With the PS Vita discontinued in Europe, the US, and soon worldwide, we can’t help but look back and wonder what could have been for the innovative handheld console had proper support been given by its parent company. The PS Vita is home to many incredible games, particularly those from indie studios, but the release of a popular game that’s part of the highly publicised eSports scene may have been the shot in the arm needed to bolster its 16 million in unit sales.
While it can be played in Remote Play, which was a great addition to the PS Vita, in hindsight it seems like Overwatch coming to the handheld close to its initial release could have helped significantly. Its exciting gameplay, rich lore, and the developer’s drive to establish the game as a major eSport installation make it an incredibly popular title that continues to attract players and viewers. Had it come close to Overwatch’s May 2016 release, the PS Vita version could have been the only way to play Overwatch on handheld and on the go while also offering a non-mobile handheld eSports game – which could have been huge.
The power of Overwatch
Overwatch has brought excitement to players all around the world since its launch in the middle of 2016. The game’s worldwide player count rose from 7 million at launch to 20 million in just five months. From January 2017 to October 2017, that number rose from 25 million to 35 million until it was last clocked at 40 million in May 2018. What’s even more impressive in this modern age of free-to-play, multiplayer-focused gaming is that Overwatch is a triple-A game with a price tag. Despite this, it has continued to accrue players through the late 2017 surge of free games like Fortnite.
Seeking further advancement, Overwatch continues to release updates, new characters, and patches and is rumoured to be coming to yet another console. Already on the PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, it has seemingly been leaked that it will release on the Nintendo Switch. This will provide players with a way to play Overwatch on-the-go – and potentially at its lowest start-up price with the upcoming launch of the cheaper Nintendo Switch Lite. The anticipated launch will almost certainly boost Overwatch’s player base further while also making the Switch even more appealing as Overwatch fans will be able to play the game as a handheld title.
The draw of eSports
The eSports industry is huge and continues to grow. Games like DOTA 2 and League of Legends are the biggest of the batch, but Blizzard has been going all-in on establishing the Overwatch League as one of the premier events on the eSports calendar. As recorded by Variety, the opening of the 2019 season saw 13 million viewers tune in, showing a 30 percent year-on-year increase, averaging 440,000 viewers at any given minute.
With multi-million prize pools and an advanced viewership experience in place, the Overwatch League attracts players and viewers from all over the world and is likely one of the major reasons behind the game’s increasing player base three years since its launch. The Overwatch League has become so big that it has attracted the attention of third parties like eSports betting websites which bolster engagement in the game and eSport events further.
Now, it looks as though Overwatch will be joining the Nintendo Switch’s line of eSports titles. Already toting the likes of Fortnite, Rocket League, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Nintendo has been actively adding titles with eSports scenes or that have the potential for eSports competitions.
Would the title and eSports rep of Overwatch have helped?
The PS Vita was seen as a novelty when it was released in late 2011 but still managed to reach strong sales of 16 million units without much support from big-name games or its parent company. If Sony saw the way in which Overwatch took off, as well as foreseeing the success of the Switch ten months after the launch of the game, they could have jumped on the Overwatch bandwagon. If that reality was true, they could’ve made it the PS Vita’s first real foray into eSports while giving the tournament industry and competitive gaming fans the increasingly popular experience of playing on a handheld console.
Overwatch continues to grow its player base, expecting to come to the Nintendo Switch and potentially going free-to-play to increase its appeal further. Blizzard continues to support and seek enhancements to every facet of Overwatch, making it a very valuable game with great longevity for any console to boast. With the Switch getting the game, it could be seen as a missed opportunity for the PS Vita. Now that the Switch Lite is coming to deliver triple-A handheld gaming, it only rubs further salt in the wounds of Sony’s handheld console.
It’s hard to tell if Overwatch would have gained to necessary traction on the PS Vita to save the console. However, boasting the only way to play such a popular title in handheld and on-the-go while supporting online multiplayer functions will have almost certainly brought in more players, with the Switch proving that it can be done.