The video game industry has a very selective memory. With each new platform launch we're inundated with the same old comments regarding software library, price and more. Indeed, the current reaction to the PlayStation Vita’s not-stellar-but-not-terrible launch sales figures is reminiscent of conversation from 12 months ago. Back then, the media was lambasting Nintendo’s “flawed” 3DS for a lack of software too; those criticisms have gone tellingly quiet over the past few weeks.
Now it’s the Vita’s turn to soak up the press and public’s criticism. It’s not that the device is beyond such analysis — we'll admit it has its problems — but it’s all so premature. The system’s 1.8 million adopters are craving new experiences, and they’re right to do so, but anyone who’s purchased a system at launch before will be familiar with this situation. The reality is that new platforms don’t have the ingrained production cycles that established systems do — only recently has the 3DS’ software offering picked up steam, and the same happened for Xbox 360, Wii and PS3 before it. It's just the reality of a platform launch.
In fact, if you look at past evidence, Sony’s done a pretty good job of eschewing the dreaded launch drought. Not only was the release offering arguably the best in history, but the stream of content since has been good enough to quell concern — to those paying full attention at least. StarDrone Extreme is a decent distraction, Mortal Kombat is an outstanding port and there are still huge first-party releases on the horizon such as Resistance: Burning Skies and Gravity Rush. The scale of the launch line-up itself may be part of the problem — did the size of the initial offering set a precedent the system couldn't possibly maintain?
It’s not like Vita’s been alone in its supposed software drought these past few weeks either. While the whinging masses lament a lack of new content, PS3 saw one major new release in April: Prototype 2. Does anyone truly expect a dozen Vita titles to drop in a notably dry month for the entire industry?
It’s certainly true that things could have been smoother, as is the case for anything in life. The digital focus of the Vita, for example, should allow Sony to bridge droughts with well timed downloadable releases. Smaller, bite-sized games such as Escape Plan and Super Stardust Delta are perfect for filling the space between tent-pole releases, and this is maybe one area in which the Vita has been lacking in the past few weeks.
But a dry spell is not unprecedented for any new console. It takes a while for a new arrival to find its footing, and it’s not the end of the world. Let’s not forget that the PS3 took an unprecedented three years to truly break its software slump perception.
Vita arguably needs to make a stronger impression quicker than the PS3, but should we really be worried three months into the platform’s global launch? Sony has just announced Soul Sacrifice – an impressive new property for the Japanese market – and we’re sure it won’t be the only Vita blockbuster to be revealed over the coming weeks. Let’s see what the big trade events – E3, GamesCom and Tokyo Game Show – bring before we start writing off Vita’s chances. Patience, as they say, is a virtue.
The wannabe online analysts may claim to have all the answers, but their commentary is far too fixated with the present. Price drops and crowded software announcements may make a difference in the short term, but the console market isn’t a sprint.
We can assume from Sony’s most recent financial announcements that it intends to sell approximately 10 million Vitas over the next 12 months. It’s not going to come close to achieving that without a plan, so you can rest assured that your software cravings will be answered.
It’s all a problem of perception. The criticisms snowball and get out of control. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with questioning the way Sony’s dealt with the Vita’s launch and post-release schedule, but let’s stray from unnecessarily hyperbolic statements, and keep in mind that it really has been just three months since the system’s global launch. That’s not a lot of time for anything.
If things haven’t improved in 12 months, then we’ll talk. But realistically, that’s not going to be the case, is it?