Last time we looked at franchises that would have helped the Vita, we touched upon a storied and beloved mascot: Donkey Kong. However, that property is always going to be on Camp Red’s systems. But today, based on a reader’s suggestion, we’re talking about a franchise that not only sells across all platforms, but one that graced the PSP multiple times: Grand Theft Auto.
While I always wished the series had a least a couple of games inspired by English cities (mostly so that I could see the Cherry Casino UK on there), there’s no denying that all three GTA entries on the PSP were fantastic: Vice City Stories and Liberty City Stories really did bring AAA experiences to Sony’s handheld, long before Playstation made those claims about the Vita. Even the top-down, more traditional Chinatown Wars was very successful, and has since accrued a bit of a cult status among fans (the DS version in particular is quite expensive to find CIB).
Fast forward a few years, however, and what do we have? Well, let me tell you what we don’t have: Grand Theft Auto on the Vita. And it would have made perfect sense, too: the Vita launched in 2014 in Western territories, and Grand Theft Auto V (which has sold over 100 million copies across its different platforms), was released in 2013. While a direct port might have been difficult, let’s talk about what a GTA game would have done for the Vita.
Liberty City Stories sold 11 million copies. Vice City Stories sold a more modest 6 million. Chinatown Wars numbers are harder to find, but we can gather that it sold at least a million. As we mentioned before, the best selling Vita game ever made, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, only sold 1.62 million copies. Obviously, the install base for Vita is much smaller, but we have to take into consideration that PSP was dealing with rampant piracy, so around 18 million copies of GTA games sold overall is not a bad number at all. Doing some quick calculations and taking into consideration 80 million PSPs were sold during the lifetime of the console, we can draw the conclusion that 0.225 GTA games were sold per PSP unit. That means that a safe projection (considering the Vita’s high attach rate) would put a GTA game at just over 4 million copies sold over the 18-or-so million Vita units sold worldwide. Again, that’s almost three times as much as the best selling Vita game. Even if you spread those sales over a potential trio of GTA games on Vita, that works out to 1.35 million copies of each installment. That’s nothing to sniff at!
Alas, it was not to be. Not only did we not get a Grand Theft Auto V port, we didn’t even get a proper Grand Theft Auto entry on the Vita at all. Sure, you can buy Liberty City Stories, Vice City Stories and Chinatown Wars as PSP titles, but the graphics don’t take full advantage of the far superior hardware in the Vita when compared to the PSP. Also, the scale of their respective worlds isn’t as great as their home console counterparts, and there are gameplay elements that haven’t aged all that well. Overall, I think the lack of a proper GTA title on the Vita is one of the reasons the system struggled to sell. If you told people you could play something even akin to GTA IV on the Vita, they’d have gone bananas. But it did not happen. And we’ll never really know what it would have meant for the Vita to have a bespoke GTA title in its roster.