Opinion 14

PS Vita: The Beginning of the End?

Last week, Sony circulated a brief courtesy warning via email to the owners of its flagship handheld, the PS Vita. From April 20, the Vita’s YouTube, Maps and Near apps will no longer be supported. The announcement comes as yet one more rotten egg thrown at the consumers who invested in one of gaming’s messiest fry-ups.

Though Sony was quick to reassure players that YouTube would remain accessible via the console’s browser app, its announcement made one thing very clear: the healthy enthusiasm that drove the company’s revolutionary answer to the handheld market has rapidly dissipated. The company can no longer even warrant the expense of renewing a YouTube contract for its forgotten system, so it’s little wonder that big developers are scant to be found in the Vita’s sizeable back catalogue.

The portable’s namesake can only feel like somewhat of a too-soon jab right now. The fact is the Vita feels anything but alive. Sure, the system sports a rather healthy library of indie titles, with Sony fashioning a new, easy-access home for independent games. That’s great, but a gaming platform should be able to claim more than being a dumping ground for what are, by and large, low-effort ports. Sony may well be able to boast that exemplary games like Guacamelee can only be experienced on the go with the Vita. But this shouldn’t, by any means, be a defining function. Cross-play is indeed nifty – but not two hundred dollars’ worth of nifty.

The Vita is a powerful, feature-rich system, which only makes its complete lack of must-have titles sting even more. Freedom Wars was, in all likelihood, the console’s very last AAA title. While the highly stylised dystopian action RPG packed a high-scoring punch among critics, for many, it only underscored the Vita’s paltry sampling of comparable experiences. When Sony took to the E3 stage in 2011 to announce the system, dual analogue sticks and a few unchecked boasts intoned promises of ambitious, untethered gaming experiences Nintendo couldn’t hold a candle to. A Bioshock title was slated, rumblings of a portable Infamous game sounded promising, and fans were certain that the stellar Grand Theft Auto Stories series would receive a next-gen portable follow-up. Four years later, and all three have met their demise somewhere along the Sony pipeline.

At every expo since the console’s initial reveal, Sony has been paying less and less attention to their dejected system. In fact, Gamescom 2014 even saw the handheld lose exclusivity on Tearaway, arguably one of the few games to truly utilize the Vita’s dense array of features. The company seems to be becoming as disinterested in sustaining their progeny as the rest of the world is in playing it.

There are indeed still system loyalists that find regular use out of their Vitas, and more power to them. The system’s awesome potential has been compacted into an indie niche which has proved satisfying for some. No doubt the Vita remains, for me, the ideal platform to chip away a few hours on games like Guacamelee and The Binding of Isaac. But one egg doesn’t make a cake. Only a handful of developers have ever dared to even experiment with the PS4/Vita second screen functionality. The system’s virtual reality feature never surpassed gimmick status before promptly being forgotten about in 2013. Vita owners were never given the promised ingredients to satisfy Sony’s ambitious recipe. For that, the system will forever be stained by the words ‘wasted potential’ and ‘lack of support’.

A reimagined Tearaway will be finding its way to PS4 sometime in 2015.

The loss of support for no less than three native apps presents itself as a new chapter in the Vita’s lethargic disintegration. The system now not only lacks support, but is actively losing it. While seemingly inconsequential, the announcement represents a sobering truth: Sony has stopped caring. They have accepted that their costly side project will never amount to being even a minor hit.

My prediction is that the Vita will find its support administered via IV drip for the next two to three years. Apps will continue to lose support and exclusives will dry up. My Vita, for one, will find its legs as a somewhat reliable second controller for my PS4. While loyalists will still find the same comprehensive library of indie games and more to enjoy at their own portable leisure, skeptics and intermittent users will steadily find less and less to compel them into the Vita’s ever-shrinking solar system.

Do you agree with the sentiments of this piece? Want to get started on funeral plans? Or do you disagree? Will you be playing your Vita through the foreseeable future (and perhaps beyond)? Direct all dissent, apathy and ceremonial suggestions to the comments section below.

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  • Jim Peterson

    This is such a massive disappointment because the system itself is so damn good. Its an amazing little device. Its capable of great visuals, the screen is the best any handheld has ever had, its comfort, controls and playability also by far the best of any handheld. The UI is good. Its broader range of functions like PS4 streaming, cross play and cross buy and PSone digital game emulation and indie support have all really added to the experience. It deserves to be a massive success. If only it had had enough software support to make it so.

  • dark-kyon

    Lol,can not find something more interesting to write,sony did the psvita for third party games,they failed in the west,now vita is indie and japanese games,how every handled going to be now and forward,the system have his niche,is not going to die anytime soon,if you not like psvita is what you not like playing in hanhelds what is fine.i can see psvita getting new retail games in na from japan in 2017.

  • dapaintrain

    It really should have been designed around an andriod Os.

  • Derek

    The hardware is good. The problem is the draconian DRM. Sony needs to get the hell out of the way and let this system thrive. I mean live. I mean VITA!

    • BoyBigEyes

      What is the problem with DRM?

      • Section8

        No CFW.

        • BoyBigEyes

          How having CFW will solve of the PS Vita problem?

          • Section8

            It won’t. Putting bigger AAA games on it will.

  • Guest

    What do you mean “beginning”? It was DOA. Calling it Vita was a curse and typical Sony: lies and overhype that underdelivers

    • Section8

      Sorry you couldn’t afford one.

  • ShadowKai

    Can’t wait for them to completely bail on the vita. I mean, stop production on them and just allow what little amount of games come out for it. At that point I’ll grab one. For now ill sit back and enjoy my 3DS for handheld gaming enjoyment.

  • eric

    Its not dead or dying its strong an will win over all trolls eventually jus like ps3 its a ten year marathon wit sony so im gonna keep lovin my VITA an its steady flow of awesome games indie or aaa its the best place to play dont believe those hater trolls

  • whyareyoucame

    I will continue to rock my vita and once it breaks I will be buying a new one. Why? Remote play. So often Remote play gets over looked in the plus column. When my wife is droning on about work, streaming “pocket Diablo” from my PS4 had been my lifeline. Ports are also pretty sweet too. I loved replaying FF10 and Boarderlands. Even “successful” portable systems are churning out their old zelda games. It is sad no more AAA games but indie titles like Unfinished Swan, Don’t Strave, and Counterspy are better then any garbage that mobile gaming has put out. Keep the dream alive!!!!!! At least its better then playing candy crush on the train, anything but candy crush.

    • Section8

      ^^^This. Definitely needs more AAA games though.