If you’ve been on the Internet at anytime since February 2012 and ever happened to look at any gaming news site, you’ve probably seen the enclosed, yet cumbersome quarrel of fanboys in regards to Sony’s dream device, the PS Vita. The two biggest arguments seem to be “the Vita has no games,” or “the Vita needs more games that the PS3 has!”
The first argument is undeniable. Being the diverse gamer and alleged hyper-consumer that I am, I own ten retail Vita games and three digital games. That’s pretty good, considering the system hasn’t even been out for half a year yet. But this is just me – the case of the person who genuinely gives nearly every game a chance, and generally enjoys most games. I can understand how other people might have more discerning tastes, or how they are getting turned off by specific genres here and there. For those people, it’s completely reasonable to think that the Vita has “no games.”
For some investigative fun, let’s time travel back to 2005 when the PS3 was first announced, and when Sony was seeking to bring the successful nature of the PS2 – with its incredible library, immersive game experiences, and widespread success – forward to the current generation with the PS3. At first, it was questionable whether that was achieved, during the time when many PS3 exclusives were less than stunning. Folklore was an underwhelming RPG/Puzzle/Action hybrid which lacked an in-depth experience from the start, and Lair was completely panned across the board, with its poorly-executed SixAxis-control gimmick. Finally, Haze tried to label itself as a “Halo-killer,” and although Halo wasn’t the best first-person shooter around, Haze seemed to commit suicide before it even came close to killing Halo. These games hurt the PS3’s reputation more than they helped build up its shoddy, otherwise multiplatform, game library. It also goes without saying that Sony’s exclusives at the time were not encouraging people to shell out $600 for what was meant to be a home entertainment machine.
Jump to 2009, when the PS3 started getting a few more notable games – Uncharted:Drake’s Fortune had been a stunning success and the anticipation was building for the end-of-the-year release of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. The PS3 was finally starting to get some fantastic exclusive titles under its belt with Resistance 2, Killzone 2, Infamous, Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time, LittleBigPlanet, Demon’s Souls, and Valkyria Chronicles. Fans were clamoring for more, and with the PS3’s Blu-ray capability, it undeniably offered a premium in entertainment and unique gaming experiences.
That feeling of immersive gaming became the focus of many SCEA studios, even up through the present – with visually and emotionally stunning upcoming games like The Last Of Us, Beyond: Two Souls, Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time, Sound Shapes, and many of the recent PSN releases (Rainbow Moon, Journey, The PixelJunk franchise, and Flower). Sony ensures that PlayStation exclusives are of a high standard, and offer unparalleled entertainment.
Now, return to February 2012, and enter the PlayStation Vita – the handheld meant to deliver a portable console experience. Remember when Sony made a similar claim with the PSP? But with the Vita, enter the promises of Remote Play, PSOne Classics, cloud saves, and PS3-style graphics. It can be safely said that largely, the Vita has not delivered on its promises. Sure, PSOne Classics support is slated for later this summer, Remote Play has skeletal functionality, and PS3-style graphics are nearly achieved, depending on the title. But the Vita’s biggest fault, once again, comes back to its lack of unique titles.
Since the Vita’s arrival, it’s discouraging to read about new games for the PS3 or the Vita. Every announcement is met with a barrage of demands from readers which urge Sony to release the each new PS3 game on Vita as well, or vice versa. I get it; people like the idea of “taking your game with you” and it’s really great to see titles that look so great on an HDTV displayed on your OLED screen in all their glory. But this is where things get hairy, and this is – in my opinion – a big reason why the Vita is failing. I’m going to call this the Vita-Cycle. (Because it sounds like motorcycles, and motorcycles are cool – fact).
The reason itself is either a miscalculation on Sony’s part, or the consumers’ part – but it could go either way. It’s not fair to say “Shame on the consumer for not knowing that the Vita would be a device that strictly would act as an on-the-go PS3.” This makes absolute sense, but it’s unfair to say it solely because the Vita has the right to have its own exclusives as well. I mean, what platform doesn’t have that benefit now? (Don’t answer that, fanboys.) What’s to deter Sony from giving the Vita some great game experiences, which are uniquely available to it, and also available on the PS3?
After all, that’s how you get the PS3 lovers to lean toward buying a Vita. Ah, but then you screw over the PS3 gamers who want these special gift-wrapped Sony experiences that they’re used to getting on the PS3. What if they don’t want to buy a Vita for one game? That’s not such an absurd reasoning. Okay, so say this disgruntled PS3 owner begrudgingly decides to buy a Vita so they can catch up on Uncharted: Golden Abyss, or maybe Touch My Katamari, or so they can check out some Vita exclusives like Escape Plan or Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack! Now they’re fairly happy, but again, the library is still too small.
That’s okay! Sony has a slew of games coming to the Vita! So now our new Vita owner is excited. But after experiencing them on Vita, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to play these games at home on your huge TV, maybe online with friends, or even with couch co-op? This is where we reach an impasse.
By making every brilliant PS3 game available to-go on the Vita, then creating more Vita games to tend to the needs of the genre-specific Vita-only gamers, then bringing those former Vita-exclusive games back to the PS3, Sony is dismantling the fundamental need for a gamer to buy both of these devices. Don’t get me wrong! As a consumer, it’s a great thing: saves money! But in order to sell either device, there has to be some reasoning, and some actual desire has to be formulated in order for that to happen – and we all know that a gaming platform can’t be successfully fueled only by console gamers who want the console experience on-the-go. It just doesn’t work that way.
So, Sony is stuck in this seemingly endless cycle. My best suggestion for this? Bundle the Vita with the PS3, and sell them as an experience which can happen at home, or on the go. Begin doing similar bundles with PS3 and Vita games – even by raising the new price of a standard PS3 game by $10 and including a Vita download code with it – ensuring that companies will still make money on both versions. Tidy up the Vita’s Remote Play functionality, throw in some Vita discounts on the Playstation Plus program, and fix compatibility issues with PSOne Classics and PSP games. Embrace that idea of having your cake and eating it too, because it’s important. At least, Fat Princess would say so.