When the PS Vita was in its prime, buying games was an easy task. Game stores across the UK had sizeable displays, stacked with games, accessories and the consoles themselves. Bigger stores, notably larger branches of GAME, even had demonstration units supplied by Sony where you could try out the latest releases in store. Astonishingly, we could even buy digital games in stores. As well as PlayStation Store credit, selected games were available as codes to buy and redeem online. Things couldn’t have been better.
What Went Wrong?
There’s no simple answer here. Many say that the decline of the Vita is down to the price of its memory cards. Others blame the lack of big name AAA games beyond the first wave that were released at the start (although to be honest a steady stream did follow for some time afterwards). One thing that was consistent took place shortly after the Vita’s launch – the arrival of the PlayStation 4. Despite the links to the Vita, through Cross Buy and Remote Play (which was promoted as a key selling point of the system during the unveiling of the system) it was a move that ultimately killed off the Vita.
Certainly here in the UK shelf space was reduced for the PS Vita to make space for Sony’s new wonder console. The PS3 still sold reasonably well as did it’s games, but for Sony there was more money to be made from the PS4. Their representatives instructed stores to reassign store space from the PS Vita to the PS4. With less space to display games, stores ordered less stock. With fewer products on the shelves, Vita owners were – naturally buying less. In many cases, the more active owners were unable to find games in stores that they didn’t own! Stores reported declining sales and naturally cut back Vita space even more.
Frustratingly it wasn’t because we didn’t want Vita products, but purely because stores weren’t getting in anything new for weeks or months at a time. Or even worse, we had to make an effort to specifically order things in and hope that they would actually arrive in store.
What Happened Next?
But Vita owners are a stubborn lot! Instead of waiting for the games to come to us, we changed our approach to shopping instead. Outlets like eBay and Amazon gave us a lifeline and opened up a whole new world of gaming content. Accessories of every shape and size were just a click away, and the market for new and pre-owned games was limited just by the capacity of our bank accounts. The decline at retail did have a major impact on the Vita’s games market as sales of new physical titles declined but that didn’t stop new games being released either.
With plenty of new games being released digitally on the PlayStation Store, it simply encouraged more Vita owners to shift their focus. Demand for memory cards increased, with many looking to Japan to import the higher capacity 64Gb cards, and some swapped over completely to buying digital games online from the PlayStation Store directly.
Not Just A Vita Trend
Making a switch to digital isn’t a new thing. The PC gaming market has done the same over the last few years. I’m old enough to remember going in to stores and buying PC games on floppy disk! The natural progression as games grew in size was to CD then DVD but it’s almost impossible now to find games distributed this way. Everything is sold via Steam digitally. And when you do see anything on sale in stores it’s usually a download code in a display box. The market has embraced it, but placing so much control of the gaming market in the hands of a single company doesn’t instill long-term confidence.
The current console generations are also trying to steer towards digital distribution with both Microsoft and Sony offering disc-less versions of their new hardware. Is online only really the way to go for gaming?
It has to be said that the same applies to more traditional physical industries as well. The global pandemic has had a major impact on specialist stores across the world. Those that cater for sci-fi collectors, music lovers, comic book stores and countless others who trade both in physical stores and at events have been hit badly in 2020. While rules have differed from region to region and country to country, many have been forced to temporarily close their doors to the public with devastating effect. In order to survive most have had to rely on setting up or using existing online stores that they may have. While it has raised the question again that online shopping is having a detrimental effect on the high street, in these trying times these businesses wouldn’t exist right now without it.
Casinos – A Dying Industry?
With entertainment venues being hit hard as well, alternatives are being looked at here too by users and operators. Movies that would have been released in the cinemas have gone straight to digital through the likes of Disney+ and Amazon. Concerts have been performed in small venues without audiences and then streamed live as pay-per-view events. And businesses have had to look for new ways to thrive. Now, when you look at areas such as Exeter, Devon and the South West of the UK these aren’t synonymous with gambling, with the nation’s most glamorous casinos found in our biggest cities, including London, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle. And under current restrictions existing locations have either had to close or adapt how they do function when players are allowed in, changing the gaming experience altogether.
But online gaming has revolutionised the industry and made the world’s most popular online casino games more accessible than ever before. Wherever you are in Devon, whether that’s in the city or out in the sticks, you’re just a few taps away from the best games. It’s giving the larger companies an essential lifelife, while still giving people that all-important entertainment outlet that we need right now to keep our mental health in the best shape possible.
