This is a lull.
Every console gets them after their launch, but Vita’s seems a little bit – well – long term. And it’s not like Sony are shouting about future titles: there aren’t any; it’s too expensive; nobody wants to pay £40 for a mobile game and the line up’s non-existant. It’s all over a few months after it started, and with a future PlayStation console surely on the horizon, is the manufacturer itself already moving on?
Er, no. Of course not. But the situation’s not exactly all super happy and shiny – sales figures are dipping, Japan’s seemingly bored of the current array of games and it’s hardly setting the shelves alight over here in the West. Sony are still behind it, that much is natural and hardly a surprise, and I’ll come back to that. But first – that lull.
FIFA was one of the strongest launch performers.
Was Sony right to pre-load the launch so heavily? Probably not. Had Sony been a little more picky and held back games like the dramatically undercooked ModNation Racers for a month or so, the day one list would have still been strong, but gamers would have something to look forward to alongside Unit 13.
Zipper’s third person shooter was ready for launch, but was kept to one side for precisely the right reason: people are more likely to pick up games that release after the first week because they’re new, they’ve been paid since and want something that all their mates are playing. If Unit 13 had been available at the start, would it have gathered nearly as much hype and free press? Almost certainly not.
ModNation Racers was evidently not ready for the Vita’s launch, and the excuses for pulling online play were hard to swallow. As a result, and this is hardly unique to MNR, games shipped with bugs, nasty loading times and – my personal worst thing in the world ever – sub native resolution display. Seeing the likes of Everybody’s Golf running at what looks like PSP resolution upscaled breaks my heart.
The games were big names, big games, but not every single one of them needed to land as soon as the console launched – FIFA and Uncharted took the lion’s share of sales, and everything else bubbled below.
What did fall into place was the PSN-only content: MotorStorm was (and still is) a delight – brilliantly priced and massively addictive; Escape Plan was cute and supported well and Drinkbox’s second Blob game was a nicely presented and mechanically sound platformer that literally oozed charm. Sony haven’t really followed through with PSN games, but when they do – like Pure Chess last week – there’s the incentive to buy that I mentioned earlier.
But it’s telling, and perhaps a little surprising, that a lot of the third party games (like Rayman and Virtua Tennis) run best and look best.
Ifs and buts won’t get us anywhere, though, the sales charts speak for themselves and Sony know that something needs to kick into gear, and quickly. Oddly, though, they’ve seen fit to continue to push exclusive PS3 games (God of War: Ascension, and their All Star fighting game) rather than preempting E3 with new Vita goodies. But perhaps that’s the point: June’s big show can be Vita heavy, and nobody will really mind.
But the guns will need to be very much blazing. By then Resistance will be out, LittleBigPlanet around the corner and Gravity Rush presumably featuring heavily in everyone’s wishlists. Those three are all pretty big games (LBP especially) but it’s more towards Christmas that eyes will be looking when Sony take to their conference space in just a few weeks.
Killzone on the VIta. Now that's something to get excited about.
And, of course, there’s Monster Hunter. Soul Sacrifice might be great, and Phantasy Star Online 2 is around the year after, but Capcom’s evergreen game is massively missed, at least in Japan.
But Sony still have those killer game series: Killzone could build on Burning Skies’ foundations for example, and provide some killer multiplayer if done right and of course Gran Turismo could blow us away and make up for the rather lite gameplay the PSP version came hamstrung with. They don’t have to be playable in June, we just need to know they’re coming.
It would be hard to screw this one up. I love the Vita, it’s got bags of potential, but Sony need to get those games announced, start pouring out PSN games and really start courting developers with PlayStation Suite – the fact that a native Mac version of the development kit is absent is baffling.
Long live Vita.