There is no doubt that the PS Vita is a cracking handheld. The screen is crystal clear, particularly if you have the original OLED version. However with the proper marketing could PS Vita have been Sony’s Nintendo Switch? Here are some thoughts I had recently while playing teh smashing Rainbow Skies on my Vita.
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Poor PlayStation Portable
Sony’s legacy in handheld gaming is patchy at best. The PlayStation Portable (PSP) is an innovative handheld that was marketed as a PS2 in your Pocket. It fell short of that aim and was poorly supported, with the key ingredient for a successful console mainly missing… Great games!
There were some brilliant ones, Lumines, Patapon, Loco Roco, Final Fantasy – Crisis Core and my favourite Valkyria Chronicles 2. It also had some big titles as well such as Tekken, Killzone and SSX. But in the main, the games were thin on the ground and shovelware. As a result, the PSP slowly drifted into obscurity and was largely forgotten.
“With the proper marketing could PS Vita have been Sony’s Nintendo Switch?”
Vital PS Vita?
So it was a bit of a surprise when Sony announced their next foray into handheld gaming, the weirdly named PS Vita. The launch was not great, particularly as the internal storage in the Vita was tiny and the bespoke additional memory cards were ridiculously expensive. There were some really good games in the early days. Uncharted Golden Abyss was a great slice of Nathan Drake and Gravity Rush was colourful and innovative. It is telling though that the early game I played the most was the hilarious Frobisher Says, which was a free download.
There have been some great games, Persona 5 Golden, the charming Tearaway and LBP Vita all great fun to play. These though are the exceptions rather than the rules. My Vita now houses my PS1 collection of PRGs, which is hardly pushing the hardware! Yet again a promising handheld that failed because Sony really didn’t know what to do with it.
Sony’s mistake was that they were trying to create a console experience in your pocket. They made the PSP and the PS Vita too powerful and therefore too expensive to buy and, more importantly, to develop games for. Nintendo has been happy to create handhelds that are not graphical powerhouses, keeping the cost of games/hardware comparatively cheap. The switch isn’t the most powerful box in the room, but its innovative play anywhere approach has captured gamers imagination.
The frustrating thing is that Sony invented the Switch 3 years before Nintendo and didn’t tell anyone about it.
PS4/PS Vita the Original Nintendo Switch
When the PS4 launched there was an attempt to revitalise the Vita, second screen functionality, remote play, use the Vita as a keyboard for MMOs. It sounds very cool but didn’t make the Vita essential and developers didn’t put it in games because it was so niche. Once again Sony, a company whose marketing for the PS4 was second to none, missed the point and the coolest thing the PS Vita could do.
“A promising handheld that failed because Sony really didn’t know what to do with it”
Could PS Vita have been Sony’s Nintendo Switch?
The best thing the PS Vita does and something Sony hardly ever talks about is Cross-buy/save of some PS4 Titles. Right now I am playing Rainbow Skies on my Vita at work, uploading my save to the cloud and then continuing on my PS4 at home. The play anywhere mentality of Nintendo Switch has been available on PS Vita even during the PS3 days. Sony had already invented Nintendo Switch, they just didn’t notice.
Cross Buy/Cross Save – Play on the Go
Steamworld Heist, Darkest Dungeon, Rainbow Moon, Rainbow Skies, I bought one copy and can play them across PS4 and PS Vita. Buy once play anywhere, surely that is what Nintendo was selling with the Switch? Becuase of the power of the PS4 this couldn’t work for all titles, Vita couldn’t handle God of War for instance. But think about other titles, some of the remasters such as Final Fantasy X, this supports cross save, but not cross buy. A missed opportunity?
More than a PS1 Emulator
I cherish my Vita, it is my PS1 backwards compatibility, it sits comfortably in my huge hands and has an exquisite screen. Cross-save is simple and in a few cases has made my Vita relevant again. So Could PS Vita have been Sony’s Nintendo Switch? With the right games and marketing, possibly. Sadly we will never know and I will just have to wipe the occasional tear away from my gloriously vivid OLED screen and I dream of what might have been.
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