Bad news has come for bargain hunters in the lead-up to the launch of the PS Vita: Big W, Target and K-Mart will not be stocking the Sony handheld console.
Big W and Target said in emails they did not rule out stocking the console in the future, but they will not be available at launch.
“At this stage we are not stocking the PlayStation Vita, however it may be something that we stock at a later date,” read a statement from Big W and Target. K-Mart stated they will not be stocking the PS Vita at all because they are leaning towards products with lower prices.
It is unclear at the moment whether the retailers have made a choice to not stock the handheld console or if Sony has played a role in this. Sony Computer Entertainment Australia has gone on record with Jason Hill from the Sydney Morning Herald as saying that the Vita is "clearly targeted at the core gamer". It is uncertain if this means that Sony only wants the Vita to be stocked at specialty retailers and excluded from department stores. Whatever the reason, the Vita not being visible at these three retailers is a strange move. Curiously, citing the cost of the Vita as a reason for not stocking it holds little water when the iPad is sold at these stores now, at a much higher price point than even the most expensive Vita SKU.
A secondary repercussion of this move is that gamers will be affected when it comes to looking for the best price for the Vita, with fewer stores fighting it out to offer competitive prices. Big W is especially known for not releasing prices on new devices up until release day and undercutting everyone. Without the discount chains, punters will be left paying whatever EB, GAME, JB and other retailers charge.
Sony has also dropped the price of the 3G Vita by $30 to $419.95 (when purchased with a Vodafone sim card, from Vodafone) just a week before launch. The price of the Wi-Fi unit remains unchanged at $349.95 -- that's same price the Nintendo 3DS launched at before the price was dropped after its terrible launch performance.
We have contacted Sony for comment and will update when we hear from them.
The Vita launches next Thursday in Australia. How does this move affect your Vita purchase? Will you be getting one?
UPDATE: Sony has responded to the news with the following statement:
For the launch of PlayStation Vita in Australia, with the specific target market being the active gamer we have chosen to launch the console with a focussed retail channel strategy across national specialist game and specialist technology retailers.
There is a long term vision for our revolutionary new hand-held platform, in the same way we had a long term vision for PS3, and anticipate that in line with this we will broaden channel distribution in the future.