The PlayStation Vita has had a rough ride these past few weeks. Following Shuhei Yoshida’s comments that “the climate is not healthy” for a successor to Sony’s handheld, it has now been confirmed once more that the company has ceased making first party games for the platform. So, if you were banking on sequels to games like Soul Sacrifice and Killzone Mercenary, then it sounds as though you’re fresh out of luck.
It’s upsetting to hear this directly from Sony but, in truth, we all saw it coming. Attempts to prop up the Vita’s roster of exclusives have grown weaker with each passing year. Although the company has had some major success in courting a stable of smashing indie studios, the lack of big flagship releases has dampened the Vita’s appeal somewhat.
As Dave points out, Nintendo’s 3DS and the ever-expanding mobile market are mostly to blame. Despite a fairly sluggish launch, the Vita’s dual-screened rival quickly gained traction thanks to the enduring popularity of its cherished mascots. Where Sony made genuine attempts to innovate using the Vita’s superior power and feature set, it could do little to compete with Super Mario, Smash Bros. and Nintendo’s various iconic properties.
Although we’ve witnessed a sharp decline in first party titles, the Vita’s library has continued to diversify in their absence. In particular, Dave notes the recent proliferation of visual novels – a popular genre in Japan that has players reading along with little in the way of actual gameplay. This change in focus has also led to a sustained rise in the number of indie games arriving on the platform, many of which come tagged with cross console compatibility.
That said, Dom reckons it’s far too early for Sony to pull the plug on first party development:
“Plain and simple, a console is sold on its exclusives, and Sony can’t be expecting third-party publishers to be the ones to push their handheld. I would have loved to see another handheld Gran Turismo, or a new Patapon. Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Wipeout 2047 were also both fantastic but we’re never likely to see these games on-the-go again.”
Still, he says, there are a number of good reasons to pick up a Vita. Remote Play has been a huge boon for console with PlayStation Now showing plenty of potential. It’s also hard to ignore the massive library of PSP and original PlayStation classics available to download. From Silent Hill and Crash Bandicoot to Final Fantasy VII and Resident Evil, some of the best games of the last few decades are right there in the palm of your hand.
Looking further ahead, Stefan has come to accept Sony’s awkward shuffle away from the Vita. With the PlayStation 4 currently dominating the console market and a potential VR revolution looming, it seems as though they have bigger fish to fry. Still, he’s quick to lay the criticism on Sony where due:
“The difficulty for Sony and the PlayStation Vita was the same as for the PSP. The promise of home console level graphics was never quite met, meaning that any game on the system would have to be a distinct and separate entity, rather than a quick port.
But Sony also left the console out to die far too soon after launch. Their top studios were all already gearing up for the PlayStation 4, but as soon as the Vita came out, Sony started shutting down studios that could have continued to focus on the handheld. It killed any real chance of sustained first party support, and without sales and easy ports, third parties outside of Japan were soon to shy away from investing.”
Despite the blunders and missed opportunities, many are quick to stand by the PlayStation Vita. Although deprived of future first party release, it still plays host to some of the best handheld gaming experiences out there. For that reason we’re convinced that a successor isn’t completely off the table just yet. When it might come and what form it could take is anyone’s guess, though.
Now we hand the discussion over to you. Have Sony pulled the plug too early or is there a greater benefit in focusing on PS4 and their VR ambitions? Are gutted that some Vita exclusives won’t be getting timely sequels? Is there still hope for a successor? Let us know in the comments below!