Talking Point: Are Cross Platform Games a Help or a Hindrance to the Vita?
Posted by Sammy Barker
Devil in disguise
The mere suggestion of Soul Sacrifice selling its spirit to the PlayStation 4 in yesterday’s Talking Point pushed some posters into a Black Rite-esque fury. Their argument: the PlayStation Vita needs exclusive games if it is to reverse its current retail predicament. It’s a fair response – Sony’s flagship handheld has certainly struggled to summon a software catalogue of its own since launch. But wasn’t the promise of cross platform games the foundation upon which the handheld was constructed?
In our feature, we mentioned that Sony has the opportunity to really expand the appeal of Keiji Inafune’s dark fantasy adventure by bringing the game’s inevitable successor to its next generation console. The suggestion was partially inspired by Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, the Nintendo exclusive that allows you to transfer data between the Wii U and the 3DS. Having spent the last few weeks hunched over our Vita, we’d love to see our sorcerer on the big screen. But clearly not everyone agrees.
When the platform holder first revealed its current generation handheld, one of the features that it heralded was the idea of cross platform play. This has gone on to adopt many permutations over the past year, but is perhaps best recognised by the idea that you can transfer your progress between consoles. The functionality was originally demonstrated with cancelled dungeon crawler Warrior’s Lair at E3, but has since spread to the likes of Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, MotorStorm RC, and dozens more.
It’s a brilliant feature, especially when complemented by cross-buy. While the prospect of purchasing the same game twice can lead to some raised eyebrows, when you get both versions for the same price, cross-save really comes into its own. Seamlessly shifting your progress between systems feels like an almost futuristic concept, and it makes a lot of sense. Why not grind out a few quests, gather up a handful of collectibles, or set a few new lap times when you’re on the train? It’s not like there’s anything better to do.
But of course, the whole notion is built upon an attribute that continues to haunt the Vita on a daily basis – that it doesn’t really have a content catalogue of its own. Outside of the initial software offering of Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Gravity Rush, and Escape Plan, the system has really struggled to establish a large enough selection of exclusives to move units. There has been the odd release – Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, LittleBigPlanet PS Vita, and Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified – but it’s been forced to share the vast majority of its lineup with the PS3. Is that a help or a hindrance, though?
Sony’s clearly adopted a different model when it comes to promoting its flagship handheld. Endeavours such as cross-buy have made it increasingly attractive for active PS3 owners to purchase the machine. We suspect that there are a number of you reading this article that haven’t yet stumped up for the portable system but actually already own multiple titles for it. You’ll no doubt reach a point where you’ve acquired that much content for the console, that it makes more sense to buy the hardware than not.
But this is perhaps the overarching issue with the cross platform concept – it’s primarily designed with hardcore players in mind. For the few that demand to take their progress everywhere, it’s a godsend in gaming form – but for everyone else, it detracts from the system’s overall offering. While the 3DS is able to flaunt Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Fire Emblem: Awakening, and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, the Vita doesn’t really have anything to compete. Sure, the likes of Thomas Was Alone, Dragon Fantasy: Book I, and Guacamelee! are compelling additions to the console’s catalogue, but they’re all PS3 games, too.
And so the conversation is caught at something of a crossroads. The cross platform concept certainly engenders both convenience and marketing opportunities for existing fans of the brand, but it also detracts from the substance of the platform’s software catalogue. That presents a conundrum for the console maker: should it double down on the needs and requirements of its existing fanbase, or overlook them in an attempt to lure outsiders to its machine? We suppose that an ideal world would bring equal balance between the two, but the company appears to be leaning towards the former for the time being.
Of course, there’s a third angle that we’re still yet to explore. With the Vita’s install base so low, it’s clear that some developers are using cross platform opportunities to mitigate the danger associated with selling their wares exclusively for the console. By deploying their games on the PS3 too, developers stand a greater chance of making a return on their investment than if they were to support the handheld system exclusively. But it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, because without system-selling exclusives, it’s unclear how that risk will ever be reduced.
It’s a tricky situation all around, and it appears to be exacerbated by the fact that gamers are divided over what they actually want. Cross-save certainly feels like the future, but as long as it’s around, the Vita’s probably never going to establish that roster of handheld-only software that it requires to be regarded as anything more than a supplementary system. We’re torn. The question is: which side of the fence do you currently sit?
Do you think that cross platform titles are a help or a hindrance to the Vita? Do you love cross-save functionality, or would you prefer it if the system had more exclusive games? Let us know in the comments section and poll below.
Are cross platform titles a help or a hindrance to the Vita? (38 votes)
A help, I love taking my progress everywhere that I go
I'm honestly torn on this topic
A hindrance, the system needs more exclusive games
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