My PS Vita Ups and Downs

I remember being inordinately excited about the PlayStation Vita. It wasn’t the prospect of a “PSP2” that I liked – Sony’s first handheld console was generally a big disappointment for me. The PlayStation Vita brought with it a new promise, the hope that Sony would understand the failure of the PSP to live up to its potential for users like me and that they’d correct that in the new machine.

They were making all the right noises. The Vita would have a touchscreen – essential in these days when there’s so much money to be made competing with mobile platforms (especially in light of the fairly poor Xperia Play “PSP phone”). It would be stuffed with powerful components and have the second analogue stick that was so perplexingly absent from its predecessor.

The PlayStation Network Store was already a vibrant, exciting space for innovation and with Minis, PSN games and full retail games, it seemed that most of the bases were covered. PlayStation Suite, later renamed to PlayStation Mobile, would allow those independent, mobile developers to make games and apps which were analogous to the hugely successful AppStore games that provide so much choice at the lower end of the spectrum.

For me, the greatest moment of hope in the pre-release marketing drive that I saw came from a video of Little Deviants in action. Although that game ultimately ended up falling a little flat for me, the trailer showed developers using the Vita in a new way. It was innovation that could only take place on this platform. It was something new and exciting.

So I pre-ordered a Vita and had it shipped from Japan by a very kind friend-of-a-friend. It ended up costing me over £700 for the console, a few games and a memory card – something which amused me endlessly when I saw people accuse me of “wanting the Vita to fail” when we reported its uninspiring launch sales or otherwise negatively commented about it. I invested quite heavily in the belief that the PS Vita would deliver on the promise I saw in those trailers, heard from developers and Sony execs and assumed from the potential so clear in the powerful little device.

I was immediately disappointed. Uncharted: Golden Abyss was reasonably good but it looked fairly average. Ridge Racer was confusing and seemed like half a game (and difficult to follow in Japanese!). Everybody’s Golf was enjoyable but very ugly in places, thanks to the seeming inability to run software at native resolutions. It wasn’t that anything was particularly bad, it just wasn’t as good as I’d hoped.

As time went on, games like WipEout 2048 and FIFA 12 restored my faith a little bit in the “big game” side of the Vita’s software. Mutant Blobs Attack and Motorstorm RC showed that the PSN Store could deliver near-perfect experiences too. PlayStation Suite (Mobile) was still missing but the Vita had won back some of my enthusiasm by providing decent games and showing that the PSN really could fill a fantastic space in the software catalogue.

As the rest of the world seemed to start moaning that the Vita had no new games coming out, I looked forward to Resistance: Burning Skies and Gravity Rush. Again, I found myself disappointed. I really disliked Resistance in just about every way and I’m struggling a little bit with Gravity Rush too. It seems interesting but not a lot of fun – and a little bit weird.

All of this is hugely subjective, of course. I’m sure some people thought Uncharted: Golden Abyss’ jaggies were excusable, next to those lovely painted backdrops, or that Resistance: Burning Skies wasn’t a poorly executed, rough-around-the-edges FPS throwback. That’s what I find so fascinating about the Vita: it seems to perpetually provide its own counter-arguments.

The hardware has so much promise, the software line up at launch was probably the best for any console launch. And yet it didn’t sell particularly well. It still can’t seem to catch a wave of enthusiasm and really ignite the sales figures – even back home in Japan. The latest potential scare is that third party publishers might be becoming skeptical about why they should release games for it. It’s a worrying time for Sony’s handheld, with a quiet E3 and its first big holiday sales period looming large in the near future.

Perhaps strangely, I find myself feeling very optimistic for the machine again. Amidst the doubts about third party development and the lack of firm release prospects over the next six months, there are one or two beacons of optimism that I cling to.

Firstly, certain key third party publishers are about to make what could be a massive splash on the Vita. There are portable installments of two of gaming’s biggest franchises on the way: Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed. Two major publishers floating their first attempts at a Vita version of their premier franchises towards the end of this year.

Secondly, PlayStation Mobile is nearing fruition as a platform. Developers are working with it right now. While it’s taken a lot longer than I would have hoped, it’s possible that there will be results yielded from this scheme before the end of the year and once those flood gates open, there’s so much potential for a rush of innovation from the independent developers who have less to risk by taking chances.

So it hasn’t been a great opening six months for the Vita. It would be foolish to pretend otherwise. Sales are flat and there could stand to be a bit more quality in the software catalogue. But the first six months of this handheld’s life are less important than the second six months. What we’ve seen is a base being built. It’s not as big or as sturdy as we might have hoped but it might just be enough of a platform from which to launch the PlayStation Vita to the heights we all hope it can reach.



  1. “A bumpy road with a happy ending”

    Like taking a prostitute down a dirt track i suppose.

    • you have to pay extra to take them up the dirt track. Apparently.

      • Lol!

        Indeed you d… I mean… Apparently you do.

        But only if you bring your own puncture repair kit.

      • Way hey!

  2. I really like my Vita, but as you said, some of the premier games for it have been a little disappointing. Uncharted was great, but I had no need to do anything but the story mode. Gravity Rush was great, but some control issues annoyed me greatly. However, games like Mutant blobs and Unit 13 have really impressed me. Even though I haven’t picked up the system too much recently, I strongly believe that COD and Assassin’s creed (two franchises I actually don’t like that much) will compel me to pick it up again and again later this year. Feel massive sympathy for you, having spent £700 on it ‘n’ all…mine only cost £225 with Uncharted and a 4gb card :p

  3. On a more serious note, i do think the Vita will benefit from big name publishers such as Ubisoft & Activision appearing on the device. Brand recognition does play a part in any marketing of any product & big hitters such as AC & CoD can only help.

