PS Vita: Year In Review

By Andrew McDanell on December 30, 2013, 9:50PM EDT
Vita

PlayStation Vita has reached two years of circulation and as we come to the closing of 2013 it's time to give the portable device a fair shakedown for its accomplishments and its fumbles. Has it been meeting expectations or has it fallen short of the bar. Games, achievements, performance, and future will all be addressed in this year in review.

In North America alone, PS Vita seen nearly 100 games hit its library in 2013. While new IPs such as Tearaway and Sorcery Saga made their debut on the Vita, it also ended up becoming quite the standard for indie development and ports, which can be a good or bad thing depending on your interests.

If anything bad could be said about 2013 for PS Vita, it's the lack of unique experiences it provided to consumers. Putting aside all of the ports, only 5 notable games were released that could only be played on a PS Vita and that's just not good enough.

Tearaway stole our hearts and showed us a unique experience, while Killzone Mercenary wowed us with Vita's visual potential. Soul Sacrifice then gave us something that rivals Monster Hunter and Ys: Memories of Celceta gave us a fun action packed RPG. To round it out, Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God created an experience that definitely differed from the norm. It all adds up to one thing, proof that the Vita has what it takes to provide unique experiences.

If Sony has any ambitions to making the PS Vita more than a Remote Play device, then it needs to push 3rd party developers or their own studios to bring games to the handheld that cannot be found elsewhere. Which for the later, seems to be completely non-existent due to the work being put into the PS4's library development.

That's not to say that the current ports being brought to the Vita are anything to scoff at. Persona 4 Golden's amazing success in 2012 can attest to that. This year's Walking Dead, Guacamelee, Muramasa Rebirth and countless others are great games; even more great as they are all available in portable versions now. However they are tough sells when available elsewhere if you're talking about adopting such a pricey dedicated device.

While Sony isn't winning popularity contests, evident in the lack of western software development, it's safe to assume it's not a failure so far. One of the main reasons is Sony supporting it in different ways, even they aren't flooding the market with first party titles. Features such as Cross Buy, Cross Saves, and PlayStation Plus freebies are definitely giving PS Vita owners some great benefits.

One of the Vita's more notable selling point successes this year is most likely in the PS4's launch. Sony has finally knocked remote play out of the park by dedicating it's streaming and capturing chip to function Remote Play, something that was seemingly impossible during the PS3 era. As anyone who has a PS4 can contest, it works flawlessly.

It not only opens the Vita up to a new library of games to be played locally, but at the same time broadens the use of an already robust piece of hardware to more than just playing games. Many may find second screen experiences to be laughter inducing, but if Need For Speed Rivals' new Overwatch feature is any indication, let's just say there's some neat possibilities on the horizon. As long as they remain optional.

For PS4's success to push Vita units, Sony needs to get bundles out into the wild. It's obvious that locking up potential console sales by putting Vita consoles in with it is a bad idea at this time due to shortages of PS4s. However there's nothing stopping Sony from making deals with retailers to sell them together for discounted costs. Perhaps next year when units get more available this will become more viable.

Shifting focus, Sony definitely shocked consumers this year as they announced and released the Vita TV in Japan. While we still don't have word on a western release, in Japan, it seems as if its impact may be steady rather than immediate. First week sales only saw 42,000 units moved as it was sold along-side God Eater 2. The following week only saw 7,800 units sold.

According to Sony, Vita TV seems to be a tactical move to getting into the Chinese market, however there's always hope for a western audience as well. A wider spread of adoption in all markets could see an increase in developer interest as the market share of Vita game players increase in both living rooms and pockets.

Along with the Vita TV, we also seen a new cheaper Vita released. Priced at a more competitive cost compared to the Nintendo 3DS, it caused for a significant increase in Vita's weekly average sales in Japan. Usually sub 6,000 in units moved, it's weekly push rose to over 20,000 which is quite the leap for the struggling handheld. It will be exciting to see if this change could be seen in the western region as well.

Back to the release week of Vita TV. God Eater 2's release surfaced a stunning new development. There's no doubt for some time the Vita has been outshone by the PSP. However God Eater 2 was released on both PSP and Vita, but Vita sold twice the units. Hopefully this means Japanese developers could finally shift to the Vita more dominantly.

There's no doubt that a market is available for developers on the Vita. Persona 4 Golden was the first to prove that. More than ever we're seeing titles being announced from the Japanese front as western developers remain quiet. Great news for fans of Japanese style games, unfortunate for Vita sales as adoption in the west seemingly favors western style games.

If this year could teach Sony anything, it would be to push for more unique experiences on the Vita, as well as get third party and first party support. There's plenty of promise to the platform if Japan is any indication, especially with the Vita TV and Vita Slim's success. Time will tell if those will reach the west and spread the success or snuff out the fire.

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