Talking Point: Could PS4 Streaming Impact Native Vita Development?
Posted by Sammy Barker
Devil in disguise
Aside from games that make heavy use of the PlayStation Eye camera, you’ll be able to play your entire PlayStation 4 library on the PlayStation Vita. The promising Wii U-esque ‘Off-TV’ functionality is something that Sony envisioned with its previous generation consoles, touting the benefits of Remote Play as early as 2006. However, while the feature never quite lived up to its potential on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable, the organisation’s hoping that the enhanced capabilities of its latest set of hardware will make the ambitious technology a much bigger success. But could that come at a cost, and hinder development for the Japanese giant’s struggling pocketable platform even further?
It’s worth stressing that at this early stage we still don’t really know how well the feature will work. Remote Play on the PS3 and PSP was ruined by lag and poor image quality. Sony’s said that the experience will be superior on its next generation formats due to the inclusion of an additional chip inside the PS4 that will support the streaming functionality. Aside from a short demonstration anchored by system architect Mark Cerny during February’s widely publicised PlayStation Meeting, though, we’re still yet to actually see the technology in action. Assuming that it works as promised, however, it could have negative repercussions for the Vita.
Last week, French publisher Ubisoft revealed that its Sofia development unit has been recruited to assist production on Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. The studio – previously responsible for Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation – is working on a specific section of the gigantic open world game. This means that there’s no handheld instalment in production, despite the aforementioned release selling extremely well on the Vita’s slender install base. However, the company has been keen to point out that the console sequel – like all other PS4 releases – will support Remote Play. “All we have to do is make sure that the controls are good on the Vita because it's missing a few buttons,” associate producer Sylvain Trottier told Eurogamer.net.
With Sony already struggling to incentivise Vita development, it may find its position further weakened when the PS4 deploys
While it’s reassuring that supporting Remote Play is a relatively straightforward task for developers, there’s a very real concern that submitting tweaked control schemes may represent the sum of some publishers’ efforts moving forwards. For companies like 2K Games and Bethesda, that may actually be an improvement, but for other firms like Namco Bandai and Warner Bros – who have been supporting the Vita with a mixture of original titles and ports since its release in 2012 – it could very well result in a step backwards. And the last thing that the system needs right now is less games.
The problem is that many companies are already starting to shy away from Vita development. Poor sales of the hardware have resulted in some less than stellar software numbers, prompting publishers to pull production until the system’s situation improves. With the platform holder already struggling to encourage development, it may find its position further weakened when the PS4 deploys. Firms working on games for the next generation console could cite Remote Play as a sign of support, lessening the incentive for spin-offs or exclusive entries in big franchises. Where’s the motivation to develop a watered-down version of Assassin’s Creed IV when the main game will already work on the handheld?
And that question not only applies to the publishers, but to the consumers, too. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation was a decent game, but it offered a shallow experience compared to its primary console counterpart. Why would anyone spend a significant amount of cash on a spin-off, when the "full" experience could be enjoyed via Remote Play? Granted, you’ll need an Internet connection to get the functionality up and running, but how many of you are playing your Vita out of the house anyway? And if you are using your system on the subway or train, we suspect that your commute is not particularly well tailored to the narrative driven experiences that you’re likely to enjoy on the PS4.
Of course, this creates a problem. A lack of must-own software has already prevented the Vita from garnering the sort of install base that it arguably deserves, and that's despite the system playing host to a wealth of stellar smaller releases. Games like Hotline Miami, Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark, and Velocity Ultra all offer exceptional experiences, but are not system sellers. With Remote Play potentially lessening the incentive for publishers to produce blockbuster content for the handheld, though, could the feature actually become a dagger in the platform’s prospects?
Are you worried that Remote Play may further deteriorate the Vita’s software situation, or do you think that the appeal of the feature may ultimately improve the system’s outlook? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Do you think that PS4 streaming will impact Vita development? (45 votes)
Yes, I can’t imagine many publishers will support the system now
It all depends on how well Remote Play works
No, I think that it may improve the console’s prospects over time
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