The PlayStation Vita is a "nice machine," but it came "too late" to find and sustain a meaningful audience. That's the opinion of Jack Tretton, the former CEO of SCEA who left the company in 2014 after 19 years.
Asked by IGN how he feels about the portable device, through the 20/20 lens of hindsight and from outside Sony's walls, Tretton offered a candid take. "Now that I don't work there anymore, I think internally it was: 'This is a great machine, it's just too late.' The world has shifted to portable devices that aren't dedicated gaming machines," he said.
By comparison, the Vita's predecessor, the PSP, was a bigger hit, Tretton said. This system was successfully able to bring what he said were console-like experiences to a portable device and also attract older gamers to the handheld space. When the PS Vita came out (it debuted in the US in 2012), smartphone games were on the rise, leaving less of a space for dedicated gaming handhelds.
Tretton said his overall feeling is that the PS Vita is a "nice machine" that came out "at a time when very few people needed a dedicated portable device."
A slimmed-down PS Vita featuring a longer battery life and other benefits was released in spring 2014. Sony continues to sell PS Vita systems, which start at $200.
The PS Vita has sold more than 5 million units in Japan as of June 2016, according to Dualshockers, though Sony has shared as much for the US. The system debuted in the US in February 2012 and sold 2.2 million systems in its first six months, though it's not immediately clear where that figure stands now.
Whatever the case, Nintendo's 3DS is likely well ahead of the PS Vita. As of June 30, 2016, Nintendo had sold 59.79 million 3DS family units around the globe. The 3DS launched earlier than the PS Vita, having debuted in Japan and the US in early 2011.
Sony has not yet said if it will make a PS Vita successor, while Nintendo's mysterious NX system is rumored to be a console/mobile hybrid.