Sony's PlayStation Vita launched in Japan over the weekend, bringing with it 24 launch titles, arguably the largest and broadest range of videogames for a hardware launch in history. One of the men at the center of it all, Sony's first party studio head Shuhei Yoshida, has discussed the handheld's long time in development, its features and, most importantly, its demographic.
Interestingly, he makes mention of the "core" PlayStation fanbase, and how "hardcore gamers...hate it when [Sony] try to shove new technology down their throats." What exactly he means by the "core" market we don't know, but we do know that any features aimed at a "casual" consumer are probably gimmicks best implemented in cheap, ultra accessible family games.
The implementation of Augmented Reality (AR) in Vita, for example, is something Yoshida is concerned will be perceived as a gimmick. It certainly raises the query as to what market Sony is actually hoping to attract with Vita, as aiming to create a product for a "wider group of people", as Yoshida says, isn't really appeasing the "hardcore" core group of players: creating a game that can be enjoyed by your grandparents probably isn't going to entertain your typically Battlefield 3 player for very long, for example.
The entire "hardcore", "core" and "casual" ideas that are so often thrown around really rely on simplistic generalisations similar to the one I used above, although they are more often than not widely used terms that help differentiate video game market demographics, like the ones Yoshida mention's.
The inclusion of Twitter and Facebook, as well as an aggressive push for digital content and cheap games, certainly make Vita more appealing to a "casual" user, or someone that might not be prepared to play through all 8-hours of Uncharted: Golden Abyss. What is most interesting about Yoshida's comments, though, is that he appears to allude to the fact that hardcore gamers are turned off by any appeasing of a casual market, no matter how many "hardcore" games are available for the hardware.
Whereas a company like Nintendo is seemingly going out of its way to grab hold of this "core" market -- despite still offering a fantastic range of first-party content -- Sony seems concerned that it will lose the very market both it and Microsoft tried to attract with Move (for PlayStation 3) and Kinect (for Xbox 360) respectively.
Sony's concerns certainly seem unnecessary considering the price of the handheld, which is probably the only thing holding back prospective buyers. If you're worried about your product being too gimmicky for a hardcore audience, you can probably rest assured that the price itself will keep the Vita community exclusive and "core".
Price aside, you also have a pretty "hardcore" launch lineup on the horizon, and as long as there is a steady flow of Uncharted's, Ridge Racer's, UMvC's and Blaz Blue's, no amount of gimmick's will ever hold back the "core" PlayStation gamers.
Yoshida's acknowledgment that "core gamers" hate having new technology rammed down their throat suggests Sony is intent on maintaining its fanbase while still offering new features for a casual audience. It did it with Move, and certainly seems set to do the same for Vita.
By Gaetano Prestia
Which Vita feature are you most interested in, and is there anything, aside from price, that turns you away?