Category Archives: Tech

Will PS Vita be Sony’s last handheld?

Handheld gaming platforms have been some of my favorites. Because of this, I like seeing handheld gaming platforms succeed. And they are, if one is looking at Nintendo’s 3DS and mobile platforms.

However, not every gaming platform does well, and one such example is the Playstation Vita.

It’s predecessor did well. In fact, people were ready for the Playstation Portable to take the world by storm. I remember, after hearing that Sony was working on a handheld gaming console, one magazine predicted the end of Nintendo’s dominance of portable gaming. While this doesn’t seem unusual for a guy expressing his opinion, what was unusual was that it was being expressed in a review for Final Fantasy Tactics Advance for the Gameboy Advance. (By the way, if you’re wondering what a magazine is, it’s like an iPad made of trees.)

Of course, that didn’t happen. Nintendo released the Nintendo DS, and it outsold the PSP by far. However, the measure of a console’s success isn’t necessarily expressed by it’s sales numbers, but Nintendo clearly dominated handheld gaming, to the point that just about anything that competed with Nintendo handhelds didn’t stand a chance. Remember the NeoGeo Pocket Color? It was a very interesting system, but there wasn’t much marketing for it, and there wasn’t much of a variety of games. The Wonderswan handheld did okay in Japan. It had potential, but it wasn’t released in America.

So Sony, the company that upset Nintendo’s dominance of console gaming, was coming to handhelds. As people saw it, if anyone could put a dent in Nintendo’s dominance of handheld gaming, it would have been them. The PSP did very well due to a combination of marketing and the awareness of the Playstation brand. At the time the PSP launched, sales of the Nintendo DS were slow, so it looked like a possibility that Sony would release Nintendo’s grip on handheld gaming, as they did with console gaming. However, Nintendo DS’s software library improved, while things were more steady for the PSP. The DS ended up selling about twice as much as the PSP.

However, Sony still did something very significant. Even if they didn’t become the leader of the handheld market, when a game system sells over 80 million units, it’s usually considered a success.

Again, a console’s success isn’t necessarily expressed by it’s sales numbers. Sony didn’t have to become market leader to come away with a major victory: demonstrating that they had what it takes to compete with Nintendo, and take away a significant share of the market.

Even so, PSP’s story also had it’s downs. Sony sold it’s systems at a loss, with the strategy of recovering losses with software sales. This isn’t an unusual strategy. Console manufacturers have been doing this for a while, and they have been staying competitive. In the PSP’s case, however, the handheld initially cost far more to produce than the MSRP, and around the time the PSP launched, Sony’s gaming division was losing money, and the company overall was having financial troubles.

When the PS2 launched, the DVD was a new media format. A significant part of the PS2’s initial success was the fact that, for many people, the PS2 was their first DVD player. When the PSP came around, however, Sony had the idea that people would want to watch movies on their proprietary UMD format that (as far as I could tell) only played on PSPs. That didn’t work out. However, the PSP went on to sell millions, doing very well in a market that was dominated by Nintendo. Later, Sony released the PS3 with the ability to play BluRay disks. Some bought up PS3s because it seemed to be a better value than new BluRay players at the time (even though a new PS3 cost about $600 at the time it launched!). However, BluRay didn’t take off very well, and neither did HD DVD (which the Xbox 360 supported), it would seem that this was because the two had the bad timing of having to compete with streaming and digital downloads. This was likely another determining factor for the Wii’s success: the Wii wasn’t expensive due to lack of a DVD, BluRay, and HD DVD movie player feature, and owners could just use Wii to watch YouTube or Hulu on their TV.

When the PS Vita was revealed, I could tell that it wasn’t going to do well. Yeah, it did have what it takes to succeed as a handheld game console: a meaty processor, game cards instead of a disk drive, internal and removable memory, and some high-profile games. However, it just seemed like it wouldn’t do well.

For one thing, I didn’t like their proprietary memory cards (memory sticks?). Did Sony have something against SD cards? Even Nintendo’s 3DS had a slot for SD cards, even though that was unexpected. Therefore, I could swap files between my computer and a 3DS easily. I don’t know whether Sony did release a Vita memory card adapter for PC. Considering that they’re a huge media company, it’s hard to imagine that they would want to prevent a person from swapping files between a Vita and a PC.

