Note: [All opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of GamerXChange]
I want to make this absolutely clear first. This is not a them vs. us post. It is not designed to stoke the flames of console war. Unless that flame happens to get lit under Sony’s ass, in which then I have a can of lighter fluid and a match around here somewhere. Proper post begins below.
I love my Vita. It’s literally sat here next to me, I just got done with the Soul Sacrifice demo, which I have had preordered for a good month now, maybe longer. I will most likely buy Killzone: Mercenary, and probably get Tearaway for Christmas. However, that’s it. Every first party Vita title accounted for this year. Three games, and even then, Killzone is out the same day as a little game called GTA V, while Tearaway goes toe to toe in a launch week including Batman: Arkham Origins, Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and most likely the PS4 as well. Maybe it’s a case of bad luck on Sony’s part. But surely as one of the major platform holders, they must have had some idea of launch dates for two of the biggest games of the year, especially since we’ve known the Black Flag date for a little while now. But getting back to the point in hand. Three games.
Now temper that against Nintendo, who have held two Nintendo Direct events in as little as three months, with a list of games coming this year as long as your arm. And not just “oh here’s some games,” more like “here’s a new Animal Crossing, Donkey Kong Country 3D, Mario Golf, Mario Party, the final Professor Layton game and nothing special, just a sequel to A Link to the Past. Oh and by the way, Pokémon is out in October. You may have heard of that one. Apparently.” All fairly megaton games (especially Zelda and Pokémon). What have Sony announced? Nothing. No big first party titles at all. Hell not even any huge third party titles. Some might argue that E3 is gonna have a whole bunch of announcements, but let’s face it, that is not going to happen. At all. E3 will be concerned with PS4 launch details (dates, prices and the actual box) and the final year and a half of the PS3’s lifespan. Anyone who thinks the Vita will figure in majorly is dreaming.
The only thing Sony continues to announce are indies. They alone cannot save the Vita. Why pay again for games some of us already have on PC, especially when those games are only a Steam sale/Humble bundle away from being maybe half the cost of the Vita version? Ubisoft made a big deal about Assassin’s Creed: Liberation selling over 600,000 units worldwide. And yet absolutely no sign a of a sequel, save maybe one screen from something as yet unconfirmed called Assassin’s Creed: Rising Phoenix. However an image tag associated with the team who make the CGI AC movies suggests big pinches of salt all round.
Yes, the platform hasn’t sold as well as expected. However, various forum users (if you listen to that sort of thing as a viable source) across the internet have nothing but praise for the little black wonderthing. But it needs the games. And Sony just isn’t doing that. Maybe it’s because they don’t have anybody on board. Chances are third parties bailed after the sure thing that was Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified tanked (quality issues aside, a bad game is a bad game regardless of whatever franchise is slapped on the front). And first party titles, well, Sony has no excuse. They birthed this thing, filled with all the potential and just left it to die. Sony needs to turn it around. Quite how Sony plans on doing this is a mystery to me. And probably Sony too. I just hope they don’t try with the PS4 launch to position the thing as an expensive peripheral. As that will kill it where it stands.
So here, right now is my list of things that will resurrect the Vita.
1: More first party titles.
Where are all the big games at Sony? For the first time, Sony attempted to start a new IP purely on a handheld. Gravity Rush, while it had its flaws, was a supremely competent game that hinted at far greater things for the series to come. And hell, Kat must have been popular enough to find her way into Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. However, has there been news on a sequel, even a cursory, oh yeah we’re considering it? No. Not a thing. And with Bend at work on what is reported to be a PS4 title, that probably they aren’t working on a sequel to Uncharted: Golden Abyss. So either handheld Uncharted is dead, or it’s moving to another studio (never a sign of consistent quality). Thing is, with Gravity Rush (and to a lesser degree Assassin’s Creed: Liberation) Sony has proven you can run an open world game on Vita. Maybe Sony should get a studio on a handheld Infamous? They also should probably get on with God of War, Gran Turismo, Ratchet and Clank, Jak and Daxter and so on. Maybe just get games on the system. When you’re sat on Worldwide Studios, arguably one of the most well-developed and talented pool of studios working today, and you can’t get them working on at least one Vita title, that indicates a serious problem.