    Whether it will ignite the fires as hoped, or just be a bit ‘too little, too late’ kind of deal remains to be seen.

  4. I had to send mine back, I felt the build quality left a bit to be desired. My analogue sticks came off centre after a few weeks of use. Got a full refund instead of a return I do not trust the build quality one bit.

    • I thought the build quality was really good. Nice an weighty device with no ‘give’ in the casing or anything. Especially nice considering it’s less than half the price of an iPhone/similar device.

      • Well considering mine broke Ill have to disagree :P

  5. I love my Vita, and honestly think it’s one big game from taking off.

    The question is, which game? I’d have thought Assassin’s Creed, but releasing on the same day as the PS3 game is going to hurt that. Bioshock is far off, Call of Duty could be it, depends on the date though, again, the PS3/360 game could hurt it.

    Little Big Planet? Maybe. September releases aren’t usually the biggest hits though. It’s definitely my most anticipated game this year, followed by Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Can’t wait to have a Criterion game on the go again.

  6. I love my Vita as well, fantastic little piece of gear. While some games were great (Wipeout, Uncharted,..) other were not so. Still, for me it’s the only true “console on a handheld” experience & I love it for that. I hope to see a lot more good PSN games and finally some decent remote play.

    There are a lot of games coming for it that could help it sell a lot better (Fifa 13, CoD, Assassin’s Creed, Bioshock, LBP, PS Allstars Battle, really looking fw myself to Dragon’s Crown).

  7. Vita is currently ok some things need sorted like the OS when swapping Mem sticks. The worse is in every store I walk into in Belfast they never have Vita games in stock, haven’t even saw Disgaea 3 which is annoying so low luck *cries*, its kinda like the 3DS in a way but worse tis a bad economy and local Tesco doesn’t stock it at all. Though with the retail being all gloomy and weak the PS Store’s been deadly… the sales where rather great and some of the games are rather like pick up and play like Foosball, Chess etc. Still would like a sale on more games like Disgaea and Wipeout 2048 plus Marvel… yeah summer sales have been quite disappointing because its left out Vita a bit… pitiful.

    so hopefully stuff like Littlebigplanet, Tekken X Street Fighter, CoD *shivers* and Assassin Creed’s 3 show that its worth developing for and maybe then it’ll finally have tons of games announced or someting.

    • Marvel vs. Capcom WAS on sale.
      Only had €10 knocked off the price, but it pushed me into it.
      It’s great.

      • Aw, really I didn’t see it :/

    • With all due respect, i would never expect Tesco (or even someone like Game for that matter) to stock anything like Disgaea 3. It’s simply too niche.

      These stores tend to stock games that will fly off of the shelves & that are appealing to the masses rather than the ones that only a minority would be interested in.

      • Hm I see.. I’d expect them to considering its a new platform but I never go there for games anyway. Local game would be fine but.. its close now leaving only xtravision and tesco…… and they barely stock anything off the Vita.

  8. I’m in the love my vita camp. Enjoyed all the games I’ve played on it (Uncharted, Gravity Rush, Wipeout) with the exception of Resistance:Burning Skies (Retribution is a far better game and only £7 from the store).

    I’ve found that the store is it’s saviour. Escape Plan, Motorstorm RC, Super Stardust where brilliant at launch. Enjoying playing Puddle, and can’t wait for Sound Shapes next week. There’s so many PSP games I missed that I’m picking up on the cheap, and those mini’s from the old style PS+ that I downloaded but never played are getting a good run out as well. I’m hoping that with PS1 compatibility there’s a bit more scope for control mapping other than the right stick.

    Best thing about it is I can play an online round of Everybody’s Golf, or try and beat a friends time on a Unit 13 mission during my lunch hour. Just for that alone, the Vita is worth it.

    • Amount of PSP games is nice, and cheap. Agreed PS Store has been a saviour… memory has been a headache but. heh

  9. “Sony’s first handheld console was generally a big disappointment for me. ”

    you and you alone

    the psp was incredible and sony learned nothing from it

    • It had amazing games but mainstream you could say it flopped in what games could be available or something, was bad from the start decent.. but the flow of games was poor.

  10. I really like Golden Abyss. But, as a few of us have found out the last couple of days, the Black Market on it is broken/incomprehensible and just horrible to try to use. Got there in the end though. Thanks tef, Del, Youles OK, Colmshan and all the rest. Boy, am I glad they changed Near so that you can update whenever you like!

    • I hate the Near and Black Market system :P

      • The Near user interface is not good. I was hoping the PS Mobile SDK would make it possible to recreate Near with a better interface. As is often the case with these things they need to give more thought to real patterns of use rather than just the tech.

    • Have you still been getting stuff off of me?

      I didn’t get a Black Market trade for at least a fortnight.
      Finished off the last two bounty sets the old-fashioned way, playing through the game.
      Still updating regularly, if only to fill out my Kamasutra of fetishes! :P

      • yeah, I was getting the odd one here and there. If you want fetishes, tefs your man. he literally gave me the whole collection! I’ll keep updating for you anyway

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