Sony Lacked a “Vision for What the Vita Could’ve Been,” Says Former Employee

"It could have been a Switch years ahead of its time."

A former Sony employee recently held an AMA focusing on PlayStation’s disappointing handling of the Vita. Although anonymous, the employee was vetted by Reddit moderators and held the AMA with their coordination.

In the AMA, the former employee alleges Sony dropped first-party support for the Vita because the return on investment was just too low. “While they made an earnest effort to make games in the beginning, when those numbers didn’t improve they stopped investing,” he writes. “The Playstation 3 outsold the Vita about 4:1 and the Playstation 4 outsold the Vita about 5:1. As a Vita fan, it sucks, but Sony as a business was targeting areas where sales potential was higher, and mostly left the Vita to third-party partners.”

While the former employee believes Sony created a great handheld system, the system’s capabilities were marred from the beginning. “At the console’s launch, they only made some of its memory accessible and didn’t open it up to devs until later in the lifecycle,” they write in response to what they’d identify as the biggest failings of the Vita’s treatment. “They made memory cards proprietary out of hack fears. They never used the accessory port that was on the OG Vita. I feel like they had a lack of vision for what the Vita could’ve been because they were laser-focused on the disappointing sales numbers. By all means, it could have been a [Nintendo] Switch five to six years ahead of its time but they decided to more or less fail fast instead of double down.”

Expanding on why Sony continued to use proprietary memory cards — an expensive storage solution that many have attributed as one of the major reasons for the Vita’s failure — the former employee says the main reason was to deter hacks, for “it’s hard to express just how much of a cultural impact the 2011 hack had on Sony’s culture.” Back in 2011, PlayStation Network hackers accessed over 77 million people’s accounts containing personal data, forcing Sony to shut off access to the PlayStation Network. The outage lasted 23 days and was, at the time, one of the largest data security breaches in history.

Ultimately, the former Sony employee says “killing the Vita has been in the cards since 2016 or 2017. I’d wager both the store shutdown and nixing the sales ability are steps to get people off the platform, just as the cessation of manufacturing carts/consoles.” They go on to provide insight on other details, such as the collapse of negotiations between Sony and 2K Games over a Vita BioShock game, why Sony created PlayStation TV, and more. Be sure to check the AMA for more details.

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For many, Sony has recently undone a lot of the goodwill it has created over the last few generations. For one, Sony has decided to shut down the digital storefronts for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, and the PlayStation Vita, permanently eliminating access to many games and establishing a dark future for video game preservation at large in the process. Additionally, a new Bloomberg report illustrates Sony as increasingly risk-averse, deprioritizing creativity and innovation in favor of pure profit in some extremely head-scratching ways. Be sure to read the full report for information on an alleged remake of The Last Of Us (why), the struggles of Sony Corp.’s Visual Arts Service Group, and more.

The report communicates a conglomerate struggling with internal culture wars, which the former Sony employee supported with their thoughts. (Independently of the story, as the AMA session was held on April 8 while the report was published on April 9.)

“Playstation is a historically Japanese brand,” he writes. “In the time since Playstation debuted, America has grown to be the largest video game market. There’s been a lot of internal competition for the ‘control’ of the Playstation brand and over the past several years you can clearly see where America has been winning. Relocation of HQ, shutdown of most of Japan Studios, and the DualSense’s X default confirm” are some notable examples. That Sony’s culture has strayed from devoting resources to the potential of non-blockbusters is certainly one of the biggest takeaways from the report.

“I do think the success has gotten to their head.”