PlayStation Vita: One Year On

The PlayStation Vita didn’t change the world.

It might boast the fanciest screen or the most powerful technology, but Sony’s stoic adherence to what made the PSP so successful has ironically resulted in a successor that continues to struggle to gain much traction. Alongside its big brother, the PS3, the perception could easily be that the PS Vita languishes with too little attention and too many hand-me-downs, and next to the 3DS it’s widely considered – at least in some territories – a bit of a joke.

The PlayStation Vita was (and is) probably too expensive. The machine itself costs too much, the memory cards are too pricey and the games are frequently ridiculously set at a level that often corresponds to forty iPhone games. Forty. Even if you’re somehow allergic to games that require nothing more than a touch screen, that kind of mathematics just doesn’t make a great deal of sense.

[drop]Of course, this was Sony’s attempt to truly replicate a console experience on the go. For both good and bad, there’s been some convincing work in that regard – the Vita’s got enough grunt to make passable ports a reality and there’s apparently enough of an incentive for Sony’s first party developers to come up with side-stories and new entries (like Golden Abyss and 2048) that play exactly like a main living room console game would.

And for all the loading times in WipEout and the frustratingly sub native resolution of Uncharted, the Vita has managed to tick off a few checkboxes in offering up the ability for users to take PlayStation 3-esque games on the go. In some cases it has even let you start a PS3 game at home and then – via cloud saves – continue your game at work, on the train, on the toilet. Such titles are few and far between, but the technology is sound.

And there have been some true gems since the console’s Japanese launch, twelve months ago today. We’ve mentioned two, but there’s LittleBigPlanet Vita – probably the best LBP since the first one; a decent port of Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3; Rayman Origins still looks outstanding on that OLED screen; the portable pleasures of MotorStorm RC, and the sterling work BluePoint did with Battle Royale, to name a few.

But there have been some stinkers, too. The much derided Call of Duty followed the poorly received Resistance: Burning Skies, pointing to an uncertain future for first person shooters; a couple of truly substandard 3DS ports in the form of the LEGO games and the launch F1 title and the nonsense that surrounded ModNation Racers’ lack of an online mode. All consoles have their weak points, and the Vita is no exception.

But it’s in the sales of the unit itself that the most shocks have been found, with one week in November offering just 4,000 Vita sales in Japan, the portable being outsold by the outdated PSP by a factor of three. There’s apathy in the East, with mere flickers of hope emerging on the release of a big game or, recently, the introduction of a couple of new colours. You’d think the Vita would have an easy ride in Japan, but that’s not the case at all.

Indeed, Sony now lists the Vita mixed in with the PSP when reporting sales figures, the PS3 in with the PS2. This makes it almost impossible to figure out where the trends are going worldwide, the only real information coming through with press releases when a milestone has been hit. In August the official figure was 2.2 million, a figure the 3DS XL (an updated, released this year revision of the 3DS) has already hit and passed – the 3DS itself is sitting at roughly ten times that of the Vita.

With floundering numbers, then, it’s encouraging to see that Sony are still pushing the handheld hard. In the absence of a true price cut, bundles were recently introduced and although this year’s E3 showing was an embarrassing silence for the Vita, SCEE’s Gamescom press conference showed a renewed focus and faith in the machine, with several big name titles on show, including a unique entry in the Assassin’s Creed series and a return to the Killzone canon with a new first person shooter from Guerrilla, along with Tearaway, Media Molecule’s latest project.

But can a smattering of top tier games really make that much of a difference? Hopes for Black Ops: Declassified to do the same are now the stuff of legend, numerous message boards playing host to claims that once Call of Duty lands everyone will want a Vita – how that’ll pan out this Christmas remains to be seen, but the game failed to make much of an impact in the charts, and the Vita version of Battle Royale crashed even harder.

The real gem has been PlayStation Mobile, and it’s taken Sony a little while to realise. Now the official channels are making a big deal of certain key PSM titles, people will hopefully start to take notice and the much more digestible financial outlays should hopefully go some way to illustrate that not every game on the machine costs the sort of figures we’ve already discussed. With several big publishers and a brave set of indies behind Mobile, hopefully big things will come.

