State of the Vita Address
It has been 3 years since Sony first introduced the Vita to the world and just about 2 years since its launch in the US. Initially named NGP, the Vita would be touted heavily as the place to play console-quality games away from an actual console. Now that some time has passed I thought I’d take a look back at the first two years of the Vita’s life as well as a glimpse into the future.
A Slow Start
At Sony’s 2011 E3 press conference Kaz Harai announced that the PlayStation Vita would retail for $249.99 for the WiFi model and $299.99 for the 3G model. While most might scoff at the price now, at the time it was almost unanimously agreed upon that Sony was coming in at a great price. This was of course one month before Nintendo would slash the price of the 3DS (which was being sold at $249.99) and introduce an ambassador program in hopes of reviving their own handheld. So while it once seemed as if Sony would be launching their handheld at the same price as the 3DS it didn’t take long for things to change. By the time the Vita would launch that price tag was seen as expensive and the price of Vita memory cards did not help one bit. If you wanted to buy a Vita you’d need to grab a game and, due to no internal memory, you’d also need to buy a memory card. Any memory card for the Vita that’s large enough to hold a decent selection of games was a lot of money and a barrier to entry that’s hard to get past.
The Vita launch came and went, a drought hit, and sales numbers weren’t great. Go on just about any gaming message board, and a few news websites, and you’d find that the Vita quickly became a laughing stock. The phrase “Vita has no games” could be found just about anywhere and, in that first year, it was kind of hard to argue against it. The truth was that at the time the Vita’s future didn’t look great. Beyond some great looking 2013 games (Tearaway and Killzone Mercenary to name a couple) it just didn’t appear like Vita owners had much to look forward to.
Then something happened and through 2013 the perception surrounding the Vita slowly started to change.
The PlayStation 4 and Remote Play
On February 20th, 2013 Sony revealed the PlayStation 4 in New York City, a handful of games, and of course how the Vita would interact with the PS4. Remote play isn’t anything new. It was featured between the PSP and PS3 as well as from the PS3 to Vita in very specific titles. It also didn’t work very well. With remote play integrated with the system this would mean that all games (with the exception of those that use the camera) would feature remote play and, as we now know, it’s something that works really well. This isn’t something that was positioned to save the Vita but only the beginning of, if you’ll forgive me for the pun, a reVITAlization of Sony’s handheld.
Something that stood out to me more than anything over the past year was Twitter. Mostly due to the fact that I write for a website that covers the PlayStation Network I tend to follow a lot of Sony employees. While you do need to take some of the things they might say with a grain of salt (especially if it’s something positive regarding their company) I think it was painfully obvious that many people within the company 1. genuinely love the Vita and 2. were hard at work at bringing the best games over to the Vita platform. (Just follow Shahid Ahmad’s twitter for one day and you’ll see him tweeting his heart and soul into everything Vita.) It can be hard to see people talk so highly of their company because it hardly seems genuine but look at where the Vita is right now compared to where it was a year ago. Not only does the Vita have games, it has a lot of games.
What can I play right now?
At this very moment if a friend asked me about buying a Vita I’d feel really good about recommending one. Not just for what’s about to come over the course of the next year but also for what we already have. To the right (or above if you’re on a mobile phone) you’ll see a list of Vita games that are either highly rated on our own website or games that I’ve seen most people enjoy. (These are listed in no particular order.) In the interest of not making this feature ridiculously long I’d like to highlight a handful of standout games.
Tearaway finds a way to merge storytelling, gameplay, and each of the Vita’s unique features into one cohesive package. While not without its faults, Tearaway is the kind of game that I feel is truly essential in any Vita owners collection. Without it you’re missing out on not only one of the few games that takes advantage of everything the Vita has to offer but also one of Media Molecule’s best efforts yet.
Eric said this about Guacamelee in his review: “Guacamelee es muy excellente. Its platforming is challenging, its combat system is deep, and its breadth of secret stuff is applaudable. The music in all of the areas is great. It’s a mix of mariachi band and chiptune interludes that paint the world of Guacamelee as much as its colorful art style. The Santa Luchita song has been stuck in my head for the last couple of days in a good way. There are two endings, two difficulties, four leaderboards (normal, normal 100%, hard, hard 100%), and a veritable ton of memes and references on nearly every backdrop. As far as I’m concerned, 2013′s Game of the Year title holder has entered the ring. Olé!”
From Nick’s review: “In the end, OlliOlli may be one instrument shy of a full orchestra, one card short of a full deck, but it’s still one beast of an indie skateboarding game. I never imagined playing such an amazing skateboarding game with such old school graphics but it works. Part of me kinda wishes there was a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater or EA’s Skate being released on Vita at the same time so the industry could see how this lightweight would do toe-to-toe with a heavyweight. Pixel for pixel, OlliOlli is a must buy, must play, and must show demo worthy addition to any Vita.”
What does the Vita look like in 2014
Just two months in and I think we’re already seeing what we should expect from the Vita throughout the rest of this year. Thus far OlliOlli, TxK, Surge Deluxe, Danganronpa, Toukiden, and Gunslugs have already released with Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD, SteamWorld Dig, Deception IV, and Conception II coming rather soon. (Our Upcoming page goes into more detail as to which games are coming throughout the year.) The Vita is starting out strong and just looking at what is slated to come out this year I get the feeling that it’ll stay strong for the majority of the year. Without even naming everything we’ll see Luftrausers, Assault Android Cactus, Hotline Miami 2, Cosmic Star Heroine, Destiny of Spirits, Fez, Helldivers, La Mulana, Hyper Light Drifter, Metrico, Minecraft, Murasaki Baby, Nuclear Throne, Road Not Taken, Rogue Legacy, Samurai Gunn, Velocity 2X and a whole lot more.
