If you are a PlayStation Vita owner looking through the store repeatedly for good gambling or casino games, then you should know that you aren’t alone. While both online gambling and video games feature gambling have massively grown in popularity over the last decade, the Vita has struggled to keep pace with the evolving trends and still does not offer its player base much in the way of casino experiences.
One of the reasons this has become so clear is 2020’s all-pervading coronavirus pandemic, which has caused a huge societal shift in how we relate to our technology and entertainment media, as well as physical and social spaces of course! This is perhaps nowhere clearer than in the context of gaming. It became clear during the summer that millions were flocking to video games to keep themselves happy while stuck at home throughout lockdowns and quarantines all over the world. What’s more, with the shutting down of physical casinos, millions more discovered the joys of online casinos, with online searches peaking during the lockdown in countries such as the UK.
So why is it that throughout both the last decade’s growth of popularity of gambling as a gaming theme as well as the popularization of video games during this year’s pandemic, PlayStation have not managed to provide gaming options catering to this interest on the Vita? To answer that question, it’s worth looking at the history of PlayStation’s handheld consoles.
The PlayStation Portable exploded into the video game industry back in the early 21st century. It was released in 2003 in Japan and then to essentially the rest of the world two years later in 2005. Back then the internet was still a relatively young and emerging phenomenon, indeed online gaming, although in a growing nascence was hardly similar to what we today relate to the term.
With regards to the rest of the internet, there was still healthy scepticism to the notion of taking businesses, shopping, let alone gambling, online. This meant that actual gambling still had a dominant place in physical locations such as arcade halls and casinos in the real world and consequently little betting took place online. However, when it came to gambling as a theme in video games, this period coincided with the boom of interest in poker in the early 2000s, which prompted development of a healthy variety of games for the PSP. These include classics like “World Series of Poker” as well as branded games associated with particular players like “World Championship Poker 2: Featuring Howard Lederer” and “Stacked with Daniel Negreanu”.
In many ways the years of the PSP on the market were the golden days of handheld gambling video gaming, as alongside its dominance on the market the processing power and graphical capacity of mobile phones rapidly increased, leading many developers as well as consumers away from dedicated handheld devices for gaming and onto their phone, where applications had begun to emerge offering similar experiences.
So, if the popularity of gambling video games was decreasing towards the final years of the first decade of the 21st century, their popularity had dropped rapidly and further by the time the PlayStation Vita had hit the market. Indeed, during its release in 2011-2012 across varying regions, the emergence of the internet as a dominant marketplace for actual gambling had all but removed the need for video games themed around casino games.
Indeed the closest to a casino game you might find on the Vita these days is the lukewarmly received Backgammon Blitz, which came out back in 2014. Already by then, not only were online casino sites offering free plays of their games without the need to spend any money, but mobile phones had also similarly dominated this experience. And without the unique feature of mobility as a handheld device, the Vita suffered a loss of market position.
All these factors combined to make the Vita a non-viable alternative to mobile phones in the modern era. Indeed, today you can pick up your phone and download free gaming apps, you can play the Bonanza online slot machine, you can carry your device with you wherever you go, and in general do everything gambling-related on your phone that the Vita might otherwise offer. So, to answer the opening question – the congruence of the changing technological terrain and social relationship to the growing internet domain led to the inevitable demise of the gambling genre on PlayStation’s handheld devices.