This mid-February was a milestone for PlayStation. It was the release of their follow up to the PlayStation Portable console, the PlayStation Vita.
Technically it was December 2011 since it came out in Japan first. I should know; I opened the damn thing for all to see. But I just did a quick wiki search and figured let’s just stick to the date where a shit ton of launch games came out.
Point is, the Vita should have succeeded. It should have learned what worked and what didn’t work with the PSP and its moderate success outside of Japan. The PSP did well in Asia but not so much outside of that region. So it should be a shoe-in considering that the PS Vita is powerful, sexier, and had comparable IPs that can work on the go, right?
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The Nintendo 3DS came out earlier during that year and kicked its ass. Of course, Sony’s hubris and misplaced confidence in its handheld was also its undoing.
From my personal experience, the PS Vita was a loveable dark horse that deserved better. Here’s what the PS Vita did right.
-It was just sleek and sexy. The PS Vita was the kind of gaming device that I can show off to people. Yes, there were mobile phones and mobile gaming at the time, but the PS Vita had an OLED super clear-as-hell touchscreen, great set of buttons, two analog sticks, and the potential to play good-looking games on the go. That design is so slim and pocket-sized, and yet its tiny buttons were good to the touch.
-It had a great library of games. Thanks to the Vita, we get gems like Soul Sacrifice, Tearaway, that pretty OK Uncharted game, Ys: Memories of Celceta, Persona 4 Golden, Lumines: Electronic Symphony, Guacamelee, a portable version of Dragon’s Crown and Spelunky, and my personal favourite, Gravity Rush/Daze. I fell in love when I saw it in an E3 a long time ago, and I still love the game series to death still.
Here’s where it flopped. Hard.
-It overestimated itself. Yes, the games here look a ton better than what the 3DS offered, but it’s not as comparable to a home console at all.
-It had a limited library of games. Just because your platform had a quality library, it doesn’t mean that you’re all set. There weren’t enough variety of games for the PS Vita and even if it had heavy hitters like an Uncharted and Killzone game, it wasn’t noteworthy enough to make PS3 owners forsake their home console for the PS Vita.
The PS Vita TV add-on and the whole crossplay schtick with the PS3 made things easier, but it was too little too late.
-It did the whole Sony propriety thing. Sony decided to gouge customer bank accounts by forcing them to use proprietary memory cards, then jacking up the prices to obscene levels. (A 32GB Vita memory card retails for $100; standard 32GB SDHC memory cards cost $18). These costs add up to an exorbitant amount and made people see the ill side of Sony’s business strategy with the portable.
On that note, Nintendo should stop it with their current home/portable console and its overpricing of its first-party peripherals.
-Its message is all wrong. The PS Vita touted itself as “console-quality gaming” portable experience. And while the Uncharted and Resistance games were fine on the console, they were certainly not “console-quality” material. When you use such taglines, your expectations are multiplied tenfold. You better back your statements up lest you get knocked down quick like a house of cards crumbling all over Kevin Spacey’s career.
-It had mobile gaming to contend with. The biggest elephant in the room. When it wasn’t going head-to-head with the 3DS, it was fighting against Apple and Android devices.
They had free disposable time-wasters. Sony had a pricey handheld with pricey peripherals and pricey games. How else could it win this war without a proper marketing spiel and faith from its creators, while also changing the mindset of people expecting their mobile games to be free and easy?
But what’s done is done. The PS Vita failed many and it’s more or less an afterthought at this point, but it touched many a gamer’s hearts and minds because it tried hard, dammit. Where else at the time could you play Spelunky or a gravity-flipping French comic-inspired adventure game while you’re on the MRT or LRT? Nowhere else but on the PS Vita. And despite not having first-party support, third-party companies like Atlus and Falcom are still making games for it. So hooray for that if you’re still holding on to it.
I would make a farewell toast to the PS Vita, except it hasn’t been discontinued yet. Instead, I’ll give it a toast for some semblance of good health. May it not be forgotten when it faces eventual oblivion. Even on Twitter.