One thing that never fails to amaze me when it comes to the gaming fan base is that despite always complaining about a lack or new IPs or tech come out, the second it does rise up from the depths of whatever company is looking to give that kind of concept a chance, everyone starts spitting up bile. Sure the concept may be great, the games may be fun, but somewhere along the line gamers got it into their heads that the only things worth investing in is a product that everyone else has decided to invest first. I'm not really sure when this kind of mentality first came around, but its a stigma that developers have had to deal with for (at the very least) this most recent console generation. Most recently the Vita has been flagged a massive failure for its inability to hit sales numbers as large as the Nintendo 3DS or Snuggies, but taking a look at the bigger picture it's easy to see why. The Vita was never really meant to.
Let's just tackle the elephant in the room right now, those fancy 3DS sales numbers. When compared head to head against the Vita, they make Sony's handheld fantasies look like pathetic well-wishing. In what reality has the PSP ever tried to compete with the content that the DS could come up with? It's impossible to, Nintendo has simply held onto the 'family franchise' label for far too long and there's no sign of them ever giving it up. When you market a toy to children there's going to naturally be a larger consumer base that will want to access the product, and the Vita (though it may play games) is not a children's toy. It's an adult console in the same way that the Xbox 360 or PS3 are more geared for teenagers and grown-ups than the Wii is, sales figures for those console units have always taken this fact into consideration and it's unreasonable for us to think any differently when it comes to handhelds.
This is completely aside the fact that everyone was nay-saying the 3DS figures when they were first released as well. People have never, and will never, simply jump into a new technology with reckless abandon. It takes a while for any new technology to catch on, and for all the success that Nintendo has had with their new little handheld, the 3DS has also failed to meet many of their expected sales figures. Is the unit a failure by proxy? Absolutely not, all this means is that it needs a little more time to develop into something more. There are more contributing factors to a console selling than the console itself, and the 3DS' biggest hurdle was trying to convince customers to purchase a new system that only had 2-3 AAA quality titles. Being realistic, the Vita sits in a similar situation.
You would think that considering how long it took the PS3 to really take off, that gamers would realize by now Sony is a company willing to take risks that pay out in the long run. Sony is also a company that tends to price high upon release, so while Vita's current launch price may be discouraging to a lot of potential buyers there's generally quite a bit of hope for the future. Considering that the device can do far more than the 3DS when it comes to multimedia and cross platform capabilities, it may be more fair to weigh the Vita as a peripheral tool for current PS3 owners than just a simple handheld system. But then again, the ball is in Sony's court when it comes to trying to convey that message to customers.
So is half a million units sold in just over a months time really that bad of a figure considering? Not really, there are just too many other factors at play for anyone to say that the console is dying or floundering post-launch. Anyone who expected the system to sell as well as the 3DS isn't really being realistic, and from my perspective, Sony really hasn't made any choices that Nintendo could have improved upon. The handheld market is extremely niche, and even the family friendly DS struggled for its first few months. What matters now are the same points that Sony has been focusing on this entire time: that the handheld market is still selling strong, that the Vita still has yet to release worldwide and that North American and European consumers have very different values when it comes to purchasing technology than their Japanese consumer counterparts. We still have a long way to go before anyone should be declaring the handheld a failure, the signs just aren't there yet.