It’s been a tough first year for the PlayStation Vita. The console’s had to contend with poor sales, a relentless competitor, and some serious questions regarding its library. However, the portable machine has matured over the past six months, securing a steady stream of must-play software, largely due to the unwavering dedication of Sony’s external development network. The likes of Shahid Ahmad have been working tirelessly to not only expand the breadth of the platform’s lineup, but also its diversity, too. It may still be lacking the blockbuster exclusives that you’ve been dreaming of, but that’s not stopping the system from overcoming its unconvincing origins, and blossoming into a product that you really must own.
The price drop is just the icing on the cake. While the platform was actually commended for its $249.99 price point at E3 all the way back in 2011, it’s become increasingly clear that a vast majority of the market is not willing to play quite so much for a dedicated handheld in this day and age. That was reflected by the sudden surge of sales during last year’s busy Black Friday period. Reduced to the more affordable sum of $199.99 – and bundled with a big game in the form of Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation – the system sold out swiftly. The fact that the console will now be available at that sum for the foreseeable future should give it a small lift – especially with Killzone: Mercenary right around the corner.
And that’s good, because, as admitted by SCEA president Jack Tretton earlier in the year, the Vita’s biggest issue has always been getting consumers to pay attention to it. The system’s attach rate – an incredible 10 games per user on average – is impressive, and the console’s generally liked by anyone that actually purchases it. That’s something that’s evidenced on this very website, with many members desperate for the system to exceed. Admittedly, the memory cards are still an absolute embarrassment – but if the price drop encourages a new batch of fence sitters to grimace through that one glaring issue, then the console’s destined to garner a new breed of fervent fans.
The most important thing is that Vita’s also becoming an attractive option for developers. It still doesn’t really make sense for the likes of Activision and Bethesda to commit millions of dollars to exclusive projects on the format, but we’re not sure that the system needs a whole lot of those types of games anyway. There are only so many hours in the day, and the portable is filling that time with a frankly absurd number of options. You won’t find every single one of the in-production titles appealing, of course, but for those put off by Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition, there’s Minecraft, and for those that couldn’t care less about Spelunky, there’s Fez. The assortment is staggering.
Many of the titles are available elsewhere, it’s true – but Sony’s managed to give the platform a personality by pursuing titles that feel at home on the handheld. Hotline Miami started life on the PC, but despite being ported to other platforms – including the PlayStation 3 – it doesn’t feel right on any system other than the Vita. The murder simulator is playable in short chunks, can be picked up and put down as you please, and looks the business on the OLED screen. The same logic will surely apply to the likes of Rogue Legacy, Luftrausers, and more.
And it’s not like ports are all that the platform’s getting. GamesCom didn’t bring news of a surge of original software, but it did offer enough to complement the cavalcade of smaller hits. Murasaki Baby looks like one of the most imaginatively artistic adventures since Escape Plan, while Big Fest probably won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but has this particular author giddy at the knees. And for those still reeling from the dearth of so-called blockbuster software, Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate, Toukiden, and Tearaway shouldn’t be sniffed at.
And that’s all without mentioning Remote Play. It remains to be seen whether this will have an impact on software sales or not, but it’s clear that Sony’s put a significant amount of effort into the PlayStation 4's streaming technology. While it’s hard to glean too much information from this week’s GamesCom stage demo, it certainly seems that the dream envisioned over seven years ago with the PSP is set to become a reality. Assuming that the platform holder can finally deliver on that promise, the Vita is set to blossom into a pretty important part of the next generation experience – and that alone may open an entirely new market to the many positives that the handheld has to offer.
It’s not what we originally envisioned for the handheld over a year ago, of course, but that’s not necessarily a negative. Sony’s latest portable may always be consigned to a niche in a market where smartphones have captured the more casual consumer, but that doesn’t make the console's current situation bad. To the contrary: developers are making money producing products for engaged, active, and vocal consumers, gamers are happily lapping up as much content as possible in the pursuit of more and more software to play, and the Japanese giant has a system that, while not setting the sales charts alight, is buoyed by an extraordinary attach rate, a dedicated fanbase, and a real chance of enhancing the experience of its infinitely more marketable next generation console. Suddenly, things don’t seem quite so bad.
How would you rate the Vita’s current situation? Are you impressed by the sheer breadth of content coming to the console? Is the Remote Play functionality exciting you? Which games are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments section below.
What do you make of the Vita’s situation at the moment? (59 votes)
I’m playing the platform more than ever due to the steady stream of solid software
I still wish there were more big games, but I can’t complain about the content on offer
Even though there are a lot of titles on the way, I’m not really interested in them
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