E3 Week: What’s up with the Vita?

I don’t even own a Vita and I’m curious about this one.

We had our moments last year where we put the Vita’s popularity in doubt, might have spawned a ‘Vita has no games’ joke that wore out its welcome a while ago, but Sony’s current handheld has been picking up traction lately in part thanks to a price drop and more free games for Vita owners with Playstation Plus subscriptions. It has been clawing its way out of the hole we put it in. Now is the best time for Sony to show support for it, to really push it alongside the next gen market. So why did we hear so little about the Playstation Vita at E3 this year?

It’s possible to argue that this E3 was only ever going to be about the next generation of home consoles, that all the anticipation for E3 this year was built up surrounding the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One as consumers prepared to make a decision as to which (or both, or none, or shut up I have a Wii U) of the next gen consoles they were looking to buy. It’s fair to think that we were so focused on this that any other news would likely be completely overshadowed by the new console hype. But it’s still a bit weird that the Vita played such a small part in Sony’s mammoth two hour long conference. The Playstation 3 got a bit shafted as well. It’s somewhat expected when what so much of your audience really wants is new console details, but something about it did feel a bit empty and neglected there.

The conference opened with only the briefest of looks at the Vita’s current standing and barely hinted at anything to come in the future. A few statistics were thrown around – 125 games on Vita, 600+ if you include PSone and PSmobile titles, and did you know 60% of Vita game purchases are done digitally? – followed by an even briefer look at the games coming to the handheld. The biggest of which was an expansion to Telltale’s The Walking Dead game, which is releasing multiplatform. Outside of that, we didn’t really hear anything about the Vita. At all.

Jack Tretton launched into all kinds of details for the Playstation 4, including the ‘no DRM’ statements that won the crowd over so easily, but absent in any of that was mention of the Vita’s relevance to the next generation of Playstation gaming. Cross Play with the Vita has been a feature for the Playstation 3, but we’re expecting more out of the next generation. When the console was first revealed early in the year we heard all about how the Vita can act like another controller for the Playstation 4 and that it’s even capable of running most PS4 games. I like to think of it as Sony’s version of the Wii U Gamepad, not quite a tablet controller but something extra anyway. If the Vita could be used for purposes akin to the Gamepad’s offscreen play, letting me  play games like Watch Dogs on the handheld while away from the console itself, I could see myself picking one up. And from what we’ve heard already it sounded like that was certainly possible. So why didn’t we hear more about it?

Before the conference even began, industry analyst Michael Pachter declared the Vita dead, calling it ‘too hardcore’ to stand in a handheld market dominated by a more casual approach. It seems harsh to write the console off so easily, but when you look at how Sony’s conference barely touched on the Vita, like it was a post-it note reminder stuck to the side, it’s hard not to see a even a little truth in the claim.

I wouldn’t call it dead. But it’s lacking support. E3 was the right time to really push the Vita again. But nothing happened.

One comment

  1. They did mention it’d integrate with a couple of big titles

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