Jan 23, 2013

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Has the PlayStation Vita Failed?

Nintendo recently held their Nintendo Direct press conference, in which they revealed some of the future Wii U lineup. A few days earlier, they also revealed some of the future titles coming to the 3DS, which has seen a pretty steady stream of releases from both first- and third-parties in the past few months. The Vita had a huge release in November with Persona 4 Golden, but despite a successful launch (especially compared to the 3DS’s weak one), as the Vita nears its first-year anniversary, the shelves look awfully empty.

Everyone knows that ultimately, it’s software that sells systems, so where are the Vita’s games?

Don’t get me wrong–I love my Vita. I don’t regret purchasing it at launch, and I’ve really enjoyed titles like Escape Plan, Gravity Rush, and, of course, Persona 4 Golden. I love it’s beautiful OLED screen and all that it’s capable of–including twitter, Netflix, and more–and it’s been nice to play multiplatform and cross-release titles like Retro City Rampage and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. But while the 3DS has games like Etrian Odyssey IV and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner Soul Hackers from third-parties and Fire Emblem: Awakening and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon from first-parties all hitting shelves in the next months to weeks, where are the Vita equivalents?

Even Sony has failed to step up to the plate here, their most recent release not a big-name title, but instead, Wake-Up Club? Yes, Battle Royale is a big retail release, but it also came out on PS3. Not that I’m complaining about the cross-platform capabilities/promotions of the Vita, but still: where are my RPGs, for example?

The PSP wasn’t the most successful device in gaming history, but it did have a stellar lineup of RPGs. The Vita had Dungeon Hunter and Disgaea early, and now Ragnorok Odyssey and P4G, but that’s it.

The system is nearly a year old, and it has only four RPGs, two of which are ports/updated versions of older games??

Granted, the 3DS has been out longer, but it has 11 RPGs out or upcoming in the near future, only two of which are ports/updates of older games–and that’s only counting retail releases. And that’s just an example of one genre. The 3DS has had its share of games in other genres, such as Scribblenauts Unlimited (puzzle), Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion (platformer), and Kid Icarus: Uprising (shooter/action-adventure). Two of these were also available on other platforms, but not on Vita.

And it’s not just retail games that the Vita is lacking, either. Although there have been a few great digital releases, including the aforementioned Retro City Rampage and Mutant Blob Attacks–it feels like Sony should be trying harder to recruit developers to the system, with some weeks going by with seemingly nothing updated to the Vita store (there’s one! digital release this week). We not only need more exclusive Vita titles (LittleBigPlanet Vita is great, but can’t carry the system), we need more multiplatform games. Virtue’s Last Reward and Retro City Rampage are one of the only titles released on other systems that are also available on Vita.

In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai admitted that Vita sales haven’t been what they’d anticipated, but that it’s the “long-term” that’s important. If that’s so, then where are the game announcements for Vita owners to look forward to? Sony better have a rocking E3 presentation if they hope to boost waning interest in their handheld.

Sony is doing a few things right–such as finally adding PS+ support for the Vita, with great free games for members–and titles like Persona 4 Golden certainly make the handheld a satisfying purchase. But when Nintendo comes out with an announcement like it did today, you start to have some wondering–as I saw on twitter–if asking for a Vita instead of a Wii U (or 3DS) for Christmas was the wrong choice.

The Vita isn’t a cheap device–especially when the cost of memory cards is taken into account–so you don’t want people who purchased your machine to regret it–or worse, trade it in–for your competitor.

The Vita will turn a year old next month, and it feels like it’ll be a quiet anniversary, unnoticed by most gamers (at least in the west)–who will probably be busy playing Fire Emblem or Etrian Odyssey on their 3DSes instead of salivating over the latest hot Vita release.

I know it’s early in the Vita’s life still, but if Sony doesn’t make some radical changes soon, it’s possible we’ll look back on the Vita as yet another failure in the video game industry. A device with so much potential that was squandered due to price and lack of software support.

Here’s hoping I’m wrong.

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About Rebecca Quintana

Currently playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I've fallen in love with twitter; follow me if you're interested in some good game-, writing-, or book-related conversation: @rrquinta.