[drop2]In a hardware sense Sony have done little wrong – that screen is lovely (at least, when games run at the proper resolution), the analog sticks are fine once you get to know them and the availability of tilt control and the rear touch panel mean that developers at least have plenty of options. It’s a capable piece of kit, too, and we’re still only really in the first generation of titles – next year’s big games will no doubt really start to flex its muscles, at least in the right hands.

A price cut needs to happen, though, and bigger (and cheaper) memory cards need to a) land in Europe and b) be part of the initial package. Publishers need to stop trying to charge crazy ticket prices, and more need to get on board to expand a library that whilst impressive at launch has dwindled slightly over the following months. There’s still confidence in the Vita at Sony, but they need to get the public on their side and buying into it before its too late.

It’s been a year of ups and downs for Sony’s latest device, and it’s only now starting to come through on early promises (like the PS3 cross controller functionality – more on that soon). Sales in Japan are dire, but as the system is advertised more and more here in Europe at least there’s brand awareness coming through. And whilst it’s still next to impossible to get anything but the main four or five titles in the supermarkets, Sony’s commitment to ensuring the Store is well stacked bodes well for the next generation of TV-based consoles.

Let’s hope the next year is kinder.



  1. Where to start….

    For 2013, for Vita to have 1 last roll of the dice, Sony really need to learn some harsh lessons and bite down a bullet or 2 and take some drastic steps to get Vita into peoples homes.

    Seen good few TV ads showcasing Black Op’s on the move etc, but, Sony, my friends who play NOTHING BUT Black Op’s were NEVER going to look to a handheld for their fix, it was always going to be (and always will be) the living room exp.Big TV, console of choice (PS3 or 360), headsets etc etc.You cannot hope to re-create that exp.on a handheld, no matter what power it’s packing.Folks who own a PS3 want to play it on that set up, they are’nt looking for a portable PS3, put some games that are far more suited to portable gaming, out there, make them Vita only.

    The price of the console+Memory card seriousily needs to be dropped and fast, if you want Vita+PS3/PS4 to be your answer to Wii U, you need to make the device seem worth the investment, so sensibly priced a with a wideselection of games that really come ‘alive’ when Vita is connected.So far i’ve heard of LBP 2 (but after buying PS3,game, Vita etc your then asked for further investment, buy forking out for DLC.Cross platform control really should have been avaiable by a patch or very least FREE to PS+ subscribers, you have to make the PS brand seem like great VFM) and Dust 514, sounds promising, but so far untested.

    Not having an exclusive for Japan, after the huge succsess Monster Hunter was for PSP, just struck me as utter madness, a fatal blow and possibly too late for Vita to recover.Knowing Sony, they’ll ignore all the above and treat Vita same way they did PSP, starve it of games, just release hardware revisions+gimmicks and it’ll never be the device it could be.

    Sony, i own PS1,PS2, PS3, 3 PSP’s yet you’ve done NOTHING to convince me Vita is a worthwhile investment, the handheld market is very different to when PSP launched, yet it seems you’ve learnt nothing and are convinced your lumbering along, nothing to see here approach will pay off in the end.Can’t see it myself.

    Crying shame as Vita great piece of kit, deserves far better, it’s feeling like the old Atari Lynx days:superb hardware, put in hands of company facing threats on all sides, crumbling from within…device left to wither and die and we hear little but empty promises.

    • I would give you a +1 if I could, lol. Just seems like Sony are going at it all wrong, which sucks as, like you say, the Vita is actually a cracking bit of kit.

    • Also old enough to remember the Lynx and I reckon that’s spot on :)

  2. I’m a big fan of the Vita hardware but, even a year in, I’m not sure what Sony want the Vita to be marketed as. On the surface they seem to want it to come across as a portable PS3 but the its clear the Vita is not a viable option in this regard – you only have to look at the likes of Resistance, COD:Declasified and AC:Liberation to see the Vita just isn’t capable of matching the PS3’s grunt.
    A price drop would certainly help. £160 for a game and mem card sounds reasonable to me, especially when you compare it to the 3DS, a handheld which you can pick up for around £120 these days and has a larger library of games.

