Former CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America Jack Tretton, who capped off a 19-year tenure when he departed the company in 2014, says the PlayStation Vita was a great machine that became irrelevant before it even hit stores.
"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 in an interview on IGN.
Although little reliable sales info for the Vita exists, comparing its numbers to those of the PlayStation Portable and 3DS provide some context. Sony's PlayStation Portable was in production until June 2014; in 2012, the last time Sony announced sales numbers, the Associated Press reported that Sony had sold more than 76 million PSP units. PS Vita emerged as its successor in 2011, and sold 11 million units during its lifespan according to Tech Radar.
Labeling the Vita a flop should be considered just shy of hyperbole. After all, it's sold more than Nintendo's Wii U (13 million units worldwide as of June 30, 2016) but still considerably less than its primary competitor, Nintendo's 3DS, at 59.79 million units as of this June.
Ultimately, mobile devices such as Apple's iPhone changed the landscape of portable gaming—so much so that Nintendo is likely building its NX console as a successor to both the Wii U and 3DS, a handheld/console hybrid.