I mostly write this because I just recently invested in the ironically named, dying handheld. That's right, Amazon recently had a PlayStation Vita bundle for $180 that included Assassin's Creed III: Liberation, PlayStation Allstars: Battle Royale, a 4 GB memory card, 3 months of PlayStation Plus, and a $10 off coupon for Assassin's Creed III. They had a lot of stock for this gold box deal, yet it still ran dry pretty quickly and the bundle is back to being listed for $300.
We all know the Vita isn't selling too well. The 3DS runs laps around it while the original DS and even the PSP still outpace it by noticeable margins. That being said, there is a lot that Sony could be doing to help the situation. I will lay out a few ideas right here;
An Irresistible Bundle
I hopped on Amazon's deal, but honestly, something like this needs to be consistent. Put out the big names and everything that the user needs to get started with the Vita, and they will be hooked for more. Sony has said it themselves, that despite weak sales, just about anyone who actually gets their hands on the thing seems to love it. Sony needs a bait and catch here, and a consistent, affordable starter bundle would be the proper way to do so. They've followed suit from the Xbox 360 and made special edition PlayStation 3's for the big name titles. Sony could do something similar with the Vita and entice a few more eyes. Look, it could even be a digital game, maybe preloaded at that (Like Super Mario 3D Land in some 3DS bundles)? That would get a lot more players on board. And maybe a PS+ trial, to get more users addicted to Sony's Netflix for games.
A Permanent Price Cut
This goes without saying. No one can really justify spending $250 on a dedicated gaming handheld at this point. The 3DS got away with it in the launch window but Nintendo quickly learned, as Sony is doing so right now. There is no justifiable reason to keep this thing above $200 when the PS3 recently had killer bundles with a massive hard drive and games included for just that, $200. Who would pay more for a handheld? I understand that it would be a deeper cut to mend, but it's in danger of going Virtual Boy at this point, and honestly, a broad install base at slight expense is worth the eventual payoff. Sony learned this with the PlayStation 2, so why didn't they keep their own handbook ready?
Look, Amazon has to have made some profit even with their crazy deal - Sony could probably stretch even a modest price cut and it could do wonders. The Vita is estimated to be about $160-$170 worth of hardware, up from the $90-$100 for the 3DS. Sony could pull down to $200 and still squeeze in a slight margin (On the hardware, that is), while expanding the install base and avoiding the cannibalization from their own other platforms (The PS3 and PSP have had notable if not crazy deals recently - Sony is eating away their own potential!).
There is no excuse to not include at least a 4 GB card with the system. Come on, Sony. You could make up the loss by the time the user buys one game, most of which require a memory card anyway. It would also bait and catch new users into buying larger memory cards, which would bring more revenue through the gate. Nintendo is already giving users 2-4GB right out the gate, and requiring even less to actually use the device. The least Sony can do is give users something to start with. Let them try the drug, then they'll get hooked.
This should go without question. Why is it even here in the first place, especially when the user is forced to go with the worst cell provider in the US? I even have AT&T myself and I would never dream of using it on my Vita. Once again, a place where Sony thought they could pull an Apple, and didn't realize that it would bite them in the rear by the time this thing actually hit shelves. As for early adopters, Sony could just release a fair number of free games and maybe some PS+ to make up for the extra investment. At this point, it is just an attempt to recover The Titanic through a drinking straw. Don't even bother.
Last Resort: A Redesign
Ok, here is where Sony could pull out the big guns, but it may hurt their ambitions for the system. The Vita isn't cheaply built. Sony put in a high resolution OLED screen, dual analogs, a rear pad (Which, lets be honest was unnecessary but still interesting), and 512 MB of RAM. This takes quite a pretty penny.
Sony could have gone cheap and put out the Vita for well under $200 if they had used a cheaper screen, removed the rear pad, reduced the available RAM, used an SD card port, and maybe removed the touch capability from the screen (It honestly feels kind of gimmicky, and this is supposed to be a device to appeal to core gamers who wouldn't be bothering with iOS games anyway). That alone could have easily allowed Sony to shell this thing out for $180-$200 and still have made a profit off of the hardware. It's a little too late to retroactively remove some of this, but it would be possible to issue a cheaper redesign ala the PS3 Super Slim.
Bring on the Features
Where is real remote play? PS1 games? PC connectivity? These are the kind of things that may not directly bring more revenue, but will entice users into jumping on the bandwagon. Nintendo already had their jab at these with DS Download Play, Virtual Console, and DSi Camera/Music and are still going strong. Sony needs to unlock the Vita's features now while they still have some appeal left to gleam. Hackers have already pulled off impressive feats that have ran smoothly (Seen the Left4Dead mod yet?), why can't Sony? Oh yeah, because they're afraid of piracy.
Get the PlayStation Suite Ready to Roll!
It blows my mind that Sony is taking this long to unleash the potential of the Vita as a serious mobile gaming device. Nobody I know admits to playing Angry Birds on the bus, and I guarantee you that they'd much rather play something more engaging. The Vita has everything necessary to do so, and Sony has the platform and accessibility to let it shine. This could be big for Sony, if they even notice the pot of gold that they have stumbled upon.
If Steam Greenlight has proven anything, it's that indie games can be a profitable avenue if handled properly. Put out affordable and accessible dev kits, smack on some trophies, and pop it on the PlayStation Store/Suite, and people will be buying PSN cards and memory cards left and right. It's much better than what Sony has now, anyway.
Sony, pull your head out of your rear and realize the potential of your own device. It can't sell itself, no matter how sexy it is. Sony is no longer the behemoth of the Walkman or DVD player. They just shell out something on the market in an already crowded space, and have this "buy it, don't, whatever, we don't care" attitude about it. The lack of marketing, support and ambitious design are what are holding back the excitement among the consumers. That, and ridiculous pricing. There is a hardcore handheld market out there, I'm sure, but just not one that wants to pay for more than the competing console from the same company.