The Problem of the Playstation Vita

The Playstation Vita has been getting an endless amount of flak ever since it was released. This is partially from everyday gamers, who don’t believe in the system, and partially from 3DS fans, who were attacked mercilessly by Vita supporters during their first year on the market. As it stands right now, the Vita isn’t in amazing shape, but it isn’t a catastrophic failure like many people have said, and the reasons it isn’t in amazing shape are very different than what most people think. The Vita is Sony’s second handheld console after the PSP. You may remember the PSP as the most successful non-Nintendo handheld ever, and also a system that was thoroughly trashed by the Nintendo DS. This may seem like a contradictory statement, but Nintendo, even against its top competitor, always controls the handheld market and that hasn’t changed yet. The Vita launched a year after the 3DS and tried to fit into a ‘premium’ slot in the same way as the PS3 did when it launched way back. The system does fit the bill as premium, being considerably more powerful and better designed than the 3DS as well as possessing some intriguing tools such as two touch pads. However, despite all of that power, the general public hasn’t latched on to the system and today we’re going to be looking at why.

I know this post is about the Vita, but why the hell does the 3DS still have only one analogue stick!?

Firstly, let’s look at the 3DS. This system was poorly received as well when it came out, but it is now steamrolling the competition, and could easily surpass the DS in sales. The Vita was released a year into the 3DS’ cycle, after the 3DS dealt with all of their problems pretty handily. Their issues with games were resolved by a quick release of major ports such as Ocarina of Time and Starfox, as well as some original games such as Resident Evil Revelations and Kid Icarus Uprising. More importantly, there were a large number of good games on the way to the system that adopters could look forward to. Most crushingly for the Vita was the announcement of Monster Hunter exclusivity with the 3DS on the day the Vita was launched. The 3DS’ stumbling didn’t hurt it at all in the long run, because it didn’t have any competition, so it was free to iron out the kinks at its own leisure. The Vita cannot enjoy this luxury. Being second to market means that every move they make will be compared to the 3DS, which is now going strong. In other words, Sony can’t afford to make as many mistakes as Nintendo did.

If you’re asking how can one game tank a launch, you don’t know how much Japan loves Monster Hunter.

The Vita has only recently cleared its first year, which is a bad time for almost every console or handheld. As previously mentioned, the 3DS was a laughing stock its first year, with an early price drop, no second analogue stick and tons of ports. The 360 didn’t receive a single game worth playing for at least six months and early systems were plagued by catastrophic failure. The PS3’s pricing point was absurd and games didn’t start coming out until the summer. The N64 was released with so few games it wasn’t funny and nothing happened with the PSP for several years into its cycle. My point is that quite a lot of the Vita’s problems can be traced to the fact that the first year of a system’s life is often rocky. Each of the systems I mentioned were extremely strong when they got going, but early hurdles stopped them from being runaway successes. However, the Vita’s first year issues aren’t the problem. People and developers expect a certain level of stumbling. No, the Vita’s problems go beyond that.

This is Red Steel, one of the Wii’s biggest launch titles and it was horrible in every way.

The absolute top reason cited for the Vita’s failure is the lack of games. This is a common complaint of new systems, with pretty much all of them getting it at some point. The problem is this doesn’t apply to the Vita at all. The Vita launched with a huge number of games, and many of them are excellent. It has its share of ports such as Persona 4: The Golden, Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention, Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3, and the best version of Rayman Origins. It has original games such as Gravity Rush, Uncharted Golden Abyss, Dynasty Warriors NEXT, Unit 13, Assassin’s Creed Liberation, Silent Hill Book of Memories, or Ragnarok Odyssey. It has small scale arcade games such as Escape Plan, or Super Stardust Delta. It has fighting games such as Blazblue Continuum Shift Extend, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and Street Fighter vs. Tekken. Finally, there are the cross play games, such as Sly4 and Playstation Allstars Battle Royale. Not all of these games appeal to everyone. I know I’m not interested in them all, but each of these games are of quality, and, in reality, I would say that the Playstation Vita has had more high quality games released for it in its first year than any other system ever.

But I thought the Vita only had ports…

I say this, but the real problem with the Vita is indeed linked to its games. The problem isn’t a lack of games, but a lack of new releases. You see, many of the games listed above were launch titles, and early adopters have already gone through the ones they want. As an industry, we thrive on constant new content, which the Vita has not been giving us. Of course the real problem is the Vita release schedule, with only two new games being worth anyone’s time: Soul Sacrifice, and Killzone Mercenary, and these aren’t new announcements. As it stands, it can be difficult to support the Vita because nobody knows exactly what’s going to happen with it. Sony’s blatant lack of support at E3 and beyond has made many Vita owners nervous, and the huge success of the 3DS makes it far more attractive to develop for the Nintendo juggernaut. It’s an unfortunate dichotomy. Developers won’t throw their support behind a system with a low install base, and gamers won’t by a system unless it’s getting a steady stream of exciting new games.

Soul Sacrifice looks amazing, but we need more than that.

The real problem isn’t the consumer of course. Anyone who blames the consumer for not buying something is insane. No, the problem lies with Sony, who as consistently shown indifference to the system. Cross play was a first good step in rectifying the situation, but more needs to be done. The Wii U was in a similar position as the Vita until recently, with its future being unsure (Although there, we knew Nintendo’s first parties would eventually show up). After Nintendo’s last major announcement, nobody in their right mind would complain about the Wii U for lack of upcoming games. That is what Sony needs to do. They need to restore confidence by dazzling the world with a series of games that are currently being developed. They don’t all need to come out immediately, but we, as consumers need to know there is a future for the Vita.

Remember when Sony said they were going to restrict which PS1 classics they would allow for the Vita? Idiots.

So that’s the problem of the Playstation Vita. It isn’t lack of good games, which many people say, but it is a lack of upcoming games. True, it’s barely out of its first year, and that’s usually a problem year, but that’s not at the centre of its problems: releases are. At the heart of the problem is Sony and its mishandling of the situation. Of course, this doesn’t doom the Vita. The PSP had a terrible start, but managed to crank out some amazing games later in its life. Also, Sony’s mishandling of the situation isn’t damning. Just look at Nintendo’s handling of the 3DS in its first year. It was embarrassing to watch. The Vita is still a strong system. That isn’t its problem. Many people could be contented with PS1 classics, the PSP library, and the large amount of games and ports on the system now, but many more people want to know that they aren’t buying a system for emulation alone and there will be an impressive lineup when all things are said and done.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer


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