Even though it’s only been around for just over 3 years, many people already seem to think that the PS Vita has no place in the current market among competitors like the 3DS and smartphones for a range of different reasons. The arguments that the handheld “has no games” or that it’s “just an add-on to the PS4″ are regularly brought up or the perception that you’ll only be able to play ‘indie games’ which you’d likely be able to play on another console. Well, I find this to be far from the case as the Vita is a very capable portable console, with a decent library of titles that keeps getting bigger, provided that you’re into the type of games the Vita’s become specialised in. But, more could be done to introduce more people to the platform and give gamers a reason stick with the Vita before it continues to fade even further into the background.
This is one of the main things that you’ll hear about the vita, repeated in many places: the internet, amongst friends, or during idle chatter in your local game shop. The Vita’s retail presence in many stores doesn’t help this perception of its game library as several shops I’ve visited over the past few months barely have a Vita section to speak of, with my local having a single shelf of about 6 – 10 different titles.
One of the likely reasons behind this is that while there are some great exclusive titles for the vita, many of them fall into categories that aren’t as mainstream and inclusive as those on the 3DS. Looking at some of the recent exclusives, you start to notice a general theme, that they’re mostly developed by Japanese developers developing typically Japanese-style games, while western devs aren’t supporting the Vita to the same extent as those in Japan, other than multi-platform indie games. With the majority of new exclusive titles primarily sharing this trend, this reduces the number of people who would be interested as some of these games fit into genres considered ‘niche’ in the west. Not everyone will want to play Disgaea, Freedom Wars or Danganronpa even though they’re good titles. At this point, there are 6 Hyperdimension Neptunia games already on the vita (4 currently localised) with an additional 2 games in development, so barring the Lego games, the HDN games have become the probably one of the most prolific series on the Vita but if you were to ask about the games in a shop, you’d likely be met with blank stares.
Just browsing the games library on the Vita shows that the highest rated on the platform are almost all ‘niche’ Japanese games. This also makes it hard to counter suggestions of the vita’s lack of games when you know the person you’re talking to may have no knowledge or no interest in these types of games. It’s kind of hard not to sound stuck-up if you reply “sure, I play tons of games on my vita, but you’ve probably never heard of them”.
This specialisation in the genres of exclusive games on the vita seems to be working in Japan, with the platform comfortably holding its own against the 3DS and has even outsold the PS3 and PS4 in some weeks but it doesn’t seem to have the same effect in the West.
Even if the main exclusives may not appeal to everyone, it’s a shame that Sony doesn’t do more to appear as they’re at least trying to let more people know the Vita has a game library worth looking at. Sony have a habit of occasionally putting products out without any subsequent support or marketing so this isn’t too much of a surprise. They’ve done this with hardware, accessories and even first party titles like Puppeteer, which many didn’t know existed until it appeared on PS Plus several months later. Even the PS4’s PlayStation Camera doesn’t have many compelling reasons for its existence after more than a year outside of Playroom, the pack-in tech demo/interactive toy.
Without Sony actually getting the Vita into the public eye, the only people who’d bother considering picking it up are those who already have some idea of what the vita is and where they need to go to find out more about it. Again, since the majority of recent and upcoming exclusives appear to be Japanese developed niche titles, you’ll be unlikely to see any major marketing campaigns to attract new customers. These games usually go publishers suited to release the localised version of the game in western regions, but these companies would generally have smaller budgets than ‘Triple-A’ publishers and would be more likely to get publish info about their games online to target existing fans of the series or genre. If there was a greater effort from Sony to get the Vita into new customers’ hands, it could lead to more people discovering these types of games simply from browsing what games are available to play on their shiny new handheld.
The widespread assumption that the only new games coming to vita are indie games ported from PC or other consoles probably also doesn’t help when people are considering the console but trying to justify its value. There are some great indie games on the vita, but many are available elsewhere and the average person may not consider an ‘indie’ game to hold the same value as a boxed retail product from a known publisher. If you thought the Vita was only good for playing indie games that you could play on PC or another console you already own, you probably wouldn’t be too motivated to shell out £150+ on a Vita.
As someone who likes both indie games and niche Japanese games, the PS Vita is the perfect handheld console for me but you have to wonder how long it can be supported by indies and niche games alone, without Sony doing more to highlight why more people should own a Vita. Simply saying that it can be used for remote play and offering it as an add on to the PS4 isn’t enough, but they need to show that there are actually exclusive games for the vita and maybe even help get more exclusives with greater ‘mainstream appeal’ to bring in more players. In the first two years of the Vita, there were actually a good number of great first party titles that Sony published on the Vita, like Gravity Rush, Wipeout 2048 and Killzone Mercenary, so its sad to see them take a back seat on bringing exclusives to the console. A price cut on their proprietary memory card woulds probably also break down one of the barriers to entry for the platform, since no one wants to spend £70 for a 64GB memory card when SD cards are a quarter of the price.
If you’re looking for something to play on the Vita, here’s a few of our recommended Vita games: