What happened to the major game franchises on the PS Vita?

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It’s always been said that it’s games and not hardware that determines whether a console is a success or not. At the time of its launch, there was no denying that the PS Vita was an incredibly powerful system. Like the PSP before it, it was the most technically advanced handheld of its era. But unlike its predecessor, it never achieved the phenomenal sales figures that the PSP did. In hindsight, the lack of major game franchises must have played a part…

Platform Similarities

There are a lot of parallels between both platforms in terms of design and their limitations and restrictions. Both offered a mix of digital and physical game formats to players. When it came to physical games, they used non-standard formats which meant publishers were dependent on Sony for their creation. But both systems also relied on non-standard memory card formats for digital downloads. While the PSP’s Memory Stick Duo system was used more widely on other Sony devices, it was still more expensive than other memory card formats, but it certainly didn’t make it an attractive prospect for gamers.

Under the hood, both were astonishing platforms though. Essentially, each was the portable equivalent of Sony’s current console at the time. While not quite up to the specs of their big brother console, it’s safe to say that the PSP was a fair attempt at a portable PS2. While the PS Vita was often considered to be close to being a handheld version of the PS3.

PS Vita – An Impressive Launch

It has to be said that the Vita got off to a good start. It made a splash in Japan and the rest of the world and impressed with its capabilities. When it came to software, there was certainly a good opening line-up, well represented with showings from most of the major game franchises with titles in the Ridge Racer, FIFA, Uncharted, wipEout, Silent Hill and LEGO series. Things certainly looked bright.

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But the Vita’s performance came at a price. Developing games to take advantage of the hardware took time and money and for games of this level they needed to be top selling releases. With a smaller installed userbase, there just wasn’t the guarantee there that titles would sell enough copies to create the returns to make them profitable. While Sony invested in the early wave of Vita games to ensure a library of AAA titles existed, they left publishers to fund their own future releases and many were reluctant to take risks.

Major Game Franchises That Never Happened

As well as titles that disappeared after a single game, there were many that didn’t even appear during the Vita’s life cycle. While it could be said that these may not have helped to strengthen the success of the Vita, there would have been some fans who would have considered buying a Vita for one or more of them…

Before I talk about these further, it’s interesting to note that almost all of these appeared on the PSP in one form or another. One of the most obvious areas of note is for sports fans – no NBA titles, no entries in the WWE series, and only a limited number of other sports games. And even FIFA turned into a Legacy release after the first few games. It’s not just sports though. Call Of Duty vanished after a single game, as did Ridge Racer, Uncharted and so many others.

Other titles that could have had a major impact on the sales of the Vita – such as Resident Evil – were limited to digital only releases, or kept as exclusives to Japan. The only exception seemed to be Final Fantasy which saw the HD remaster of Final Fantasy X/X-2 and World Of Final Fantasy both getting physical releases while still keeping all of the legacy titles available through the store.

Recogniseable Brands

One thing that did seem lacking with the Vita were more well known “non-gaming” franchises as well. Apart from LEGO, Marvel and Star Wars, it’s hard to think of many brands that were represented when it comes to PS Vita games. I’ll talk about the plethora of Star Wars games in another article, but as a sci-fi fan there was very little choice on the Vita. A handful of Star Wars titles, one (admittedly fun) Doctor Who game, and a few Marvel and DC games and that’s about it.

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A number of Transformers games were released throughout the Vita’s lifespan and it’s certainly a surprise that none of these made it across, although with Activision holding the license at the time it’s understandable. Having struggled with sales of Call Of Duty, it was unlikely they would have invested further in the platform without more financial support. It does make you wonder just how many more people would have taken a chance on the Vita if they were able to play some of their favourite titles on it though?

All About The Numbers

At the time of the Vita’s demise, it had only managed to sell around 16 million units worldwide. Compare that to the PSP’s 80 million and you can see why publishers were wary of investing in big titles. The most successful release on the Vita is believed to be Minecraft with reported sales of approximately 2.5 million copies globally. But for releases tied to major game franchises, these need to consistently sell in high numbers to be guaranteed a release and with most major Vita games barely breaking a million, you can understand what happened.

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Looking back it’s sad to see the potential that was wasted and leaving us wondering what could have been. We’d love to hear what games or franchises you missed that we didn’t see on the Vita, or what ones you think would have made an impact. Let us know in the comments!

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About Simon Plumbe 1077 Articles
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I'm an animal lover and vegetarian. Enjoyed this and my other articles? Why not buy me a coffee: http://ko-fi.com/simonplumbe