Last week saw a sombre event take place in the PlayStation Vita’s history. On 20th July 2021 we saw the last ever games released through the PlayStation Store for the console. From this point forward, time is ticking away rapidly for us so is the end of the road for the PS Vita in sight?
The Final Games
Released without any fanfare from Sony themselves, six final games made it out on to the PlayStation Store globally. With one final push from developers to meet the submission deadline, we received a varied mix featuring Witchcrafty, Russian Subway Dogs, Killer Dolls, Brotherhood United, Ultra Mission, and Mind Maze. A few titles sadly didn’t make the deadline and with no extension offered by Sony, it’s left countless games in limbo or cancelled outright.
In a surprise twist, a week later we had the announcement from Limited Run Games that their long-awaited physical release of Super Meat Boy was coming out. Even at this stage in the Vita’s lifecycle a new physical release isn’t a surprise, but this was a game that LRG had been sitting on for a couple of years. It had reached the point that many wondered if we were ever going to see it released at all.
The End Of The Road Is Nigh
While these new digital releases have been extremely welcome for the PS Vita community, they’re also a sobering sight. This was a giant step closer to the end of the road for the PS Vita and at this point there is no turning back from the software side of things for the console. While we all hoped for a steady flow of new games for some time while the PlayStation Store remained active for the platform, this step has given an air of finality for the Vita. We now know that there are only a fixed number of new games coming out. Or at least officially.
Rumours still abound regarding developer/publisher Nicalis. Physical copies of two of their PS Vita games – VVVVVV and 1001 Spikes – have appeared for sale on auction sites although it has been denied repeatedly that these were ever mass-produced. Claims that these were only part of a limited production sample run made exclusively for Sony Interactive Entertainment has lead to both reaching astronomically high prices online. Right now, 1001 Spikes is reaching figures of around $500 and VVVVVV is around $400 – prices that only the rich or serious Bitcoin investors could afford with the help of sites like british-bitcoinprofit. But if both games do exist as full runs and are simply being held back – as many believe – to be the last Vita games to be released, then we could be seeing both in the very near future.
Beyond that, Eastasiasoft still have some surprises up their sleeves. With several months remaining of 2021 we know they still have more games scheduled for release including many that haven’t been released digitally. Their earlier release of Horizon Chase Turbo took everyone by surprise so we’re still expecting a few more shocks from them before the end of the year. But the reality is that they only have a limited number of games left to release. With two games coming from them every month it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to release new games much beyond the first quarter of 2022.
So where does that leave the PS Vita, and more importantly all of the games that were in development until this point? Some developers have simply dropped the platform and are focusing on either other Sony platforms or are switching development of their games to rival systems. Depending on the development tools used, some can be adapted with relative ease if common game developments tools such as Unity have been used, but for many developers their Vita work will be wasted. Or will it?
Going It Alone
One final option some may be able to consider going forward is self publishing. While physical releases won’t be possible (or at least not at the moment), there is nothing stopping developers making the change to releasing their games aimed towards the PS Vita homebrew community. SWDTech, developers of the Kickstarter funded Pixel Noir, are currently in that predicament. With the Vita version obviously unable to be released now, they have been considering self-publishing aiming it at those who have modified their consoles to allow homebrew titles.
This isn’t an ideal option for developers as it does limit their market somewhat, but for smaller publishers who are able to consider this route it could still be a financially viable plan for their future games. The only question that may arise is for developers currently signed with Sony themselves and how homebrew releases may impact on any contracts they may have. Only time will tell here, but without the need to go through the lengthy and expensive process of approval by Sony (or certification by the ESRB) it could even mean a possible return by some developers such as Ratalaika to the Vita.