  3. The mistake they made was not to realise that the vast majority don’t/won’t/can’t play a full console title on a portable device.
    I don’t want to play Assassins Creed for 30 minutes a day, for 6 months, I want to play a game like that 2/3 hours a day for 2 weeks on my big screen at home. When I’m commuting, I want to play something that is really good but as soon as I reach my destination I don’t have to worry about whether I’ll get to a checkpoint in the game before I get to my stop. I want to play Doodle jump or Angry Birds, that I can dip in and out of without regard

    • True but I think there is a lot of people who do, like me that is why I brought a Vita.

      • That why I said the vast majority, there are clearly those who do like yourself, but I’d reckon your in a minority there

      • If I wanted small gaming I would just buy a good phone and there may be your point @BrendanCalls.

        But not every full game takes time to play. AC3 is bad one, terrible for on the go and Gravity Rush. But MSG HD, LittleBigPlanet and a few others are really suited to pick up and play styles and I personally find them more entertaining than the smaller games, although I am enjoying Alien Breed atm :)

      • My point is that if they want to make a success out of Vita then making a console experience “on the go” was not the way to do it. The way to do it is by making a console that attracts the attention of more than just hardcore gamers, like us.
        Its a vicious circle, Sony haven’t created a console that appeals to a mass market, so why should any developers spend their precious profits developing a game for a console that is only in the hands of the few, when they could spend that money developing a game for XBox/Ps3/iOS/Android which has a much greater chance of selling to a greater number of people.

        I personally, think Sony shouldn’t have bothered, breaking into the mobile market these days requires 1 of 2 things, a device that is ground-breaking or countless millions. Sony has neither of these, in my opinion, PS Vita in theory is ground-breaking, but in reality its so confused as to what it actually wants to be that it ends up doing too much. That track-pad on the back, I mean, was their really any need?

      • On the go isn’t just out outside the house. It’s any time away from playing games on my TV.

        I use my Vita like many will use the Wii U at home. There are also many people that have long commutes. I travel to London once a week which gives me over 4 hours to play.

        When I was a kid portable consoles were for taking on holiday and that was it. My Vita is still partly for that. After a long day out (or while travelling) having the vita to hand is great.

        The only time I’ve ever use my phone for games is in long queues in theme parks but you then run the risk of having no battery for when you need your phone to be a phone.

        “The mistake they made was not to realise that the vast majority don’t/won’t/can’t play a full console title on a portable device.”

        Most people never wanted to play games to start with. They haven’t bought phones to play games. They’ve bought phones and then play games on them because they’re available. Angry birds is massive but its never been a system seller. I can’t think of any mobile game that has sold people a phone.

        The portable games market is still small. It’s never really grown much and it hasn’t shrunk much.

        There’s no point making a handheld console based on the mobile games market when people aren’t even buying those devices for games to start with. If anything the Vita needs to be more capable of a variety of things. A better music and video system would be a start then maybe it could compete with the iPod touch.

        No one is going to buy a Vita or 3DS instead of a phone. Phones aren’t the competition. If anything is its small tablets, iPods and e-readers.

      • I am actually considering buying an xperia play purely for the fact (this is over other phones, I do actually need a new phone lol) that I can play on the go more accessibly than the Vita.

        The Vita stays here, where I am at Uni and is easier than a television and a PS3. PSP was fantastic even in its last days, therefore I don’t see anything wrong with Vita as long as some good RPGs and prices come along.

    • I bought mine for full games & small ones if was just small would not have bought one.

      • Totally agree. I wouldn’t buy a handheld console for games I can get on a phone, especially when I have a phone.

        It the games like Uncharted that will get me spending money on my Vita.

    • I detest having to play my games on the PS3 when I could be able to take them wherever I want.

      Portable gaming offers so much more than chained to the TV console gaming.

      The size of the screen shouldn’t make much of a difference either- if you’re sitting as far from your TV as you should be, the screen won’t seem much bigger than the Vita screen up close.

  4. If only they could have implemented at launch all the latest and installed capabilities of the Vita…even selling games and memory cards at a slight loss, then sales figures might have been a lot more respectable and a hefty profit made by now (the long term).

