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“And the Actual Retail Price is . . . “

Playstation Vita With the exception that PSVita 3G will only work exclusively with AT&T when it launches North America this winter, plus have a 20MB 3G data cap imposed, all the news coming out of the Sony camp surrounding their upcoming portable game system, has largely been extremely good news (from a gamer perspective) – I know, Sony has actually done something right for a change, go figure. But I guess all good things must come to an end, as it would appear the other shoe has finally dropped on the Playsation Vita. Along with news of the impending PSV global launch date set for February 22, 2012, comes news (finally) of pricing on Playstation Vita games – and no, it is not pretty news at all. In Europe at least, Sony appears to be pricing PSVita games as expensive as their PS3 counterparts. For North America, while it is not official (yet), that would mean PSVita games costing as much at $60 each for key titles. I will not say that this comes exactly as any kind of surprise, or anything. I will say that with everything else Sony was getting right surrounding the Vita, there was hope they would break with tradition and get this aspect right as well. And considering the specs of the portable, one could have expected the prices to be as high as PS3 titles, but two mitigating factors have always given hope that they would not be:

  1. The PSV while awesome, is still not in the same league as the PS3/Xbox 360, and as a result (and you can actually see this by looking closely at the games), the graphics are not up to par with full-blown PS3 titles; with the launch games on the system only matching the best games from PSN and XBLA. All this adds up to the fact that it actually costs less to develop PSV titles, than full blown PS3 titles. Which gave hope that they would not be priced as high. Matter of fact, looking at similarly developed games on XBLA and PSN, say like Battlefield 1943, or WipEout HD, or the XBLA/PSN Crysis port, one could reasonably expect similar spec’ed games on PSV to cost in the neighborhood of $20 each.
  2. Infinity Blade on iPhone/iPad The prevailing, not to mention, highly successful trend in mobile game pricing, is downward. Sony has stated that with Vita, they intend to best Apple and the iOS family of devices at the entire mobile gaming thing. And anyone keeping track of iOS gaming, there are some pretty impressive, deep, and high end games like Infinity Blade, being built on Unreal Engine 3 no less, coming to the platform. Most on par with PSVita projects, yet priced vastly lower than game prices Sony is proposing for their ‘iOS-killing’ portable. With bold sentiments like that out of Sony, it was pretty reasonable to assume they would shoot for lower prices with PSV software. Especially when games like Infinity Blade, which looks every bit as good as any game for PSV, has as much geometry, and true hi-def textures being pushed by the game. When you factor in that games of this caliber can be purchased on iOS for a measly $5.99 (that’s less money than it costs to buy lunch), it leaves you wondering why anyone would price them higher on a competing device.

Man, I want the PSV so bad, but even this far out from launch, it is becoming readily apparent that between online passes, draconian PSN end user agreements, and now this . . . the lifestyle of savings that I have cultivated throughout 2011, is simply not going to fly well with PSV. And that is unfortunate, because money is really tight for a lot of people these days. At $250, the hardware is priced almost perfectly. I still think it is a mistake to price it higher than the price of a subsidized iPhone. But Sony may be able to pull it off, considering the heat they got packing under the hood. But either way, at $60 each, the games are not. And with online passes pretty much putting an end to renting, borrowing, and pre-owned purchasing, there is little to no money to be saved there either.

As someone who has gotten really accustomed to buying all their games brand new with 50% to 90% off discounts over the course of the past ten months, software pricing on the PSVita really does pose a particularly frustrating dilemma. I want to purchase the system extremely bad, however at $60 per game . . . OUCH! The only strategy I can come up with (off hand) to make Vita worth it long term, is splurging and buy all the games I want at launch (you know, get the newness of the device out of my system), and then delay the purchase of all PSVita games released beyond the launch window, by six to nine months each, so that I can pick them up brand new at a discount from Amazon, or somewhere, once the game has hit the bargain bin.

I know. Not exactly the most ideal way to shop for games. But what is the alternative? Piracy?

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UPDATE:

It would appear that according to placeholder listings at online retailer Amazon, as well as Best Buy and Walmart, the software prices for the US version of the Playstation Vita, will only be $39.99 – the same price as currently PSP titles. This is much more in line with what I was hoping game pricing on Vita would be, if by some stroke of magic, they did not get reduced any further to begin with (see above reasons for why). Unfortunately, as promising as this pricing appears, do keep in mind that these are placeholder listings by the big retailers. Basically something to give the retailer a usable SKU in their systems, so that they can start taking pre-orders for a product. Final prices, release dates and even box art are subject to change. And sure enough, some of this information across retailers is sketchy, with bits of data changing from retailer to retailer. Until Sony coughs up official info on these game releases, retail placeholder listings should be optimistically taken with a grain of salt. I only mention it here, for completionist sake.

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