The Playstation Vita by many accounts is an experiment by Sony that went wrong. Low sales numbers outside of Japan, lack of quote-unquote “killer apps” and poor customer retention led to the Vita’s untimely demise in a world where handheld gaming is more popular than ever. However, in retrospect, the Vita is a console that while flawed, has its own merits and offers content that can’t be found elsewhere.
The Vita’s Draw
Connectivity. The Vita’s greatest asset is its connectivity, with a simple account link and a wifi connection, the Vita is able to slot right into your PlayStation ecosystem. If your Dualshock is dead, the Vita can take its place. If someone’s using the TV, you can cast your game to the Vita and start playing without any issue. If you’ve got a long commute, Vita will be there in your pocket, just waiting to be used and transport you to some faraway realm to take part in a new adventure.
Gaming on the go is nothing new. Our phones have had games for years, the Game Boy was released nine years before I was even born. The Nintendo DS has been on the market since the mid-2000s, so handheld gaming was already a popular thing around the world. The Vita had a different claim to fame however, leveraging a full touchscreen on the front of the device and a touchpad on the back for player interactions in-game. The DS may have also had a touchpad, it was much smaller by comparison and its functionality was different. The touchpad on the DS could be an afterthought in many games while on the Vita it was a core part of the experience.
Keeping The Past Relevant
One of the Vita’s biggest selling points was its ability to allow you to access your old PS1 and PSP game libraries. If you own digital copies of old Playstation games, you can download them to your Vita and play on the go. The days of being chained to your PS1 so you could experience Metal Gear Solid were over.
Coming Into Its Own
However, games of the past weren’t all the Vita had to offer. While the Vita did get ports of major games such as Little Big Planet and Borderlands 2 that were Vita specific builds. The best thing about the Vita was its library of games that were built from the ground up for the Vita and to take advantage of the Vita’s unique strengths. Uncharted Golden Abyss making use of the Vita’s touchpad when it comes puzzle-solving mechanics and traversal. Unit 13 and Gravity Rush making use of the touch controls for combat. These experiences were unique and diverse and they were only available on the Vita, which made it an ideal platform for gamers on the go that wanted something different to sink their teeth into.
The Vita sold best in Japan. This information is no surprise given the fact that Sony is a Japanese company. However, Japanese gamers and their wants and needs are much different than the desires of gamers in the west. Public transportation is a big part of Japanese society due to there being a large number of people in Japan. This, in turn, means that there is limited space to be able to own and operate a vehicle. As a result, people have to spend a large amount of time commuting back and forth on buses and trains on a daily basis.
A Different Kind of Game Design
In Japanese markets, games were built to be a more leisurely way of passing the time compared to the American style of more action-heavy gaming. Visual novel games are extremely popular as an end result. Visual novels are games where the story is told through the use of pictures with audible dialogue compared to conventional game design. Due to the general lack of gameplay that would require focus and attention, light novels ended up being a well-loved method of spending time during daily commutes. Some of the Vita’s most popular games, such as the Steins Gate and Danganronpa franchises employed that type of game design.
The Vita Deserves Love Too
In conclusion, the Vita never lived up to expectations, but that isn’t the Vita’s fault. The blame for the failure of the Vita rests on the shoulders of Sony. The Vita was marketed as a Playstation 4 on the go. As such, people naturally expected Playstation console-quality games to therefore be available on a handheld. However large scale development resources were never allocated to the Vita to make that promise a reality due to its low install base outside of Japan.
Give The Vita A Chance
Publishers and developers simply weren’t willing to commit large sums of money to a then unproven new handheld. However, there have been a plethora of quality titles that have been released on the Vita that you simply can’t find anywhere else. Persona 4 Golden and Uncharted: Golden Abyss to name a couple. So instead of writing the Vita off as a lost cause, next time Gamestop is having a sale, go on down and pick one up. You might be surprised at what you find.