OpEd: The 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