For that matter, there wasn’t much marketing for Vita outside it’s launch period, and even that wasn’t very pronounced. That was a problem considering that Vita looked so similar to the PSP, that aside from some slight difference in dimensions, a casual observer wouldn’t see much difference. This was also initially a problem for the 3DS when it was new, but when the 3DS’s price dropped, gamers were much less hesitant to buy one. And when the 3DS XL model was introduced, the 3DS took off. Vita’s price wouldn’t drop until the next year. As a result, Nintendo’s 3DS ran circles around Vita, and by the time Vita’s price dropped, Sony had already dropped the ball.

Nintendo 3DS and Sony PS Vita are very different, so why compare them? Because they compete, so the success of one may depend on it’s ability to take a large part of the other’s base away. This has been a problem for PSP considering that many PSP owners also had 3DS systems, but the same wasn’t always true the other way around. Therefore, there were a lot of PSP owners out there that may not have viewed their PSP as their primary portable gaming system. Mobile gaming became huge during the PSP and DS’s lifetimes, and many gamers, if they had to choose two portable gaming platforms, would choose a mobile platform and a Nintendo platform. This seems to be the case again as 3DS and PS Vita compete.

Me, I had actually gone a while having forgotten that there was a PSVita. Later, I saw that they were still available for purchase at Gamestop, and I saw that Sony was still going at it. There still doesn’t seem to be a lot going on with the PS Vita, however.

It’s been over three years since the PS Vita has launched, and the system has only sold about 10 million units worldwide. That’s not very good.

So, will Sony continue to bother with handhelds after this? It would seem that Sony is considering a redesign of Vita, perhaps a minor version 3 revision. E3 is just next month, and perhaps it will be announced there. However, it doesn’t seem likely that Sony is doing another handheld soon. Sony has been in financial trouble for a while, and it might be that they’re cutting back on projects that have been costlier for them.

Will things turn around for the PSVita? I don’t know. The market for video games has been very fickle. But one thing that seems consistent is Nintendo’s success in portable gaming, and that’s likely to continue. That doesn’t mean that Sony couldn’t be profitable in the area of portable gaming, but they’d have to improve their strategy quite a bit. They’re not doing very much to market Vita, though it could help them a lot. Perhaps they could also benefit from a clearer focus, competing with either Nintendo’s 3DS or mobile gaming, and in so doing possibly winning a few sales in the process. As it’s doing now, however, it’s like the PSVita is barely there, not making much of an impact.

Considering how it’s been performing, perhaps it would be better for Sony to just let the PS Vita go, and instead focus on their next project.

A few things I learned while looking at computers

I was curious as to what was on the market, so I decided to look around at new computers. It would probably be a short while before I purchase a new computer, but because I have a technology major, it probably wouldn’t hurt to be aware of what is out there.

While shopping around, both online and at retail locations like Walmart, there were a few things I learned that I found surprising.

For one thing, I was surprised to learn that the computer that I have now is not considered obsolete.

Yeah, that was a surprise. The laptop I use now was purchased around December 2009 to January 2010. It was a floor model of a discontinued laptop that I saw at Staples, and I got a discount on it. It has two 2.10GHz processors, 4 GB of RAM, and a 286 GB hard drive. I only spent a few hundred dollars on it.

What I find interesting is that, even though my laptop is over 5 years old, it’s comparable to what’s out there today (though perhaps on the lower end).

About a decade ago, tech was advancing so rapidly that what was purchased new was considered obsolete pretty fast, usually within a year-and-a-half of being purchased. It was actually kind of alarming. Many consumers were going out and purchasing newer computers, only to discard them about a couple years later and often because they took a few more seconds to boot up compared to when they were brand new.

In tech, one of the things to watch out for was “planned obsolescence”, which was a phrase that suggested that tech companies were aware that the products that they were making would one day be obsolete, even if they were, at the time of their manufacture, considered top-of-the-line. Some of the more cynical among us suspected that companies like Microsoft made their newer operating systems and updates to existing ones to consume more system resources in an attempt to encourage consumers to purchase more PCs. Whatever the cause, many computers fell down in the stampede of progress.

We’ve reached a point that tech companies have a much harder time doing more with the space available to them. At this point, it seems like they can only feasibly fit so many capacitors in such a small space, so the forward advancement in CPU processing power seems to have slowed.

So, what’s being used to encourage consumers to purchase more PCs? That leads to another thing that I discovered while shopping around. At one point, the processing power and storage of a computer were considered their main selling points. Today, it seems like tech companies are enticing consumers with features.

Some of these features are pretty cool, such as touch screens (though I don’t like smudges on my display screens), and detachable screens that would allow the displays to function as tablets (durability might be an issue).

One problem I’ve noticed with newer laptops is that some of them look really cheap. While features and technical specs are something to consider when shopping for a new computer, there is a certain form factor which is considered preferable. If I were to purchase a computer that’s cutting edge, I’d prefer for it to look slightly edge, rather than something with a Fisher Price look to it.

To make matters worse, Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 8, isn’t very attractive. Their new home screen is particularly garish and overly simplistic, like something that a person could make in MS Paint in a few minutes. I’m not sure why Microsoft is so proud of it’s new home screen, but apparently they are, because it’s seen on many Windows 8 promos. A newer version of Windows 8 brings back the desktop, which is something that people seem to prefer. Microsoft has a tendency to attempt to fix things that aren’t broken, which is one problem, but do they have to phase out features that people like?

And speaking of phasing out features people like, I’ve noticed that some newer laptops are missing drives for optical media, such as CDs and DVDs. I understand that media is making the shift to digital downloads, but it seems to me that optical media is still relevant, so it would be too early to phase it out. People still have DVD collections today, and BluRay is still new.

And when it comes to missing features, netbooks are famous. Many people buy netbooks because they’re so cheap and many consumers suspect that they’d be getting the same experience with them as they would with a laptop. Me, I don’t take netbooks very seriously.

The laptop I have now might be on the lower end of what’s available, but for now, it seems to suffice with what I do with it. That may change in the near future, however. But it seems like I got a pretty good value with the laptop that I have now.

YouTube Channel Review: UrAvgConsumer

The pursuit of quality is a quest for consumers everywhere, and we help each other out when we write reviews. I’ve decided to do a review of a YouTube channel, and the channel up for review is UrAvgConsumer, which can also be referred to as the Beats by Dre channel.

beats apologist

One thing that’s obvious right off the bat is that UrAvgConsumer is a huge fan of Beats by Dre, a brand of headphones famous for being endorsed by Dr. Dre, being worn by celebrities, being expensive, and sounding like garbage. This is disappointing, until one considers that the headphones were originally made by Monster, the same company that set an MSRP for an HDMI cable at $120.

Something that’s expensive like Beats by Dre should not be getting mixed reviews. But it is, and people keep going out and purchasing them. Many of those that do rave about it’s sound quality. Others return them to the store, because there’s more to the audio experience than bass, and other, less expensive headphones do bass better.

UrAvgConsumer’s video selection includes:

  • Beats by Dre Pro Unboxing
  • urBeats vs Beats Tour Comparison (a comparison of his favorite headphones is unavoidable, since he spends a lot of time discussing the Beats brand)
  • My Top 5 Favorite Headphones 2.0 (he lists his favorite headphones, which are pretty much bass headphones and this list includes [guess what!] Beats by Dre)
  • New Beats Studio Review 2013
  • What’s in My Gadget Backpack 2.0 (which, yes, does include a Beats product)
  • My Beats Headphone Ranking / Purchase Guide

That last one should give pause for thought. This guy calls himself “UrAvgConsumer,” short for “Your Average Consumer,” and he has enough of these expensive headphones to make a purchase guide for them including footage of his experiences with the products. I admit that I haven’t gone around surveying consumers to compile data on their audio purchasing habits, but I don’t think it’s a bad assumption that the average consumer doesn’t have a few thousand extra dollars in the mattress to go out and purchase dozens of headphones, with emphasis in those large purchases being bass headphones and Beats by Dre.

I know that some might say that I’m not making a fair assessment of UrAvgConsumer’s YouTube channel unless I’ve watched each of his videos. I don’t have to watch each of his videos to write a review of his channel, and I don’t want to watch dozens of his videos. It’s enough to see that he has a number of videos reviewing Beats products and flirting with his girlfriend to get the idea just what kind of content he’s offering the internet. Also, if I did watch more of his videos, more channels like his may appear in my recommendations, which was how I came to be aware of his channel to begin with.

And while we’re talking about recommendations, I think YouTube could benefit from a clickable box (similar to their Watch Later option) that removes certain videos from your recommendations so you don’t have to watch them to get them out of there. There was one video that I was trying to avoid that appeared in my recommendations for about a month. When I did finally decide to watch it, even with my lowered expectations, I was still disappointed.

As for UrAvgConsumer’s channel, I’m giving it a score of 4 out of 10. Which I think is pretty generous. I was considering giving it a score of 3, but UrAvgConsumer’s channel provides plenty of material for nerd battles, which are sometimes a little amusing. Other than that, it’s hard to recommend this channel at all. Unless you happen to be a Beats by Dre fanboy who is out to attempt to justify his purchase, which is something that UrAvgConsumer is happy to help you with. Just don’t count on the comments sections to help you as much in that endeavor.