I'll give you a hint. It rhymes with cupid.
has not been having a good year. Fromquarterly losses
, the once-powerful electronics manufacturer is taking a beating in virtually every area in which it conducts business. Now, several months aftertoying with the idea
of postponing the release of its next handheld, Sony has moved ahead with its plan todelay the launch of PS Vita
. Now the system won't arrive in Europe or the United States until 2012. This delay comes at a time when Sony faces stiff competition from alower-priced
Nintendo 3DS and aplethora
that claim to perform just as well as game-dedicated devices. Sony cannot afford a delay. With every additional month spent waiting for the PS Vita to be released, its relevance is diminished by the number of people that will get bored and move on to something else. If Sony had made a stronger system, one with games that people could not live without, this might not be as big of a problem. But nobody is anticipating the release of PS Vita. Nobody is looking forward to its obscure game lineup, which is more reminiscent of the NeoGeo Pocket Color (which had a hodgepodge of so-so releases) than the game console it is trying to emulate – PlayStation 3. In trying to defend its reason for the delay, Sony has claimed that it is dedicated to building a compelling game lineup. But unless the company plans on holding PS Vita till Christmas 2012, that isn't going to happen. Right now, the only games that are far enough along to make the presumed spring 2012 release date have already been announced. None of them are anything special. None of them will make consumers rush out and spend $249. In theory, Sony could prepare a whole lineup of games wedon't
know about and turn PS Vita into a huge success. Unfortunately, that's not how the game industry works. The average game takes 18 to 24 months to produce, and developers tend to announce new games 12 to 18 months before they're released. Some companies, such as KonamiKNM
and Capcom, are known to announce games 24 to 30 months before they are released. This does not bode well for Sony, a company that relies on third-party developers to provide its game devices with high-quality entertainment. And since game development is a time-consuming process, Sony can't simply drop a ton of money and make things happen. In order to ensure that the PS Vita launch is a success, the system must already have great games in development. As far as we know, it doesn't have any. Later this year, we are bound to hear about some new PS Vita games. But don't expect a release date to accompany those announcements. Instead, the games we hear about this fall are likely to be slated for fall 2012 and spring 2013. At that rate, PS Vita's launch is likely to resemble that of the Nintendo 3DS. Super Mario 3D Land, the Nintendo device's most anticipated (original) game, will not arrive until November – more than six months after the system was released. And unlike the 3DS, PS Vita doesn't have any unique gimmicks to push it out the door. Its dual-touch feature (one touch screen on top and one touch pad underneath the system) is not enough to sway consumers, especially when there aren't any cool games to demonstrate the purpose of that feature. Like the iPod Touch, PS Vita can multi-task. But aside from PlayStation 3, Sony hasn't been successful in trying to brand itself as a company that makes products that can do everything. If it could position the PS Vita as an iPod Touch-killer, it might be able to gain some ground. But to be really successful, it's going to need to stand out from the crowd. With PlayStation 3, Sony used Blu-ray to sell the system to people who don't even play video games. At that time, PS3 was the cheapest Blu-ray player available, and video junkies couldn't resist. However, the downside to selling a game system to non-gamers is that, unless you find a way to turn those people into regular customers, sales will be flat. You may sell a ton of hardware, but what's the point? Unlike AppleAAPL
and Nintendo (NTDOY
), Sony does not make money selling hardware. Rather, it profits by selling games, downloads, movies (download, stream or Blu-ray), and other forms content. In that sense, Sony has become more of an entertainment company than an electronics manufacturer, which could be the biggest problem of all. If Sony can't provide enough entertainment – whether it is in the form of video games or something else entirely – to get people to buy its hardware, the company is doomed.Follow me @LouisBedigian
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