When PS Vita Physical Games Refuse To Fade Away

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We’ve mentioned before that physical game production for the PS Vita is coming to an end in the West. It’s disappointing, but understandable. Retail has all but abandoned the console and the hardware has been in most territories. Most stocks at retail now have been limited to pre-owned consoles and games. Publishers who have taken a gamble on releasing physical games have not only had to take a risk on manufacturing costs, but have had to fight to get games into stores in the first place.

Made In Japan

The situation in Japan is less bleak at the moment. The console is still reasonably popular and games are still being produced and developed. Even with the incredible impact of the Nintendo Switch, there has been no announcement from Sony Interactive Entertainment that production of physical games will cease. Games sales are still healthy and as long as they are profitable for Sony and developers there’s no sign of them stopping just yet.

Limited Edition Physical Games

This reduction in the release of physical games has lead to an unprecedented number of publishers producing limited edition releases of boxed games for the Vita. The first company to do so in a significant way was Limited Run Games. The company was set up by Mighty Rabbit Studios to bring their game Breach & Clear to a wider audience as a physical release in October 2015. Limited to just 1,500 copies it was a slow seller initially as gamers learned about the company although it eventually sold out soon followed by their second game Saturday Morning RPG.

Typically, titles from Limited Run Games have been produced with runs of around 2,000 – 3,000 copies and are announced in advance of release. However, the exact date is usually only confirmed 1-2 weeks beforehand. Timing of the releases generally sees them issued in two batches on set days with the run being split but with quantities being limited collector’s buy them in a frenzy with the most popular and sought after games selling out sometimes in a matter of minutes.

Get In Quick!

One thing that appears to be consistent with almost every limited release PS Vita physical game is the need to buy them as quickly as possible. Only a couple of Limited Run Games titles have remained available the day after going on sale with most selling out within an hour of being made available. German publisher Strictly Limited Games generally experience the same rapid sales for their releases. While others are more readily available for some time after release, speed is still of the essence.

This is even more important for some of the major releases. Some of the bigger and most anticipated titles have sold out in under five minutes. The only way you have a chance of getting these is to be an existing customer. You need to be signed into your account in advance of the release time. Even then it becomes a race against time and you’re up against thousands of other hungry gamers around the world. Sometimes it feels as if you’d have a better chance at winning lotteries online with William Hill than getting some of these games but you just know that you’ve got to try!

LRG Are Not Alone…

While Limited Run Games may have been one of the first to release physical games in this manner for the Vita, they’re certainly not the only ones. Over the last few years, several others have joined in bringing indie games to the Vita in physical form. For Vita owners it’s great on a number of levels. Not only are we seeing more games that many of us might not have heard about, but in a time where memory cards are becoming scarce it’s an ideal way to replace our digital games with physical ones.

Strictly Limited Games has adopted a similar sales methodology. They offer titles in two batches but their games have been released in much smaller quantities. As a smaller publisher those production runs have been understandable but it’s also made their games more desirable as a result. Taking a slightly different approach is Signature Edition Games who offer variant packaging with the autographs of the developers printed on the outer sleeve.

And even now with just a few months left, a new publisher has joined them in the shape of Red Alert Games. They have already promised an exciting lineup including the latest in the Bard’s Tale series. But by offering pre-orders they are hoping to avoid the mad rush experienced by companies like Limited Run Games.

Heading East

Over in Hong Kong, eastasiasoft have been keeping gamers happy with all of their limited releases. Because of the Vita’s region free status, fans from all over the world have been eagerly snapping up all of their titles. In addition to games from other publishers, they have produced physical versions of their own games. This includes the breathtaking RPGs Rainbow Moon and Rainbow Skies along with the arcade shooter Soldner- X 2. Selling all of them exclusively through play-asia.com has, often as special edition releases has made them one of the market leaders in recent years.

Soldner X-2

Current Price Trends

Unfortunately, physical games don’t always sell out because of high demand. Purchase limits often allow customers to buy more than one copy of these games and that’s where problems begin. Some collectors want to own more than one copy so they can have one to keep sealed and one to open. Others are less scrupulous and want extra copies to sell on at a profit. These frequently appear on sites such as eBay within minutes of the games selling out as pre-orders before they have even shipped from the publishers.

For those of us who want these games to complete our collections or to replace digital copies we’re left with little choice. In some cases, it’s the only way we can get titles if they haven’t had digital releases in our territories. Unfortunately when multiple purchases are allowed this will never go away. There is some hope on the horizon though.

With so many limited edition games being released, many gamers have given up on the idea of obtaining “complete sets”. With fewer people wanting to own everything, the market for scalpers has diminished rapidly. This has resulted in price drops across the board for most small run titles. One of the most notable of these was Breach & Clear. At one point, this was commanding prices in the region of £200+ due to its small production run. This has now dropped to the point that it’s now selling for half that. It’s become affordable once more to collect, play and enjoy these games.

What About The Developers?

I can’t finish without talking about the most important people in all of this. The developers who make all of these games possible. Until these companies came along, their work had a finite lifespan. Once released digitally they often had a short sales window to maximise income. While games would have still earned money for a long time afterwards it was generally just small sales and royalties, often from promotions and offers.

These physical releases offered a second wind for their games. Even though the games may only sell a few thousand boxed copies, the royalties offered on these more than makes up for the quantities. It’s a lifeline for some developers giving them that last source of revenue that makes writing a game worthwhile.

The PS Vita may be winding down as a console and coming to the end of its lifecycle but the end isn’t here yet. We shouldn’t be saddened to see physical games coming to an end in the West, but rather embrace all of the games that are yet to come from these smaller publishers, and the ones that are on the way from the East. I think there are still plenty of surprises in store for all of us…

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