I’ve noticed something over the past few months. Spend more than five minutes browsing any website that writes about videogames and you’ll probably see them say that this year’s E3 showing from Sony is going to be all about the Vita. Of course, it’s not going to be all about the Vita. The PlayStation 3 will still be a huge focus for the company, as we’ve explored elsewhere in this mini series of speculative E3 articles (PS3 covered here and 360 here).
But the Vita hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. With E3 coming just as Vita users seem to be wondering where the new games are, Sony has the chance to kick on and really invigorate the platform as we head into the Vita’s first, incredibly important, holiday season.
While browsing those websites about videogames, all shouting about how important the Vita is at Sony’s 2012 E3, you might also have noticed many wondering why Sony is announcing so much before the big show starts. Did you notice how much of that is Vita-related? Not a lot. Sony seems to be getting some smaller announcements out of the way, blurring the news cycle and distracting from the Vita with sizeable PlayStation 3 game announcements like God of War: Ascension. If that’s a conscious decision, it’s both incredibly smart and very exciting. Simply put: we don’t have much of an idea of what is coming on Vita. So let’s speculate a bit.
Does Cole have a Vita in that bag?
LittleBigPlanet Vita should be shown off in a big way, and should finally receive a firm release date. The heavy rumours of Assassin’s Creed and Ghost Recon making an appearance seem likely too, after those retailer leaks. Ghost Recon’s Vita appearance fits with Ubisoft’s stated aims to expand that franchise. Assassin’s Creed making an appearance, with some sort of PS3-linked functionality, would be exactly the sort of high profile landmark game the Vita needs heading into the holiday period.
So what else? Well, we can speculate that a Vita version of All Stars Battle Royale could be announced, possibly cross-compatible with the PS3 game. There’s not much to base this on, other than the simple fact that Vita needs games and Sony needs to play up the powerful nature of the device to differentiate it from competitors. What better way than aligning it with their HD console in as many ways as possible? It’s conceivable that we’ll see a lot of PS Vita to PS3 cross compatibility in everything Sony has, as well as plenty of their top third party partners too. It would be slightly surprising, for example, if Madden and FIFA 13 didn’t have cross compatible saves, at least.
Hopefully that desire to link the two platforms together will extend as far as making Remote Play work for more software and increasing the number of PS1 and PS2 classics, as well as Minis and PSP games that work on Vita. This might require a firmware update and that would be a great opportunity to iron out some of the little user interface issues with the device and, we can dream, redesign those hideously ugly icons.
The Call of Duty game for Vita that we’ve been told to expect will need some decent stage time too. Activision’s seemingly unstoppable FPS franchise has the potential to kick start the Vita all by itself so expect Sony to be very loud about it.
While on the subject of system sellers, if Sony can get something to do with Monster Hunter announced, they’ll be doing well but we’d expect that to be more suited to a Tokyo Game Show reveal later in the year, if at all. There’s some chance of an original Metal Gear game for the Vita at E3 though, and Square were always big supporters of the PSP so it wouldn’t be a huge leap to hope for something from the Final Fantasy stable.
The Vita’s 2011 E3 Sizzle video
There’s really nothing else that’s easy to pick. It seems like Sony’s pre-E3 information stream has successfully diverted our attention from digging up any major leaks surrounding Vita games. We’ll see more of the things we’ve already seen, presumably. That means more Dust 514 information and gameplay and it means a closer look at Soul Sacrifice. Sony could do worse than plenty of smaller announcements too. Think PSN games that are part of the “buy once, play everywhere” idea that made MotorStorm RC and Hustle Kings so appealing at the Vita’s launch.
It makes sense for Sony to push their PlayStation Suite for the Vita too. Detail it, announce some partnerships with leading mobile games developers like Ronimo (Angry Birds is already a Mini) and they’ll be halfway to securing the budget-priced future of the Vita’s bite sized gaming catalogue. This is pure hopeful speculation but if Sony could sign smaller, innovative developers, they’d be well on the way to finding a perfect fit for that pricing band. Think of Kairosoft’s catalogue (Game Dev Story, et al.) for the Vita, either through PlayStation Suite or Minis. Partnerships like that could potentially be as lucrative as deals done with larger, traditional publishers.
Smaller, simpler games with compelling gameplay hooks could be just as successful for Vita as bigger deals.
Of course, with media streaming a possibility, there’s no reason why the Vita shouldn’t be considered as a viable platform for whatever Sony’s heavily rumoured game streaming announcement might be. It’s reasonable to expect PlayStation Plus to appear on the handheld in a more significant way too. Cloud saves are the bare minimum we’d hope for but some rumours suggest that there might be quite a lot more Plus love coming to the Vita soon.
Some rumours persist of a price cut. That would certainly reinvigorate sales but I personally think it’s a little too early to consider anything but a very slight drop in price. The recently announced French rebate scheme indicates that Sony want to make it appear more attractive to frugal adopters but large-scale, permanent changes to price structure might intimidate their financial departments. Sony probably has enough on the horizon to justify keeping the price as it is until early next year but the rebate scheme might be a toe in the water to see how much it drives sales and if successful… well, you never know. A much more likely announcement, in my opinion, is value-add bundles that make the Vita a more attractive proposition. Perhaps adding a memory card and game to the console at no extra cost.
So plenty to consider, and plenty of scope for surprises. That sounds like a good balance and a great opportunity to really push the Vita. I’m not sure how they’re going to fit it all in to just one stage show.