In late 2012 I mentioned on the podcast that I absolutely was not satisfied with my Vita. Just over a year later and my thoughts on the Vita have almost completely changed. On top of all of the games coming this year the Vita will also see continued integration with the PS4 and, if it works, PlayStation Now on the Vita could very well be incredibly exciting. If it works.
The Vita only has indies though!
All throughout last year while more and more games were announced for Vita it was kind of hard to ingnore that most were just indies being ported over from the PC or that they’d also be available on the PS3 and PS4. The Vita might have a lot of games to offer but even most of the games I listed above will be available elsewhere. So is this an issue?
I don’t think it’s crazy to say that the Vita will likely never be a sales success. The reality is even though the Vita was positioned as a place to play console-like games on the road we probably won’t see many more games like Uncharted and Killzone continue to release on the Vita. The majority will continue to be smaller indie titles and most of those won’t be exclusive. I think the general perception is that if you’re going to buy a console or handheld you should buy it for its exclusives; for the things that you can ONLY get there. Typically you wouldn’t buy a new PS4 because you can’t wait to play Rayman Legends. That game is available elsewhere. So why buy a Vita when, despite its current exclusives, the majority of games are available elsewhere and many don’t require a powerful PC to run.
The answer might be portability and the Vita hardware itself.
For now our Top 25 PSM Games list remains largely unchanged since it’s last update and Chris’ feature on PSM sales figures does highlight a few issues with the platform. (While some parts of that article are a bit outdated at this point there are still a number of issues raised that remain to this day.)
“Best on Vita.”
If you’ve been paying attention at all over the past year you’ve probably heard many people who work at Sony say the words “best on Vita” hundreds of time. It almost feels like it’s a mandatory thing to say whenever you mention something new coming to the Vita. As much as it’s kind of gotten annoying to hear as much as I hear it I’ve slowly started to relate.
Making games available for cross-buy meant that a lot of times I’d own games for the PS3 and the Vita. With cross-save it suddenly became very easy to switch from playing games at my desk to playing games in bed on the Vita. Slowly over time I found that I didn’t even want to play games on the PS3. I wanted to play on Vita. Stick it to the Man? Vita. Castlestorm? Vita. Mutant Mudds Deluxe? Vita. Knytt Underground? Vita.
It’s not simply that it’s better on the Vita. Most of these games are identical across each platform. No, the difference is that the Vita’s advantage is its portability, its screen, the d-pad, and just how fast and easy it is to get right into a game. Over the past year I’ve found that I’ll migrate towards the Vita with many multiplatform games (indies especially) over any other system. Remote play proves it and I think to some extent the Wii U gamepad was meant to tap into this as well. There’s something about just being able to play a game whereever you are. The ability to pull out the Vita and start from right where I left off in a game within seconds is amazing. The fact that I can do it while laying down, in the living room, at a friend’s house, or on road trips is… . It’s the versatility of the Vita and the fact that it just feels like a solid device in your hands that makes the Vita my preferred place to play many of these games.
When asked what they liked about the Vita my twitter followers mentioned sharing screenshots, the OLED screen, the variety in games, analog sticks, and remote play among other things.
The elephant in the room…
I think the Vita has a pretty positive future to look forward to. I think it’s in a pretty good position right now and a year from now it’ll be even better. There’s still a negative perception against the Vita and to be honest I don’t think that will change but the fact remains that it’s going to get easier and easier to recommend a Vita to any of my friends (especially those who own a PS4).
That said there are things about the Vita that, in my mind, pull the carpet out from under a lot of my excitement for the device. First and foremost the memory card prices for the Vita, even after the price cut, are too much.
4GB – $17.99, 8GB – $24.99, 16GB – $39.99, 32GB – $79.99, 64GB – $115.99 from Play-Asia
The cost of memory for the Vita serves to be, in my mind, one of the biggest deterrents from being able to easily jump in on the Vita train. One of the best things about the Vita is the concept that you can have everything already downloaded and ready to go wherever you are. The vast majority of Vita games are digital only. Even with a 16GB card you’ll still find yourself having to delete games in favor of something else. Most bundles that are being sold now come with a 4GB card that is typically just enough to fit whatever games the bundle comes with.
I’ve been stuck with the 8GB card since launch because I refuse to spend the the money it’d cost for a 32GB card unless I manage to find a deal (As luck would have it I’m never at my computer when those 32GB deals happen.) and at this point I should probably just wait until the 64GB card is easily attainable for a price that isn’t insane. The Vita has already come a long way and is totally worth owning but it’s really hard to look past those prices.
I asked people on twitter what they didn’t like about the Vita and while many mentioned the cost of memory cards I also had some mention the 100 bubble limit, the feel of the L+R triggers, the back touch, and the battery life.
Just looking at the games coming out for the Vita has me really excited for its future. Will it ever be a massive sales sucess? Probably not. I understand why some are frustrated that it feels like most of the Vita’s software lineup are indie games but at the same time the Vita not only has a lot of really great games but it also has variety. There’s something to be said about having access to all of these games in one piece of hardware wherever you go and I think that’s ultimately where the Vita will continue. Sony’s made a stand in regards to how it feels about indie developers and the types of games it’ll court for the Vita. 2013 saw tons of Vita game announcements and this is the year that those same games launch on the Vita. While many of these games are ports from the PC; if I was a betting man I’d think that these ports will open up the opportunity in the future for the Vita to be a platform that many games debut on if not first but exclusively.