PlayStation Vita is in a weird place right now, struggling to find a strong identity within the Sony family of consoles and it seems that the company doesn’t even know what to do with it. Vita’s future seems to be solely reliant on indie gaming and smaller low-budget titles. This isn’t a future that’s bad for the system, but the lack of awareness and direction is killing Vita’s appeal, even if with a strong indie appeal. The Vita itself is a wonderful piece of hardware, perfect for commutes and relaxed downtime. It may not produce stand-out graphics or blockbusters, but it delivers on the core values of the games being released.
Now the big question is “what can Sony do to bring the Vita back into the mainstream?” even if it’s only relevant to the hardcore handheld gamers. PS Vita itself boasts strong numbers for games bought purchased per device. It’s no Xbox of course but the happiness levels are high for the supposed issues with the system. Vita is a solid performer and needs to be shown off for the handheld contender it is. Sony need to take a chance and even borrow from the kings of handheld gaming… Nintendo.
Despite Nintendo backing out of a live E3 press conference for the second year running, their digital webcast was received better from fans with Nintendo arguably coming out the better of all companies. Sony had barely mentioned the Vita at the show, choosing to focus more on the PlayStation 4. What if Sony split the brands, doing their usual E3 conference focusing on PS4 while doing a short webcast about all the games coming to Vita? As mentioned earlier, Vita needs some direction, some defined appeal and a new identity. Sony can make the Vita ‘the indie’ handheld, giving it a clear identity with gamers. Smaller indie-type titles are growing in popularity and the Vita is seeing some of that success. Ubisoft’s recent title Child of Light shines on the Vita, with the original screen making an already gorgeous game pop.
Using a digital webcast format would allow Sony to promote the upcoming games and features of the Vita, giving the platform solid support, even if they decide not to release first party games on the system. Gone are the days of Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Killzone: Mercenary. The generation of Don’t Starve and Child of Light is here, and that is a generation I, as a Vita gamer, am loving. There are understanding developers who love the Vita and create experiences which suit the platform.
— Alan Zucconi (@AlanZucconi) July 6, 2014
Alan Zucconi is one such developer who loves the Vita – his game Orbitalis could work on the Vita, albeit some control issues might be prevalent. The idea that you can play Orbitalis in short-bursts and try for high scores is perfect for those on the commute. Although traditional gaming experiences like Borderlands and Bioshock still work in these cases, it’s not always easy to do so with the latter never getting off the ground.
on the Vita game: 2k and sony couldn’t put a deal together when I last checked. They seemed way more optimistic about this back in 2011. — Ken Levine (@IGLevine) July 8, 2014
Wish I could do it myself, but lawyers and all that. I still love my vita.
— Ken Levine (@IGLevine) July 8, 2014
Although I’m sure Sony would love to have the original Bioshock games on Vita, that’s not what the Vita is about these days. The Vita seems stuck on the idea of being the indie darling, with many developers and publishers praising the ease of creation and publication on Sony’s platforms. Murasaki Baby is a show of what can be achieved on the Vita, even including the supposedly gimmicky inputs.
All in all, the Vita has potential but lacks an identity. Sony need to give it an official identity, make it the indie darling all the developers want to develop for, but more importantly, give the fans the time to savour the build-up. The current crop of upcoming games is huge, but without proper research or being a die-hard fan, I wouldn’t know about any of them.
Give the Vita a second chance Sony, give it a second life.