In a sweeping gesture of magnanimity, goodwill, happiness, and radiant, joyful love, Sony gives a discount for some PS Vita games downloaded through their online store (either the PlayStation Network, or Sony Entertainment Network, or whatever it’s being called this week). In most cases it amounts to ten percent on each title, which seems like a pretty good deal, provided you don’t think about it too much. Like other things that don’t hold up against close scrutiny, the actual value of this discount withers under the searing light of math and logic.
Let’s say that you want to buy a copy of Uncharted: Golden Abyss in the PlayStation Entertainment Network Sony Store. The price is $35.99, which indicates a $4 discount off the retail version. Okay so far. Four bucks is four bucks, after all; who’s going to look askance at that? Well, anyone who realizes that he’s going to need a place to store 3 GB worth of data from the download, and who can also do a little simple division.
At its lowest per-GB price, a proprietary Sony PS Vita memory card costs $100. That’s 32 GB of space at $3.13 per GB. Lower capacity cards cost slightly more per GB — at the bottom of the spectrum rests the near-useless 4 GB card at $20, which even the most mathtacularly impaired among us can figure to cost $5 per GB. I’ll give Sony the benefit of the doubt and use the figures for the least-expensive unit cost: $3.13. Let’s move on.
The 3 GB download for Golden Abyss means you’re looking at an extra $9.39 in storage space just to buy the game online, which brings the total for a year-old mediocre handheld action-adventure title to $45.38. At this price, even if you live in a city with a ten percent state/local sales tax, it would still be cheaper to buy a retail copy and swap out the card every time you wanted to play than it would be to download the game from the PlayStation store.
It’s true that you can delete the game from your memory card and re-download it whenever you want, but as long as the game is in your possession, that is, as long as it’s playable on your Vita, you must take into account the per-unit cost of the storage medium. While the game is not in your possession (not playable on your Vita), the economics are even worse; you’ve paid $35.99 for nothing at all.
Upon pondering the purchase of Silent Hill: Book of Memories in the Sony PlayStation Entertainment Network Online Store, I realized that I’d have to delete a few things from my original 4 GB memory card to make room for the game, so this evening I looked into buying another Vita memory card from Huge National Retail Chain. I didn’t look long — a few aisles from the Vita accessories, where a 32 GB Vita card costs $100, a 32 GB brand-name microSD card can be found for $45, which works out to $1.41 per GB. This typically Sony-esque disparity annoyed the Kratos out of me, so I didn’t buy anything; instead I walked away, my brain hurting slightly from all the impromptu arithmetical gymnastics that I’d just performed, and my agitation leading me to ponder the wisdom of implementing a proprietary memory card format in a system that faces Cialis-stiff competition from devices with 16, 32, and 64 GB of built-in memory. Do they think this will lead to more sales of absolutely anything, either games or memory cards or systems?
I can do the math. You can do the math. Why can’t Sony do the math?