At almost 4 years old, is the PlayStation Vita from Sony already dying?
Masayasu Ito, senior VP at Sony, has officially announced that there are no first-party studios currently developing games for the Vita. For the most part, this is pretty much a death knell for the handheld. Could third-party companies still develop games for the Vita? Sure, but a console doesn’t survive without companies throwing a lot of development and support at it. This marks the beginning of the end for the Vita, if that wasn’t apparent months or years ago.
With Sony pushing all its focus on the PS4, the Vita will quickly fall to the wayside. There will still be a few new games, Sony will still get some sales, but the Vita isn’t going to be getting the limelight ever again. It will not go down in the annals of gaming history as a champion, in the way that the PS2 did. The PS Vita will be the device that people talk about for its obscurity, and the way it could’ve done so much better.
Setup for Failure
Honestly, the Vita was never really in prime position to become legendary. Support was mediocre from the beginning. It was marketed more for its PS3 and PS4 remote play capabilities than as a handheld console in its own right. Furthermore, the remote play was hit or miss, rarely included and unimpressive when it was (or so I’ve been told). That’s a great additional feature to have, but it shouldn’t be the main selling point of a device from the get-go.
The other situational hamstring for the Vita is the ridiculous lack of games available for it. Any new platform is going to have an unimpressive library of titles at first, that’s just the nature of the beast. It takes a while for first-party developers to really hit some home runs, and for third-party developers to fill in the gaps with decent niche games. Approaching the 4 year mark, the Vita still doesn’t really have anything remarkable. Justifying the purchase of a console is difficult when there just aren’t many compelling games.
Repurposing the Hardware
Though the Vita ecosystem will continue its descent, this doesn’t mean the hardware couldn’t be tremendously useful. I propose the PSP as an example. Though the PlayStation Portable suffered many of the same ailments of the Vita, albeit to a lesser degree, I still get a lot of gameplay out of mine. How, you might ask, when the PSP hasn’t been popular for years? Emulators.
I realize video game emulation is a very controversial topic. It hurts sales for companies, it’s illegal, blah blah blah, there are plenty of reasons emulation is bad. What about niche games that didn’t get remade or released for new hardware? Are you really going to hang onto your Super Nintendo and hook it up to your 4K TV to play Donkey Kong Country again? Companies sometimes release the more popular retro titles to play on new hardware, and that’s all well and good. For the most part, I sincerely doubt they’re going to miss the sales from people who choose to emulate.
Talking with a coworker on the subject, he suggested Sony release a firmware unlock for the Vita and let the modding/hacking community work their magic. Frankly, I think that’s a fantastic idea. Unless Sony could be held directly accountable for any illicit activity performed via a hacked Vita, what do they have to lose from it? People would still buy the hardware for the unlocked functionality, and Sony doesn’t have to worry about making any more games for it. Maybe it’s more legally questionable than I understand, but it seems like a win-win for all parties.
The Future of PlayStation
Where will Sony go from here? I don’t personally think they’ll make another handheld, at least not for several years. Mobile gaming has been almost completely taken over by the likes of smartphones now. What reason does a consumer have to carry 2 devices when one of them can handle gaming, phone calls, SMS, social media, and everything else? Besides, the Sony Xperia phones pretty much handle that duty PlayStation fans.
Focus on the PS4, make it the best platform that it can be and maintain a solid library of games to keep dedicated gamers on the platform. Sony exclusives are going to be what keep the PlayStation line alive, amidst intense competition in the gaming industry. Generate quality software and the fans will keep coming back for more.
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