It’s been a while since Sony officially released its latest portable console and a lot has been said about the PlayStation Vita since then. Most reviewers have described the console as one of the most appealing and slick gaming systems ever created and the launch lineup has also been well received. One of the main reasons why everyone seems to like the PlayStation Vita is because PSP users feel like their voices have been heard. Many PSP owners actively complained about lots of things, but one common criticism was the lack of a right analog stick. Well, guess what? Now we have a portable console made by Sony with a right analog stick and games that take advantage of it.
Nevertheless, a new Sony handheld system means new problems and one that quickly became apparent is the price of proprietary memory cards. The PlayStation Vita memory cards come in different storage sizes: 4, 8, 16 and 32 GB and they cost $19.99, $29.99, $59.99 and $99.99 respectively. Considering that you can get a regular 32GB SD card for about $30 on Amazon, the price disparity between both formats becomes quite detrimental to consumers, but more importantly why would a company do this? Why would Sony add a hidden price to their console? And why are these things so expensive?
First of all, it should be noted that Sony has always tried to encourage consumers to get proprietary formats (such as Betamax and Minidiscs, among many other failures) and when I say “tried to encourage” what I really mean is push them down their throats. That’s why it took so long for users to be able to download PlayStation Portable games, because Sony was supporting the terribly inconvenient UMD format. But in addition, even the PSP used proprietary memory cards (called Memory Sticks Pro Duo.) The reason why these didn’t pose a huge problem was because with an 8GB one you were good to go as most PSP titles didn’t take a lot of space, especially when comparing them to PS Vita titles.
Sony has stated that the main reason why the Vita uses this woefully inadequate proprietary format is to fight piracy. Another reason is to provide users with the best experience possible. First and foremost, piracy will eventually haunt the Vita like it has affected every single popular console ever created and that is an undeniable fact. Still, and even though Sony wants you to believe something else, the reason behind these statements is that they want to encourage this format because by doing so they are eliminating the competition. The problem comes when you go to a store and you see that one of these little cards costs a fortune and if you choose to get one of the smaller ones (like a 4 GB for example,) you realize that games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss have a mandatory installation of more than 3GB. That doesn’t make any sense.
Furthermore, digital releases need to be mentioned. It took a while but the original PSP eventually got an official store with PSOne Classics, Minis and many other games in it. Of course, the console itself didn’t have a hard drive so users were supposed to get a Memory Stick Pro Duo in order to download and install the aforementioned titles. At first, these memory sticks were quite expensive but eventually, third party companies (including SanDisk and Lexar) started working on cheaper versions. A new Sony handheld is here, but there are no cheaper alternatives yet and it’ll probably take a long while before we see one. Now let’s suppose you are a user who likes getting games digitally because you don’t want to carry around lots of cards and little boxes. Sony is basically hurting the relationship with those users as the company has just released a portable console which uses a proprietary format that is not digital-friendly. In other words, they are encouraging people to buy games in the physical format rather than digitally.
In the end, I’m pretty sure this situation will eventually change. Other companies will start working on cheaper Memory Cards and as a consequence, it’ll be easier for us to get digital releases. In the meantime though, users will have to buy not only games, but also overly expensive memory cards just so they can play on their brand new PS Vitas. In a perfect world, consumers wouldn’t have to put up with situations like these. Let’s just hope that in the near future, Sony shows us the gratitude that we (as supporters of their systems) really deserve.