New iPad to Put Sony Out of Business
Will the new iPad spell the end for Sony and the PlayStation brand?
That depends on who you talk to. Not surprisingly, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) enthusiasts are already calling the new iPad the greatest portable game system ever created – even though it's not a game system, doesn't contain any buttons, and features a lineup of games that's no different from the iPad 2.
Sony (NYSE: SNE) enthusiasts did the same thing before the release of PS Vita. They took one look at the graphics (as well as the bright and beautiful display) and told themselves that it would be enough to carry the system to victory.
What both groups fail to realize is that a game system cannot be measured on horsepower alone; it must be measured on game content. Leading up to the official announcement for PS Vita, I couldn't have been more excited. Afterwards, my opinion changed, and I have since been very critical of the handheld, almost entirely because the game lineup isn't compelling. Sure, you can buy a new version of Marvel vs. Capcom. But if you're a fan of that series, you've probably already played it on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. You can buy a new Uncharted, which looks nice but is far from my favorite Sony franchise. You can also buy a new Wipeout, which is not too surprising considering the fact that new Wipeout games accompany the launch of almost every Sony system.
In other words, PS Vita is guilty of providing consumers with more-of-the-same. Most game companies have been guilty of doing this at one time or another. But it is especially disheartening to watch Sony – once the dominant player in the game industry – stumble at a time when it needs to shine.
From a hardware perspective, however, Sony did everything right. The PS Vita has a ton of buttons, a gorgeous touch screen, two analog sticks, and a lightweight body that's perfect for on-the-go entertainment. The device itself is nothing short of a mechanical work of art. In some ways, it might be one of Sony's greatest achievements.
But again, hardware is useless without great content. And since the PS Vita is first and foremost a game system, Sony is in a bit of a pickle.
In this regard, the new iPad is in a much better position. As far as portable devices are concerned, you won't find one with a better Internet experience. Whether you're surfing the web, checking e-mail or watching a video, the iPad is the king of the Internet. As a writer, I personally prefer using a laptop (preferably a MacBook but it could be any decent machine) for writing e-mails. But if we are to exclude laptops from the picture, the new iPad is the clear winner of the multi-tasking category.
The same cannot be said for the iPad's gaming collection. “Oh, but it comes to market with a zillion apps!” the fanboys say. That's true. You know, most devices can play old games. Nobody really cares about that. While we may want backwards compatibility, few of us actually choose to buy – or not buy – a new machine because it can play a two-year-old game. There's nothing exciting about that.
What about the new content? The iPad may very well have acquired a gem in the ridiculously titled Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy from Namco Bandai. At first glance, it looked like a fresh game in the Ace Combat series. Frankly, that would have been a smarter way to brand this flight/combat game. But the title doesn't matter nearly as much as the content, which looks superb.
This is the kind of game that I personally want to play on the new iPad. And let me be clear about something: when it comes to the devices I want to use and/or buy, that's all that matters. We can argue all day long about the quality of the content. But if that content isn't meeting my needs, I (as a consumer) do not care if others like it. That's entirely irrelevant.
But I suspect a lot of people are going to like this particular game. Using the iPad's strengths (the touch screen and motion controls), Sky Gamblers looks like a fast, exciting, and intuitive game. It is perfect for the iPad, and it might very well play better on the iPad than it could play on a console. That's the mark of a great handheld game. If the iPad had more of them, I would be one of the first in line to buy the new model.
Unfortunately, that seems to be the end of the iPad's creativity. Instead of using the strengths of the tablet to build a killer lineup of software, most game developers are treating the iPad as just another handheld device. They forget that the iPad doesn't have buttons, and likely never will have them. (The only way that could ever change is if the Wii U controller became a worldwide sensation. Even then, Apple would still probably stand by its buttons-free strategy.) But the iPad has great motion and touch controls that are great for new experiences, and not merely variations of games we already have. That's why Sky Gamblers should prove to be a great game – because the experience is original.
Beyond the Namco Bandai masterpiece-in-the-making, the new iPad will also play the latest version of Infinity Blade. While the first two games were a haphazard mess of simplistic touch screen madness (consumers criticized the Nintendo DS for having junk like this, but wholly accept it from the iPhone and iPad – what gives!?), Infinity Blade: Dungeons will reportedly feature real-time combat from a top-down perspective. That sounds like a fun transition. But it's not nearly as creative as Sky Gamblers.
If these games are any indication, we might finally begin to see the iPad improve as a gaming device. And it would be great if it did – who wouldn't want to get a more compelling gaming experience from their tablet?
Regardless, Sony is far from an endangered species. There is no question that Apple is a threat to Sony's overall market in electronics manufacturing. Apple could easily force Sony out of laptops and TVs, the latter of which have already become unprofitable for the Japanese tech giant. But if Sony really wanted to win the gaming market, it could. It has all the tools and resources in place. The only problem is that Sony is too blind to realize that.
Hence the lackluster launch of PS Vita.
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