While it could be argued that the Vita is in its twilight years, the past 12 months have seen a tremendous amount of support from independent and up-and-coming publishers. Be it the long-awaited sequel to Rainbow Moon by eastasiasoft, or the slew of cool-and-quirky stuff released by Ratalaika games, you can be sure that this “dead” device has received a lot of love from companies much after Sony dropped the ball.
Most publishers currently “play it safe” and stick with the PC or the current generation of consoles – the PS4, XBox One or Switch. Those are all sensible and commercially viable options. What isn’t to most now is to develop for the PS Vita. With many owners moving over to the Switch as their chosen portable system, games are being cancelled or major publishers are ceasing development. That being the case, why are companies still finding the Vita so appealing?
Despite the system being discontinued by Sony, even now companies are willing to take the risk and look towards the Vita. It’s an incredibly rewarding platform to develop for with a very loyal fanbase. The console has sold over 16m units worldwide and those owners are very eager for new games from all sources. It’s been reported that the PS Vita has one of the highest attach rates of any console. But for would-be publishers it’s still potentially a dangerous venture. Investing in property, playing the lottery or trying out springbok mobile all seem far more sensible options for companies when thought about logically. The reality is that publishers are fighting against a lack of promotion and support from Sony Interactive Entertainment, no retail options and a dependence on digital only sales.
Ignoring all of this, some companies are still willing to support the PS Vita and its community. Some are fighting ahead and releasing physical games while others are striving to make a go in the competitive world of digital gaming. Regardless, these determined publishers are continuing to keep the Vita alive against the odds.
Here are some of the more notable emerging games production companies that have helped re-define the current state of the PS Vita, and are worth looking out for…
The Spain-based developers and publishers have been bringing a lot of content to Vita lately, and they have also graced its (arguably) spiritual successor, the Nintendo Switch. From Tetra’s Escape to FullBlast, and from I Am The Hero to STAY and beyond, Ratalaika brings community-driven marketing strategies to propel their indie games to the forefront. Their knowledge in porting and their very successful track record make them one of the premiere publishers of indie games in the Vita’s twilight years.
Okay, I may be biased with this one, as I am the LATAM localizer for SRPG Rainbow Skies, but there’s no denying that Hong Kong-based eastasiasoft have had a soft-spot for the Vita from day 1. Soldner-X2, Reverie, Rainbow Moon, Rainbow Skies and beyond, the catalog from this company shows a dedication to the Vita ecosystem that is second to none. Also to remember is that eastasiasoft could be considered a mid-tier indie publisher, with the “Rainbow” franchise in particular well in the AA tier of games. If you’re after a deep experience on the go, eastasiasoft delivers. Oh, did we mention they do limited physical releases in a partnership with Play-Asia? Talk about a complete resumé!
Limited Run Games
No list or debate about up-and-coming developers and publishers would be complete without Limited Run Games. They revolutionized the Vita limited physical release landscape when they released (in-house developed title) Breach & Clear, and they’ve only gone up and up in terms of quality, and quantity of releases. While here at Vita Player we’ve had our own experiences and thoughts on the LRG situation, one cannot deny the fact that LRG has, for better or worse (we think the former) changed Vita history. With dozens of Vita releases under their belt, they are now also focusing on the Switch also (a trend we continue to see from publisher to publisher and developer to developer). The knighthood that is to be allowed to be publish for the Nintendo Switch in physical form was bestowed upon the good fellows at Limited Run Games earlier this year, and they have already accrued a reputation for quality signings and releases. Just don’t expect your games to arrive all that quickly 😉
Four Horses Games
While not a particularly prolific developer or publisher yet, Four Horses have a very big boast to their credit: they’ve only published excellent games. And one could argue that their latest, Miles & Kilo, is probably one of the best, if not THE best, non-franchise indie platformer on the Nintendo Switch. Sure, Four Horses is, at its core, a Nintendo publisher. But don’t let that fool you: they’ve supported portables in the past (including DSi and 3DS) and their incredible hit ratio should be enough to keep them on your radar.
Super Rare Games
Another success story in the limited physical releases world, Super Rare Games is, admittedly, a much lesser known competitor to Limited Run Games. However, they have a very particular, non-transferable quality: they released the physical version of one of my all-time favorite video games. The Flame in the Flood is not a game for everyone, and it’s definitely not perfect: the art, while gorgeous to me, falls short in terms of polygon count when compared to other survival games. And it never got the press love Don’t Starve did, so it was never an indie industry darling. But the sheer amount of charm behind the world that The Molasses Flood were able to create with The Flame in the Flood is reason enough to shoot it to the top of my list. Sure, Super Rare Games only released a physical version of the Switch port, but even though the game also released on Vita, the Switch version IS my favorite. And it doesn’t end there: Super Rare Games continue to sign great talent to their roster, with “Snake Pass” and some Atooi-developed games making up a smaller but robust list of released and upcoming titles.
Well, just like you can’t make a list about up-and-coming game companies without mentioning Limited Run Games, you can’t really have a list of Vita and Switch supporting developers and publishers without mentioning NIS America. Yes, I know they are technically not an “up-and-coming” brand (they’ve been going strong for decades now), but the fact of the matter is they have supported both Vita and Switch from day dot, and they have recently announced their last three physical Vita releases.
Those titles mark over half a decade of support from NIS America to #VitaIsland and one must be grateful. They are now switching over to publishing on the Switch, and bringing over some of the more fringe experiences for the console. Actually, NIS America, along with Idea Factory et al, might just be single-handedly responsible for releasing uncensored games on the Switch, that got heavily altered for release on Sony platforms. I never thought I’d see the day.
Well, that about wraps it up for our first list of developers and publishers to watch out for. Sure, there are tons more, and we’re likely to do another list highlighting some other great peeps doing great work on the Vita and Switch front (that’s just how I roll, both here and at Infinite Frontiers). For the time being, however, feel free to check out those companies on social media and stay tuned for upcoming releases. You have not seen the last of the Vita yet, and their back catalog alone makes for one nice, fat, full and enjoyable collection.