You'd be forgiven for thinking Sony had given up on the Vita - at least in the west - after its no-show at the company's major press conferences this year. But according to Sony's UK boss the handheld console is here to stay.
Vita went on sale in Europe in February 2012 and ever since has failed to set tills alight. But Sony has repositioned the console in a bid to make a modest amount of money out of a new-found niche of indie titles, ports and games aimed at younger players.
In an interview with Eurogamer, Sony UK chief Fergal Gara admitted the Vita doesn't sell anywhere near as well as the PlayStation 4, for example, but he said he was encouraged by how "robust and consistent" the sales were.
"It's trucking along," he said. "It's currently in year-on-year growth and enjoying a healthy year, and it's about to hit its biggest and potentially most powerful release of the year, which is Minecraft. That could be an extraordinary release for Vita.
"We're seeing a bit of reflected glory from PS4. So there is a traction in remote play, and we see the numbers there. But it's more than that. It's just found its niche. It's not the biggest niche in the world, and we've been fairly open about talking about it entered a crowded landscape with many other devices providing some sort of handheld fulfilment. But for those who want that more specialist device and a more specialist experience, it does a damn good job, and therefore it trucks along quite nicely."
Vita launched alongside a promise to provide a home console quality experience on the go. But the strategy failed, with £30 games such as Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Killzone: Mercenary struggling to make an impression on a market flooded with cheap titles for smartphones.
So Sony repositioned the handheld to focus on smaller games, an initiative spearheaded by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe's Shahid Ahmad, as well as games aimed at younger players. And it's a strategy that's helping keep Vita afloat.
Will Sony release the likes of Uncharted or Killzone on Vita ever again? Probably not, Gara said. "But what we are excited by is the number of games we can take to the platform that have been created for other platforms.
"Minecraft is a classic example. We've got Lego Batman 3 coming to Vita as well as PS4 and PS3. The multitude of digital titles that are proving attractive on the console, and the fact it is a substantially digital device - a big chunk of the sales come direct from the store to the device - the multitude of titles in the indie sector in particular we've done a lot of work with has proven popular, both in terms of affordability and their quirky nature, which seems to suit many of the consumers who are buying Vita. And also a bunch of younger gamer titles, which is another substantial niche.
"We've done great numbers through the summer. You may have seen our TV campaign focused on younger gamers around the Lego titles. There's a nod to Minecraft in there and LittleBigPlanet. It's proved successful."
As you'd expect, for Sony the priority this Christmas is the PS4, which recently hit the one million sales mark in the UK alone (it's shifted 10m units worldwide since going on sale in November 2013).
But Gara said Vita also had a role to play over the coming months. On 26th September Sony will release a Vita bundled with FIFA 15 for €199.99. We wouldn't be surprised if Sony goes big on Minecraft, too, when it's eventually released.
"We will certainly not be ignoring it this Christmas," Gara said. "We're very pleased with how it continues to sell, and look forward to another big, seasonal spike at Christmas. Its sales profile has over the last couple of years proven to be far more seasonal than, say PS3, and how PS4 will behave once we have another year under our belts.
"There's a perception that it's fading away. I can absolutely assure you that that's not happening. It's proving remarkably resilient. We enter the peak season very optimistic about hitting similar or bigger numbers to last year. So we feel in good shape."
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