The news arrived last week that Sony will shut down the PlayStation Vita PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable storefronts this summer. Hundreds of games will disappear, users are scrambling to download their favourite games and many developers are scrambling to prepare for the change. Sony’s lack of reverence for the PS Vita has been well documented, but this move appears to be the last nail in the coffin for one of the most underrated handheld consoles of all time.
Launched December 2011 in Japan and globally a few months later, the PlayStation Vita was Sony’s attempt at bridging the gap between handheld and console gaming experiences. Sporting a quad-core CPU and GPU, the console was capable of things we hadn’t seen on a handheld up until that point. With titles like Killzone: Mercenary and Uncharted: Golden Abyss, the PS Vita set the blueprint for what the Nintendo Switch would perfect. Console-like experiences within the palm of your hand.
Unfortunately, the Playstation Vita did not live up to Sony’s sales expectations. Lacking the third-party support the businesses desperately needed in a head-to-head battle against the Nintendo 3DS. It’s believed the rise of smart mobile phones also contributed to the poor sales of the console, as people could play games on the go with their mobile phones. Whatever it was, the PlayStation Vita launched at the wrong time and in 2019, Sony announced it would stop production of the console.
Honestly though, I think the PlayStation Vita deserved more.
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way. One of the PS Vita’s biggest flaws was its lack of third-party support. Sony released some absolutely phenomenal first-party titles for the system, but there were very few titles releasing between them. Even in the Vita’s launch year, there were only a few notable third-party titles including; Minecraft, Need For Speed: Most Wanted, Borderland 2 and XCOM: Unknown.
Even when there was third-party support, it often arrived as a console port. Developers saw the PS Vita as a way of condensing successful titles for a quick cash grab, rather than developing around its specific strengths. The best Vita games were titles that took advantage of the console technology. The likes of Tearaway and Uncharted: Golden Abyss had gameplay features designed for the console which made them engaging and dynamic.
I believe a large part of the reasoning behind third-party developers steering clear of the PS Vita, lies with the PS3. Notoriously difficult to develop for, there are numerous tales of third-party development teams struggling with the console’s architecture. The classic example is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a game that remains broken to this day on PS3 because of the way the console had 256MB main memory and 256MB video memory, rather than a single 512mb memory capacity.
With proper third-party support, the Vita could have been something truly special.
Nintendo has pretty much run unopposed in the handheld gaming space since Sony stopped supporting the PS Vita. Even before then, there were never really any genuine contenders for the likes of the Game Boy, Game Boy Colour or the Game Boy Advance. I would go as far to say as Nintendo pretty much has a monopoly on that portion of the marketing.
Sadly. The PlayStation Vita could have been the perfect competition for Nintendo, with the right support. Competition is good. It drives businesses to innovate, it keeps prices down and ultimately, it creates better gaming experiences. Having Nintendo and Sony go head-to-head in the handheld gaming space would have benefited customers.
It’s interesting because the PS Vita felt like the first handheld console to blend console quality gaming with the portability of a handheld. Something which the Nintendo Switch has perfectly mastered. I could have been interesting to see how a PS Vita 2 could have shaped up against the Switch.
The Nintendo Switch and PlayStation Vita released six years apart, but for the time it released, the Vita was a bit of a powerhouse. Featuring a quad-core CPU and GPU, the PS Vita was roughly between the PS2 and the PS3, and while that doesn’t sound too impressive by today’s standards it was pretty mind-blowing at the time.
With sufficient long-term support, we could have seen a lot more from the PS Vita, especially if developers started to get more comfortable with the machine. Every console generation often sees its best releases save for later in its life, but the PS Vita didn’t get that, which is a shame. With a little more time, we could have seen some truly exceptional handheld titles that were deserving of the PS Vita platform.
Cloud streaming and remote access are incredibly popular now, with the likes of Geforce Now, Microsoft’s Project xCloud and Amazon Luna offering customers remote access to their favourite games. These services provide convenience and portability at a cost, but they point to a future where remote video game access could indeed become the status quo.
Way back in 2011, players could control their PS4 console through the PlayStation Vita. You’d need to have the PlayStation 4 on to be able to control it, but while running it remotely you could access and play games. It was a bit rudimentary, and there was definitely a slight lag while playing games. Regardless, it was still an impressive feat of technology for the time. With some more development and subsequent updates, the PS Vita likely could have taken advantage of PS Now.
The death of the digital storefront does not mean the PS Vita has to die though. As with any pocket of the gaming industry, there is a passionate community of people keeping the PS Vita alive through modding and emulation. Rather than running defunct PS Vita titles through the machine, you can breathe new life into it by installing emulators and playing classic games.
Fortunately for you, one of our team members created a guide on how to hack the PS Vita and install emulators, so why not check it out by clicking here?
Sony might want to kill the PlayStation Vita, but I’m not ready to let it go just yet.