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OpEd: The PS Vita – What Went Right & What Went Wrong |

PS Vita - What Went Right & What Went Wrong

What Went Wrong with the Vita

Sony massively overestimated the appetite for downports of hit PS3/360 action games. The action game fanbase is tired of PS3/360 hardware and is eager for new consoles and newer devices with dramatically better technology. Taking mass market favorites like CoD and Assassin’s Creed and cutting down the already aging graphics and frame rates and game complexity and giving them a baby experience of the real game is just a losing proposition.

I predict a similar outcome with Killzone Mercenary. The excitement for new, dramatically more powerful hardware is going to steamroll over any interest PS3 and sub-PS3 graphics technology.

What Went Right with the Vita: Up Ports

If downports of PS3/360 games didn’t work, up-ports of PS2/Wii games really did. Persona 4 Golden was a ton of fun. I suspect Muramassa will be another gem. You’re not getting an almost-as-good version, you’re getting a heavily improved version of an amazing and unique game.

LBP and Disgaea are two other amazing Vita games, that despite coming from the more powerful PS3 hardware, are generally best experienced on the Vita. LBP really works well with the hybrid touch screen controls and Disgaea style strategy RPGs fits so naturally with the handheld form factor.

What Went Right with the Vita: Portability

People still want portability. In the past, portable hardware demanded sacrifices that limited it’s appeal, but the demand is still there. Despite the grouchy naysayers, who plan to cling to their living room setups, it’s inevitable that the mass market will shift towards portability. There will always be a place for big event-style gaming on a large screen just like movie theaters still have their place, but portability will increase.

What Sony Should Do

With the Vita, up ports are much better than down ports. Focus on the “got to take it with me” games that are built on clever hooks rather than showcasing bleeding edge technology. Generally speaking, the movie theater, main event style games will always be better on a non-portable console or a high-end late model tablet/laptop. And games that don’t need game pad controls will generally thrive on the touch devices instead. But there is a wide range of games that really work better with proper game pad controls that make the Vita worthwhile.

However, while the Persona 4’s and Muramassa’s may be much loved enthusiast favorites, I don’t see those ever being CoD style blockbusters.

I would also suggest that Sony pursue three new platforms:

  • PS3 Successor: From various leaks, we know they are already pretty far along on this one. Gamers want another fixed hardware, mass market, no compromises platform. This may be a safe bet, but the mere thought of the best studios creating titles on a system that is an order of magnitude better than the PS3 is mouth watering.
  • Android/iOS Tablets: Sony has a reputation of scouting and cultivating the best talent, producing the highest quality games, but being held back by their walled garden platforms. Sony has long functioned as a third party publisher of Windows games like Everquest and Planetside 2. They should expand this and publish games for tablets. Not with their crappy PlayStation Mobile initiative which imposes lots of technical limitations, but as a true third party publisher that focuses on driving actual platform-neutral games to a large audience.
  • VR: Occulus Rift has shown some amazing prototypes and demonstrated that excitement exists. However, as a third party platform-neutral add-on, this concept is limited. A full platform designed exclusively around the VR I/O paradigm is needed to really take this idea to its fullest. Sony is better suited than any other to do this: They already are a leading competitor in displays and game platforms
  • Excellent editorial. I love the idea of Sony expanding its production infrastructure to encompass other platforms, such as Android. I wonder how likely that it, though, as such a move might imply a lack of faith in Sony’s own mobile platform. Great read, @Darrin — thanks!

  • the SD card fiasco is the biggest issue with the Vita. I personally love most everything else about the device. But i fill it was gimped because i can’t load anything on it. Something the PS3 got so very right, the vita got so extremely wrong, if they do something bozo like this with the ps4, well, i’ll pass.

  • really feel you have to include the SD card/ vita card in what is terrible about the vita.

  • @premiersoupir, thanks! What is Sony’s own mobile platform? PlayStation Mobile? That’s not a full hardware platform, it’s a dev framework for least-common-denominator Vita/PS3/Android support. That whole product seems awful and the end content will never be competitive with native Android/iOS content.

    @hobbes, we may vocally support a more PS3 style budget priced commodity storage upgrades, but the masses voted with their wallets and supported the 360 style high mark up proprietary upgrades without major complaint.

  • @Darrin: Sorry, should have been more clear. I simply meant the Vita itself.

  • Also, the SD issue is a valid gripe, but I don’t think that had a major impact on the overall outcome of the Vita so far. I have other gripes; the screen which is highly scratchable and is made from cheaper material than a quality phone/tablet, but I think the big factor with the Vita was a complete lack of interest in downports of PS3/360 action games.

  • @premiersoupir, oh, the Vita itself! of course! Good point. They can do Android/Vita or Android/PS3 games just like they have recently made bid budget Windows/PS3 (DCUO) and Windows exclusive (PlanetSide 2) games.

  • @Darrin: The Proprietary memory cards definitely hurt the Vita. $30 or less can get you a 32 GB SDHC card, and a Vita memory card is more expensive and offers less space. Nintendo did it right with SDHC cards being used for storage on the 3DS.

  • The whole point of proprietary storage is to offer less space for more money. It’s bad for users, but good for Sony. 360 did the same thing with proprietary hard drives and there was no major blowback.

    Do you think there are large number of users who would have bought a Vita if it used cheaper non-proprietary memory cards? Do you think the 360 lost large numbers of users for making the same move? I don’t. People voted with their wallets that they would rather pay for artificially marked up expansion options rather than pay a slightly larger up front price.

  • psp ships monster hunter 3 and sells 3 million. So id say no monster hunter hehe The vita is the worst investment I ever made that i am actually enjoying. I got it for amazing games and low and behold it sits there running old psp games 99% of the time. I have had it since launch and here is my menu.

    I did plus and tried uncharted and gravity rush and felt they were more of a gimmick meant to say look you can tilt your vita. In the end Im playing Monster hunter 50% of the time with the other % going to psp ports as they do look good.

    Im not happy with any vita titles to be honest. Ninja gaiden is about the only title I would recommend. Soul Sacrifice is a pretty attempt at pleasing the Japanese audience for its lack of, well you know hehe I found the demo gorgeous but lacking in any true innovation.

  • @Darrin: It definitely hurts sales. When your portable NEEDS memory cards to function (saves, apps, new games, etc.), and you price them so high, there is bound to be some consumers that skip your product until price on said cards goes down. Sony’s argument for the memory cards is to hold pirates at bay, nothing more.

  • @darrin got a malware warning when coming back to this page for some reason

  • @darrin, i think the major difference with the 360, is earlier in the lifecycle, most people bought disc based games, and i’d argue most 360 users still do. the 360 actually comes shipped with a HD , all models do. With the PSP, storage is critical, and required. It’s much more a of digital age. I for one, won’t buy a Vita game until the prices of the card are fixed. Or until i can find a 32 gig for under 50, and by then i’ll have a good collection of plus titles for the vita. ONLY reason i bought the vita, was because plus was included with it, but I wasn’t aware of the card issue. If i was aware, i would have not bought it. I actually considered returning it because of the BONK sony did with the storage format.

  • Kicks

    I don’t mind the proprietary memory card format that much as it supposedly helps with piracy. I do mind the price of them. I ended up getting a 32 GB card for $59.99, but that is still more than I wanted to pay

  • Oly

    No better Vita than the free one I won from Taco Bell 🙂

  • Kicks

    @Oly quit rubbing it in 🙂

  • @Oly: Did you get a 32 GB Memory Card?