As Sony pulls the plug on first party Vita development I feel they didn’t put forth their best effort. The Vita had a bigger screen but the higher resolution made text and icons smaller. It had more inputs but the main buttons and joystick were smaller. In my opinion the fatal flaw came from the quest for total security.
Sony has always been lethally bi-polar with its products. I’ve seen their home recording products weakened or neglected due to their conflicting entertainment business needs. I’ve seen their CD music poisoned with rootkits. At every turn Sony seems to hobble products to protect profits which in turn lowers its sales when people start experiencing those restrictions. I remember the agonizing choice with my PSP when forced firmware updates made me choose between keeping my homebrew or playing Vice City: Liberty City Stories. That kind of frustration made sure I’d never buy another locked down portable system.
In my opinion the design choices of the Vita combined with a less enthused cracking scene combined to ensure its tepid reception. While most associate emulators and pirated ROMs with open/jail-broken portables there also comes a plethora of amazing applications. Some PSP apps allowed you to use your portable as a joystick or mouse. Heck, I was even able to use the PSP as a secondary display under Windows. With homebrew I was able to back up my UMD discs and stash them safely in my closet. Even better: I was able to buy Japanese games, patch them with English translations and continue to enjoy new games even after Sony forgot their little machine.
Sony could have allowed homebrew in some fashion. They could have retained PS3 remoteplay and even enhanced the feature to include ALL games. For that matter they could have done a much better job of NOT differentiating between the Playstation TV and PS Vita. Consumer confusion about the two coupled with a clunky storefront is never a good thing. I once bought a Japanese only game with no warning that it wasn’t translated. Sometimes you could find games that were slightly incompatible but still purchasable from the Playstation TV like Terraria. By losing the battle with piracy on the PSP they ensured it could remain a viable unit with a thriving community. By “winning” the battle for control Sony ensured we’d judge the Vita solely on its awkward design choices and storefront. The Vita represents what happens when your forced vision for gamers doesn’t match their needs.