Back in 2012 I got my first taste of Sony’s ‘next big thing’ during a stint living in Brisbane. I was over visiting a mate and enjoying the ridiculously humid Queensland weather when we got chatting about the Vita. It so happened he was richer than me and owned one. One thing led to another and the next thing I know I am tapping away at Super Stardust HD on the glorious OLED screen and I knew that this device was something special.
It wasn’t until around 6 months later that I managed to lift myself back above the poverty line and could afford to pick up my own Vita from JB HIFI along with Killzone: Mercenary and Persona 4: Golden. The system blew my mind: the graphics, the fluidity of the touch screen, the fantastic emerging library of exclusives (especially the JRPGs). I was in heaven, and went on to constantly drain the battery almost every day to the point I wouldn’t even touch my PS3.
Now, here we are in 2015 and that same sense of wonder and hope I once had for Sony’s system is dwindling. A casual scroll through most gaming sites will show a wide array of gamers announcing that the “Vita is Dead.” From the usual haters of anything Playstation (looking at you Xbox kids) to the (once) die-hard fans of the system, hope for the Vita seems to have faded like a guttering candle. People are selling their Vitas in droves while they can still get a decent price. It is never a good sign when you have your fan base selling and trading in your product for something else…
So what happened exactly?
Well, for me personally it feels as though it all began to go downhill around mid-2014. The PS4 was well and truly established by this point and doing remarkably well for Sony against the competition. The Vita however, even with it’s awesome cross-play functionality, seemed to be wavering in favour of smart phones and Nintendo’s 3DS (fantastic little unit by the way). The portability world has drastically changed since the glory days of the PSP, and I think the Vita really just came out at a bad time. It wasn’t selling as well, the exclusives began to dwindle (here in the West at least) and from a business standpoint, it would seem that for Sony to develop new software for the Vita they would be running at a loss no matter the quality of the title. I can understand this, but it doesn’t make the situation as a whole feel much better.
Now all this being said, a few new indie titles do pop up here and there. PS+ has been very generous with some cool titles scattered around the past 12 months, and the fact that I have almost all the PS1-era Final Fantasy games at my finger tips, to play on the go anywhere has really made me a happy camper.
I still think the potential for the system yet to be unlocked. Bringing out a cheaper model of the Vita by replacing the OLED with an LED was a smart move by Sony to ship more units at a lower cost (at the sacrifice of a slightly weaker picture). But to move units, you need that support and trust that titles will come in the future, not just remote play which at this stage still feels fumbly with the touch-pad replacements for R2/L2 buttons. I cannot count the amount of times I would simply switch off a game that used the R2 and L2 buttons with the back touch pad, it was just shit to use and more often than not was not responsive at all. Bungie’s title Destiny did make good use of remote play and is probably the best example of how it should be done. It was easily the best playing shooter on the handheld, and it wasn’t even an exclusive to the system. By mapping touch controls to say lobbing a grenade or switching weapons the action was just made all the more smoother.
Cool apps like ‘Wake Up Club’ are also awesome. You could set an alarm which goes off at the same time on other people’s systems around the world, and they could help wake you up and get you to work on time by tapping on your avatar. It was a cool concept that turned out to be simple fun, and it’s things like this that remind me of the potential in the system and the possibilities that are still out there for the Vita.
Will Sony eventually reboot its handheld and give it the life it deserves? Who can really say? For now I’ll wait patiently as I chip away at the 900+ hours of Final Fantasy games I am yet to play.