  5. I love my Vita, but in much the same way I loved my PSP I still have the sense that it’s slowly going to be disregarded by developers as time goes by. I’ve played a number of hugely enjoyable titles such as Uncharted GA, Wipeout 2048 and Gravity Rush but I still haven’t found myself addicted to it in the way I have been to handhelds in the past. In fact, the games I have been addicted to playing on it are Monster Hunter Freedom United and Patapon 3. Admittedly MH plays infinitely better with the second analogue stick but surely my reason for picking it up should extend beyond returning to my PSP games.

    It has so much potential – I hope that more people pick one up this Christmas and that developers continue to bring out software for it.

  6. If it wasn’t future vita this year would have been the worst year of gaming for me for a long time. Most of my favourite games this year have been on the vita. Mainly because most of the games i was interested in got pushed back to 2013

  7. Rather expensive dust magnet for me so far. Nothing really interests me. Hoping Killzone Mercs can turn this around for me otherwise i’ll probably sell it for crack ;)

  8. I don’t think the Vita’s price is by any means extortionate. For what you are getting (5″ OLED, Quad Core CPU + GPU, 512MB RAM + 128 VRAM) it is good value, most smartphones near this calibre are £400-500, so I don’t think there is any doubt of value for money.

    I do however think it is expensive for this day and age. I don’t know of anyone who can afford £230 likely. Also people bitch about Xbox360 being cheaper, but that’s coming to an end of the generation, vita isn’t. In comparison to the WiiU, you can take the vita with you wherever you go.

    I just think that when people buy the system, they should get an easy time, memory should be cheap, and games should be limited to 29.99 RETAIL price. Hopefully January should see most of this years old games broken through truly, with silly titles like Unit 13 being reduced in price. If Sony introduced essentials next year out of some of the great games this year, so as to re-stock shelves that would mean a person would have much more choice because they are not restrained by their wallets.

    Oh and F1 2011 is Sub-par in graphics. but I thought I would mention that it is great to play.

    • Problem is People do not see the price of the Phones. They only see the Free sign and forget they pay the 400-500 during their contract..

  9. I still think the device itself is reasonably priced, but the problem is the memory cards. An 8GB card should be bundled with every Vita sold, as it’s useless without one.

    Games should also go down a bit in price to match the 3DS games.

    • The memory cards is the main issue. Especially with PS+ being such good value. There isn’t a card that looks like will ever be big enough to hold the games I want on it.

      My 16GB one is full and I still have the likes of Uncharted and Big Sky Infinity to put on it. That’s without any PSmobile, PSone and minis on it.

      • I’ve got a 32GB and it’s just barely enough. I’ve got quite a few PSP and PSOne games on it though, but buy most of my Vita games physical.

      • I have a 16GB card and am now regularly having to connect it up to my PS3 to back it up and swap games over – there isn’t a chance that I want to spend over £50 for a 32GB one but it immediately loses one of the Vita’s key virtues – convenience! I still don’t see the reasoning behind not simply continuing with memory stick pro duo, as it’s not even like the proprietary cards have bigger capacity’s to offer.

      • Its not too much of a problem for me because I’m never going to be playing 10+ games all at once. I think unless people are going to use music and video features then 16gb is sufficient unless they update escape plan again o.0.

      • I think the problem isn’t necessarily that I’ll be playing ten games at once – it’s that pushing the digital store rather than physical media (as well as Playstation Plus) means that if you want access to your library of games you have to have the biggest card – and even then it’s probably not big enough when titles like Uncharted are quite large. I only own three physical games, while I own many more digital ones, exacerbated even more when I was able to carry over PS1 and PSP games too.

  10. I’ve said this before, but the device is too locked-down for me. While the technology may be excellent for the price, I already have my smartphone which has a bigger screen with better resolution, more memory and a faster GPU. without the arbitrary limitations of a console.
    If the Vita gets a price drop and (what I would consider to be) a killer game then I may get one, but otherwise it holds no interest for me.

    • A console is all about the games though, and you don’t get those on a phone. I’ve got a great phone as well, but I don’t like playing games on it.

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