It’s frustrating being a PS Vita owner. Regardless of where you live in Europe or America it’s almost impossible to find the latest releases in retail stores or when you can PS Vita titles are hidden from view. The console is given very little shelf space compared to almost every other format in stores and if you look at retail displays you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was already a retro system that had long been discontinued.
The same could be said for game releases themselves. Most “mainstream” publishers have scaled back or abandoned the console altogether or are only offering us token releases with just a couple of companies still supporting the platform. Upon closer inspection the Vita is still getting plenty of new releases both AAA games and from the vast number of indie developers but these simply aren’t getting the exposure they deserve. Publishers like Namco Bandai, Marvelous, pqube, WB Games, and Big Ben Interactive are all still bringing us retail releases but these are nowhere to be seen.
The real problem faced by PS Vita owners right now comes from Sony Interactive Entertainment themselves. Despite there being in excess of 13 million PS Vita owners worldwide, with the exception of Japan Sony simply do not seem to be interested in the handheld or care about marketing it. When it comes to the PS Vita, it has been clear for some time that Sony’s intention is to drive for a digital market for games for the console. Certainly this would make sense for distribution in an ideal world – delivering content direct to consumers and allowing for a greater diversity in content and for publishers to take greater risks with titles that may not have the potential for retail distribution – but this comes at a price. Digital games need memory card space and Sony seem to forget one important factor with an all-digital solution… we need memory cards.
For some time, the only PS Vita memory cards that have been supplied to retail stores have been the Mega Packs. While these represent fantastic value for money, they are impractical for the serious Vita gamers. Buying a memory card that – assuming you use the included download code – will be half full before you start to use it soon becomes expensive. Yes, you have the option to use Content Manager to rotate games via a PC or PS3 but that can be incredibly impractical if you want to take as many games with you as possible on the move. The only option then is multiple memory cards and simply swap them in and out as you need them. Then you’re faced with the second problem with the PS Vita… memory card prices. With the largest card available in the West being 32Gb this is incredibly restrictive, more so with the larger games demanding 2Gb+ so a good games collection still requires multiple cards or the larger 64Gb cards imported from Japan.
Even ignoring all of that, the real issues facing the PS Vita right now is that Sony’s interests seem to lie elsewhere. Since its release, the PlayStation 4 has dominated their business plan as a company. While it may be their latest console and is now their flagship system, Sony seem to have all but neglected the 80 million PS3 and 13 million PS Vita owners. Not all of these own or intend to own a PS4 and while these gamers are actively making use of their current consoles it makes for poor business sense to ignore them. As a company Sony seem eager to push not only the PS4 onto a worldwide audience but more recently the ability of other devices to be used for Remote Play including the PC and Mac… despite the fact that they already have two existing systems that could do just this in the PS Vita and PlayStation TV.
Equally, a great deal is being invested in PlayStation Now. Sony made no effort to promote this aspect of the Vita or PSTV to the masses but has done so with other devices. It was clear before purchase that my new television was PlayStation Now compatible, but I have seen little reference to the service in PS Vita store or catalogue listings. Is this a concerted effort from SIE to dissuade people from buying the console?
Finally, there is PlayStation VR. While some are truly excited about this, Occulus Rift and other systems in development, it is feared that Sony could be placing too much faith in a product that could turn out to be a gimmick in the same way that the PlayStation Eye and the Move controller turned out to be. Virtual Reality for gaming is nothing new and first made an appearance in the arcades in 1991 based around the Amiga 3000 with the Virtuality system but this disappeared after less than a dozen games were developed. One concern I have is that it is still unknown what long term health impact there may be from exposure to VR gaming – physically or mentally – and I certainly remember feelings of disorientation even after short periods playing on Virtuality systems but placing too much faith in a single console, a potential gimmick and online service could be putting Sony at risk.
In spite of all of this, the spirit of the Vita community and developers who are determined to support it will still find a loyal fan base eager to continue to buy games for it and a wealth of quality content being released to keep us happy for a long time to come.