2: Get the third parties onside.
Yes, Black Ops: Declassified was a flop, and a terrible game. Yes, it didn’t sell, but that is not indicative of the Vita’s failings. It’s mostly because the game was a piece of shovelware that was developed in 6 months by a sub par studio. Assassin’s Creed: Liberation did pretty well, despite some pretty mammoth bugs (I couldn’t finish one mission for the longest time pre patch) and framerate drops. 600,000 units compared to the amount of Vitas out there would put its sales ratio probably greater than that of its console big brother, Assassin’s Creed 3 (12 million units sold onto the PS3, 360, PC and Wii U combined). First off, get a decent Call of Duty game going, maybe have either Sony or Activision check the game for y’know, quality. Secondly, get Ubisoft on another Assassin’s Creed game. Liberation was clearly popular enough to warrant it. I mean, they got the console engine for Assassin’s Creed 3 running on Vita, surely that’s worth some kudos. And perhaps now with some knowledge of the hardware, it might be slightly more stable. Also, get Capcom back on side. I don’t know why they hate Vita so much, but it can’t be anything the business types can’t work out right?
3: Don’t bet the farm on indies.
Indies alone will not save the Vita. Who wants to pay £/$200 north (plus memory card) just to play the same game they got for £/$1.50 on their already owned pc during a Steam sale. It comes back to this idea that all Vita games are ports (more on that later). And besides, for every person who thinks indie games are the best thing in the world and fight the corporate bodies at every turn, I can show you three people who just want to load up Madden and play some football. They aren’t the be all and end all of gaming (despite what certain types will tell you). And let’s face it, no indie will ever match up to the megaton popularity of Minecraft, which is rumoured to be Vita-bound actually, though probably when the Microsoft exclusivity deal winds up. Besides, knowing Vita’s luck, it’ll probably be the poor mobile version, with half the features sliced out. Indie games are a bit hit and miss anyway, for every Hotline Miami and Retro City Rampage, there’s some fairly low rent match three pointlessness. But so far Sony seems to have filtered out the garbage, so perhaps this may not be an issue.
4: Set sail. Leave port.
This comes back to the idea that all that comes out are ports. It depends on what you call a port. A game that releases simultaneously on other platforms and Vita is to some people, a port. For the purposes of this, I’m talking about games which come to Vita some considerable time after their first release. Of course, this probably due to the Vita only being around for a shade over a year, but still. This far down the line, studios who are willing to play with the Vita, even if it is a port, should try to add something new. Hopefully. Also, a worrying trend is the rise of the up-port or the Legoing. The Vita far outstrips the 3DS in terms of power, yet consistently Travellers Tales make the Lego game for the 3DS and then port it up to the Vita, despite the fact they could comfortably down-port the home console version, and the Vita would easily run it. This up-porting leaves the game looking horrible, and missing half the content of the home version. So why bother buying it? The Vita has a reputation as a port box, and sadly, it’s not unfairly gained.
5: Activate the thing! But keep the games flowing.
Sony made a big deal about the connectivity the Vita would have with the PS3. Yet none of that has even remotely come about. Remote Play works with about seven games. And even then, getting it to work is somewhat of a hassle. However, Sony has positioned the Vita as almost necessary with the PS4. However, they run the risk of just making the thing an expensive Wii U rip off. What Sony needs to do is make the Vita intrinsic to the PS4 (a SKU with both a PS4 and a Vita would go some way to cementing this relationship), yet also make it clear the Vita is powerful enough away from the home box. The streaming games thing is a good idea, but if it plays PS4 games, what incentive is there to keep developing games for the Vita? Perhaps the answer lies within the Gaikai system. Maybe the future of Vita exclusive titles lies within streaming? I know instead of having to keep Gravity Rush on the memory card, streaming it to the device would definitely be something I’d use. But alas, we shan’t know what Sony has planned until the first week of June at the earliest. Bring Vita to E3 Sony. It’s on a form of life support in consumers’ eyes, let’s resuscitate it.
Have a Vita? Like it? Hate it? Wish you’d bought a 3DS? Want to see me hung by a jury of my peers? Hit up the comment box people, and you may just feel better about yourself.