Multiplayer and the Vita

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Since its launch the PS Vita has brought a diverse range of games to its owners, from familiar genres popular with Western audiences to games more entrenched in the PC indie games market where the Vita has developed a strong niche audience. While support has dwindled for the console over the last couple of years, it is still relatively healthy in its native Japan with a steady flow of games being released covering a plethora of genres, many of which wouldn’t normally receive a mainstream Western release yet Vita owners have been passionate about them and have taken to these new games lovingly.

Even with all of these releases over the last six years, one thing that has been sorely lacking for Vita owners are multiplayer games. It’s expected to find the majority of console games offering some form of multiplayer options these days either as local multiplayer gathering your friends together on the couch (ideal for a quick game of FIFA) or most likely online, there are generally just a handful of Vita titles that give this as an option.

It’s hard to understand why when the console was built for multiplayer gaming right from the start. It’s a more than capable machine for online connectivity and works remarkably well for competitive online gaming. Multiplayer team games of titles such as Killzone: Mercenary work incredibly well, even on relatively slow internet connections and it’s been a great enhancement to a varied range of games.

It hasn’t been limited to online gaming though. A continuation of the function first introduced with the PlayStation Portable, the Vita’s wireless adhoc mode has allowed Vita owners to have their own answer to local multiplayer games, playing alongside friends without the need to go online. Sadly, not many games have made use of this but when they do it’s provided an amazing gameplay experience and because it uses a direct wi-fi connection between the two consoles, it can be used absolutely anywhere.

The Vita has had one final surprise contribution to the world of multiplayer gaming that many don’t know about – the PlayStation TV. Even though Sony’s micro console was considered to be a commercial failure, it still has its fans and those who do own one appreciate the nuances that this addition to the Vita family has to offer. In addition to running most of the existing PS Vita games library and legacy titles that the console has at its disposal, it also has an extra ace up its sleeve… the ability to support multiple controllers.

For those with a penchant for the original PlayStation this is a fantastic design feature with the likes of Namco’s classic Tekken allowing you to compete against your friends rather than just CPU controlled opponents extending the game’s lifespan immensely. More significantly, there have also been a number of PS Vita games enhanced to take advantage of this function as well allowing local multiplayer action on Vita titles including the platform action game Spelunky and Nidhogg.

Taking all of the above into consideration, you would think that the Vita would take it’s place alongside it’s console counterparts in the world of eSports. With the diverse range of titles used in competitive play, there are certainly enough games that could be used for tournaments whether it’s the aforementioned team-based first-person shooter Killzone: Mercenary or the various Capcom Street Fighter titles. Expanding the tournament field in this way could even open up more esports betting options with 188bet for tournament followers.

But there’s a distinct problem that would affect the Vita. Tournaments are strictly regulated to ensure that there is parity between players taking part in any games used and that’s what would let the Vita down, whether it’s games played over ad-hoc multiplayer mode or using the PlayStation TV. The Vita currently has no way of connecting for multiplayer gaming using a LAN connection so it is dependent on the speed of both the Vita’s wi-fi connection and the internet connection it is linked to. While Killzone is a great multiplayer game online at home, some gamers have advantages over others if they have a faster connection speed, along with a better connection to their router giving some players a natural advantage over the competition. In a tournament environment all of this is eliminated by standardising hardware and connections.

Sadly, it means that Vita gaming has missed out on an opportunity to reach a wider global audience. It doesn’t stop us from enjoying all of the great multiplayer titles that are out there, but unfortunately, they don’t get the wider recognition that they deserve.

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