Despite the sheer diversity of games on the market, and the 1,000+ titles available for the PlayStation Vita right now, there are some games that are always set to be sure-fire winners commercially. If a publisher is planning on developing a big budget game but wants to make money and keep gamers happy at the same time, all they need to do is put their resources into developing a racing game, first person shooter or sports title and they’re usually laughing all the way to the bank.
Sounds simple? Normally it would be but this is the PS Vita we’re talking about. The last really good commercially released first person shooter was Killzone: Mercenary. Racing games have fared better but most of the major series have deserted us and even Sony abandoned development of any further WipEout games when Studio Liverpool was disbanded and the last Need For Speed game certainly left us wanting more but that wasn’t to be.
Unfortunately, sports games have fared even worse. Despite gaming being regarded as being a “lazy” activity, it’s astonishing just how many games there have been released based on one sport or another over the years for every console or computer imaginable. That being the case, why has there been such a drought on the Vita of late?
In the early days of the consoles life things were quite bright, both as digital releases and physical. EA supported us in the EU and in the US with several titles in the never-ending FIFA series and Madden NFL. Sony themselves treated us to physical releases of MLB The Show until bringing the franchise to an end with the ’15 release as a digital only product and we’ve had games for minority sports fans with the anime game Let’s Fish! Hooked On and Reel Fishing: Master’s Challenge for the armchair fishermen out there and even those who have wanted to enjoy games found down their local have been catered for with more than a few indoor sports thanks to the likes of Indoor Sports from Super Icon, International Snooker and Hustle Kings.
Racing titles used to be well supported, especially the two-wheeled variety with MotoGP and MXGP well supported, although fortunately we’re still seeing regular releases for the annual WRC rally games.
Sadly, mainstream developers have generally abandoned the console. Our choices now have been limited to games released by indie developers. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as we’ve had some great games like Curve Digital’s port of Pumped BMX + but it does beg the question to what the future really holds for the Vita as a system for sports fans. Since the console’s launch there have been no games for WWE fans, nothing for basketball lovers – in fact, we’ve had to look to the catalogue of PSP titles for our wrestling fix but when these are expensive considering their age it’s hard to justify buying them when it’s cheaper to pick up a second hand PSP and a couple of these games than it is to buy two of them digitally.
Looking across the current state of affairs in the console industry, it doesn’t just seem to be something affecting the PS Vita although at times it might seem that way but more something problematic of the handheld games market. Sports games can be more involving and engaging and are frequently centred around social play and without online or at the very least ad-hoc multiplayer, sports games are never quite the same when played alone. If it’s a system that can support multiple gamers simultaneously then you can guarantee that it will see sports games flourish right through it’s lifespan (and that was the case even in the 8-bit and 16-bit era) but handhelds have always lagged behind.
Worryingly, we can’t even get involved in the growing world of eSports with the Vita. This is pretty much the domain of the PC gamer, dominated by first-person shooters – the Vita’s strongest contribution to the genre was Killzone: Mercenary as I mentioned earlier and this is hardly a game that would appeal to the competitive audience. The closest we’ll get to eSports as Vita owners is being spectators online via Twitch or Youtube (and to do even that we’d have to use another device), or having a flutter on those who do take part betting online at Betway.
The sad truth is that – as with many game genres on the PS Vita – the future is rather bleak. When it comes to mainstream sports, all we have to look forward to at the moment are more licensed WRC titles and rugby games, not unsurprisingly both released by Big Ben Interactive. Beyond that we’ll just have to settle for the smaller niche games but just don’t expect to find any on the high street.