long as it’s still successful enough to make Sony money and give us games we want to play). But winning July would be a reprieve for the general narrative against the Vita that it’s doomed. Could you imagine a world where, for one month, it wasn’t? If not July, do it in September. Don’t do it in August against the 3DS-XL.
2. At $199 I would include a 4gb card. The fact that this thing ships without memory is absurd. It needs to be fixed.
3. With the advent of 4gb being shipped with it, all memory gets dropped down a slot. 8gb at $19.99, 16gb at $29.99, 32gb at $59.99 and a new sku of 64gb at $99. Again, I know this means Sony makes less money on memory cards alone, but I’ve always thought the absurd prices for memory is a short-term money grab with no long-term aspirations. The more memory a customer has the more likely they are going to be to buy digitally, which – again – is where Sony makes the most profit. They should be handing out 500TB memory cards and begging people to go digital only. There’s far more money in that in the long-term. Even now, hanging out in places like Neogaf I see an awful lot of “I would buy that digitally but it’s 3gb and I only have an 8gb card.” Stop shooting yourself in the foot, Sony.
4. Along with us having more, cheaper memory, PS+ needs to become a force on the system. Weekly sales on digital Vita games, PSP games and Minis. Get us in the habit, like you have with the PS3, to just keep buying digital games because we can’t afford not to at these prices! It’s the Steam effect. You may not want Shinobido 2 in the slightest but a one week sale for PS+ customers for $9.99 and goddamnit now I own Shinobido 2. But this only works if I have the space available on my card. Have I mentioned that Sony really needs to sort the memory card situation?
5. Other things that need to happen with PS+ on the vita is cloud saves, as the game save situation currently is an abortion. Other features like automatic trophy syncing (only if the system is plugged in during its chosen window), automatic game and firmware updates, and making the aforementioned cloud saves automatic are also needed.
6. Increase the digital discount of games to 30% for PS+ subscribers. Really, it should be 30% for everyone, since we aren’t getting a box, instructions and the publisher isn’t paying for the production of any of that stuff, shipping or the retail store’s cut (though obviously they are paying a cut to Sony). But 10% is a joke. If you want people to go digital, and Sony – YOU DO WANT PEOPLE TO GO DIGITAL – you need to give them a reason to do so.
7. The next major firmware update which is scheduled to come in during August will likely do many things to make the overall experience of using the Vita more pleasant. I’m hoping it includes under the hood fixes to things like having to connect to the PSN a hundred thousand times. Also, PSone Classics are going to be a big deal. But going forward from here I would like to see Sony work on making asynchronous play much easier. It works, kinda, with Hustle Kings and Pure Chess, but it’s sloppy and confusing. On iOS you get notifications right on the app, you just open it up and you’re in and playing your turn. I think this style of game is the future of handheld multiplayer and I think Sony needs to figure it out.
8. One last PS+ for Vita request. Do the same “Instant game collection” that they are doing for the PS3, but for the vita make it 9 games. 3 Vita games, 3 PSP games, 3 PSone classics.
9. Once PSone Classics are out I put the emulation team on double time getting PS2 emulation running on the device.
10. Further refine the PSP emulator. If they could add more anti-aliasing than just what bilinear filtering offers that would be huge for Image Quality.
Ok, let’s get to Gaikai. I personally think that the acquisition of Gaikai could be an absolutely windfall of awesomeness for the entire Playstation family. Here’s what I would do:
1. Forget winning the console wars of next-gen in terms of units sold. If I’m Bob Sony I look at it this way: I want my games on everything. So get Gaikai up and running on everything and anything Sony related. Smart TVs, Vaio PC and Laptops, Sony Android Tablets, Sony Smartphones, and, of course, the Vita.
2. All games are available across all of those devices. So lets say Uncharted 4 comes out. If you want the absolute top of the line best image quality, lowest latency way to play it you buy it for the PS4. And that’s what most of us would do. But you also offer it, at the same price, streamed across multiple devices. I think you limit the licence to 2 devices per purchase (like the current PSN setup). So, say, I buy Uncharted 4 on the PS3 but I also stream it using the Gaikai back-end to my Vita for free. And maybe have a special price to have it on everything for power-users.
What this will do is raise sales of PS4 software because you won’t actually need to own a PS4 to play it. In fact, they could even stream PS4 games to a PS3 using this technology. None of it, of course, will be the same as actually owning the system, and most hardcore gamers will still own the PS4 and buy games directly for that. But, giving someone with a tablet or phone the opportunity to buy the game, at $60, is a pretty big deal in terms of sales. The thing to consider here is that hardware manufacturers don’t make money off of hardware sales, typically. They make money off of licensing and profits from software. So the more avenues you give someone to buy your software the higher your upside is.
What this means in terms of the Vita cannot be understated. Right now we have a few games that offer cloud saves (or transfarring if you’re Konami) and allow you to hop back and forth between the Vita version and the PS3 version. Now imagine if you could do that with EVERY game in the entire Playstation catalogue (PS1-PS4). Cloud gaming, cloud saves, just continue from where you last saved. It would be amazing.
This would, of course, slow development of Vita-specific software, especially bigger products like what we’re expecting with Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty this fall. But I don’t think it would slow development of the smaller games, the indies like Mutant Blob and Velocity. Also, you would think that the sales of the Vita would go through the roof when people who own a PS4 realize “hey, if I buy a vita I instantly have a giant library for it with everything I own on my PS4.” And, of course, there are plenty of times when your Vita isn’t online. So a bigger install base and a niche to fill (the void between Wifi signals) would mean that there would still be a reason for typical Vita software. It can be a slow trickle. Maybe one big game per month. But that’s all we would really need.
3. And, of course, using cloud gaming over 3G isn’t going to work for much other than the most rudimentary casual games. So my first revision of the Vita would include 4G LTE. I have 25MB down cable internet and my friend with 4G got better speeds at my house on his phone. The tech is coming to make all of this a reality.
So, as Bob Sony, these are the steps I would take to Vita success. There are obviously other routes to success as well. Feel free to add your own (or rip mine apart) in the comments below.