From humble origins around the mid-1990s, online gambling is now a true mega-power of entertainment, with the global industry worth in excess of $50bn (approx. £39bn) in 2019 and all four corners of the UK seemingly invested in the action. But gambling isn’t just for experienced players and high rollers these days. New games and twists on old favourites are creating new opportunities, while the array of welcome bonuses available to players mean there’s never been a better time to take a look.
While it’s easy for many to find video games and their favourite sci-fi stores online that I’ve talked about, it’s not as easy here for the novice. So here’s a brief guide to some of the most popular casino games online, and help you select the one that suits you best. We’ll even provide advice around the platforms available so that you can enjoy the best possible experience right from the start and maybe try something a little different.
Where can I play the games?
With the industry being so lucrative, it’s no surprise that there are so many platforms out there eager to grow their market share. Often, the selection available can be head-spinning, with each website claiming to offer the best range of games and the most generous sign-up bonus.
Fortunately, help is at hand. This online gambling guide features a list of some of the best UK casinos, including names you may recognise alongside several newer operators trying to provide something new. The website lets you compare customer ratings, the generosity of the welcome bonuses, and even the total number of games available, to help you make an informed choice. But just like in any retail marketplace, it’s important to shop around first.
Which is the right game for me?
As we have mentioned already, there is an incredible array of games available to suit players of all abilities and experiences. In this section, we will break down the options available to help you figure out which is the perfect match for you. Some games offer a casual, relaxing experience, while others challenge the player to an intense battle of wits and strategy, so it’s fair to say that your preference will depend on what you’re hoping to get out of the experience as much as your personality.
One of the most intense casino games, poker provides the ultimate in strategic warfare. Compared to other available games, the rules of poker are relatively complex, but once you’ve played a few hands it’s easy to get the hang of things. Games of poker are often enjoyed between friends, although many also play competitively online or in physical Poker Leagues. Naturally, if you’re new to the game, we’d advise playing with people you know to begin with and setting appropriate limits. If you’re not too sure about trying it online, if you’ve got a PSP as well as a Vita, then I’d recommend getting one of the World Series of Poker games released for the console. It will give you a great feel for the game, teach you all the basics and they’re a great cheap addition to your collection as well.
Another traditional classic of the casino, roulette favours luck over strategy and for this reason is perhaps better suited to new players than poker is. Roulette is also great for newbies as it’s possible to win large amounts from small stakes. In poker, the very nature of the game demands that players raise the stakes as each hand unfolds, but in roulette many of the bets placed are less than £1. The value of the minimum bet differs depending on where you are playing, but there are lots of platforms online where you can enjoy the game without making big deposits.
Another strength of roulette is the range of bets available. Often, players choose to select red or black, which offers winning odds of just under 50% and pays double the bet placed. But a player can boost their chances of winning, while lowering the prize, by also betting on odd or even. For example, a player betting on red and even will win if the ball lands on red or even, and will win even more if it’s red and even. However, if the ball lands on black and odd then there is no pay-out at all, so it is by no means a fail-safe strategy!
The third popular staple of casinos offline and online is blackjack, which combines the luck of roulette with the strategic thinking of poker. Of course, good fortune in terms of the cards dealt is required in order to be successful, but the player has more control over the outcome than in roulette.
The basic goal here is to draw cards totalling as close to 21 as possible, or equal to it, and beat the dealer’s score. The thrill of the game is the ‘stick or twist’, requiring the player to either stick with the total they have or risk drawing another card in the hopes of moving closer to 21. Hitting 21 in two cards is the best possible hand, though it is possible for the dealer to match this, so don’t celebrate too early! Blackjack is another excellent choice for new players as the rules are very easy to quickly pick up.
Bingo and slots
One of the major revolutions in the online casino sector during the last ten years in particular has been the emergence of so-called ‘casual games’. Beyond gambling, casual titles have taken a major foothold across gaming, with the genre accounting for major growth in app downloads across iPhone and Android.
In casino terms, the casual genre refers to games like bingo and slots, which can be played at the customer’s leisure, without the requirement for intense concentration or big investments of time. Some of the shorter form bingo games last just a couple of minutes, making them ideal for enjoyment on the go, while the slots action is often equally fast-paced. The development of online casino platforms on mobile phones has underpinned the popularity of games like slots and bingo, and if you like the idea of playing games on the go then this could be the category of game for you.
While slots have appeared on the PSP as part of various casino releases, the Vita seems to have missed them completely. The closest we have seen so far are the pachinko games in the Japan-exclusive Slotter Mania series. But with no English translation and a limited distribution, and Vita game development in decline I don’t think we’re likely to see anything new in the future.
Our final piece of advice is to spend a little time trying the games out while checking for opportunities to play for free first, and you may quickly develop a new hobby!