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The State of Play : PS Vita 2.0

I feel the Vita does not get the full love it deserves.  It has been out for four years now and even though it has a very steady release of games, it just seems to slip under the radar.  There is always the running joke each leading up to the E3 press conference on how long Sony will spend talking about their portable device.  A year ago (on the old Blogger) I published an article talking about the current state of the PS Vita.  A year has passed and I thought it would be good to dig it up and update it based upon any events that have happened in this time and any of the comments brought up originally.  This is not a rant or an opinion, just a general look at the state the PS Vita is currently in.  With the recent news that Sony have stopped shipments of the hardware to the Netherlands,  it may be worth asking is this the beginning of the end?

With that being said, I present to you The State of Play: PS Vita 2.0.

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History

The Vita was originally released in 2012 with two main features – social gaming & PS3 quality games. It was met with positive reviews with many stating it to be the best handheld gaming experience available however it was marked as the 8th biggest flop of 2012 due to its lack of must-have games and with sales of only 3.7 million units. It is alright saying that it did not have any must-have titles but at the time of it’s launch, mobile devices were becoming more popular and had a few positive features over the Vita. Firstly, each year a new range of devices come out which are more powerful than the last and as we live in a throw away society, the Vita can not compete with this. Secondly, the target market is far huger than a dedicated gaming device.  Finally (and the most important), it takes less time to develop for mobile devices and it is a hell of alot cheaper to do so but most importantly it is easier to turn a profit.  Just take a look at the top grossing games on the mobile app stores.  They are always “Free to Play” games that make a killing selling micro transaction to the millions of players.  The killer point for me though is the memory card issue. At the moment you can pick up a 32gb micro SD card from Amazon for £9 whereas the dedicated 32GB Sony PS Vita Memory Card sells for £54! This is bonkers and the most shocking thing is that the prices have changed very little in the past 3 years. At least with the PSP there were 3rd Party Memory Cards that were just as good.

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1st Party Support & Everyone Else

In the fours years since launch there has been very little change to the above situation. We have seen a price cut, a newer model (including the PS TV), 4 million sales & no more 1st Party Titles.

A platform should always have the support of its 1st party developer.  At the moment this is not the case with the PS Vita.  it has been sometime since Sony released a 1st Party game (I believe Killzone may have been the last one) but it does not necessarily mean they are not supporting it at all.  They are doing a lot behind the scenes to encourage developers to bring title to the PS Vita and in recent months there has been an influx of mobile style games being released on the platform.  The majority of the bigger titles that come to the Vita these days are localisations of popular Japanese JRPGs (and other niche titles from the East).  So at the moment the PS Vita can either be used as a JRPG or an Indie Machine. I love my fair share of RPG games but I am struggling in finding the time to play them all and as for the Indies, we all know they can be very hit and miss.

The promise of cross buy games was a great idea for the Vita and Sony themselves even support it at first.  The idea of buying Playstation All Stars on the PS3 and getting it on the PS Vita for free was brilliant and a lot of third party games (mainly indie studios) also pushed to release their games on multiple devices for one price.  However though as we move deeper into the PS4’s cycle, the games are using more resources when compared to the PS3 so making a PS Vita version may be becoming more difficult to accomplish.  There are still a few titles that get the cross buy treatment but they usually tend to be the games that do not require the full power of the PS4 to play.

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PS4 Remote Play & PS Now Rebirth

When the PS4 was released one of the big features was that you could play ANY of the games on your PSVita through Remote Play but with this feature being ported to.mobile and now recently the Pc & Mac, it is no longer a unique feature of the the Vita thus scratching off another use of the marvellous handheld device.

As well as using the Vita for remote play, you can now access the entire PSNow library.  It is a great thought that I can play all my favourite PS3 exclusives on the go but this is a service that comes with a heavy recommendation that you play using a wired connection.  I feel that the Vita’s wifi is not perfect so when streaming games I always experience connection issues which make the service pretty much unusable.

Overall, these two services are great when they work but when you experience poor connections it becomes a nightmare and makes playing games a chore.

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Japan Love It

Over in the East, the PSVita is still very much alive.  It is seeing steady sales but it is not doing anything to rule the world thought (3DS/Mobile are doing that at the moment). 

With Japan being a very busy place a lot of gaming happens on the go so a lot of the “bigger” games get released on both on the PS4 and Vita with the latter selling the most.  This can also be due to how the Japanese lifestyle is; they usually only have one shared TV in a home so portable gaming it key to survival for gamers.

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Where Are We Now?

There are two types of gamers regarding the Vita. The ones who have never owned one with the comment of “The Vita?! It has no games” and the ones who own a Vita with comment of “The Vita?! So much choice”. The first comment is the one that makes my blood boil as I totally agree with the second comment. There is a huge variety of games available for the Vita including a huge PSP and PS One back catalogue. However, for gamers (like myself) who have had the system from the start, the variety is starting thin out.

The Playstation Vita may be still pumping out JRPGs and seems to be a good home for Indie games but I think the future is looking worrying. I love my Vita and still have a lot of games to play but looking at the upcoming games list, it is looking a little barren. The Vita has a very strong following which is almost like a cult and in a way is keeping the dream alive.

Upon writing this article last year I originally said that I felt like the PS Vita’s time was up but I must say I was wrong.  Third party support with the back room support of Sony has managed to keep the portable gaming device alive.  No sales figures have been released for a long time for the Vita but they have commented briefly last year that the system is still selling “respectively quantities” with over a 100 titles in development.  We have seen a few of these titles already released now but it will be very interesting see where Sony stand with the PS Vita at E3 2106, especially with them currently shifting focus over to the PSVR.

Compared to last year, I feel that the current state of the PS Vita has improved and it will stay at this current baseline until its final day.  Do not expect any amazing first party AAA games but if you are a huge fan of JRPG (plus some of the more strange titles from the East) and any indie titles then the PSVita will keep you entertained for a few more years.

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Des Mayer

Mad Scientist with a passion for gaming!