It’s finally happening: Sony has announced they are ceasing production of the Vita with no plans of a successor. It’s an ending that managed to be put off for longer than many of us thought. So, were Vita’s struggles inevitable, or did Sony set themselves up for failure right from the start?
I loved my PSP. I actually still own two of them — an original model and a 3000 I bought at a local sale. It could never match the DS’ library or popularity, but the PSP was a powerful system that could do quite a bit. Even disregarding all the homebrew aspects, it could play classic PS1 titles, and it had some excellent games like Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep and Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. Of course, it had some ideas that didn’t pan out (UMD movies, anyone?), and no doubt some piracy affected game sales, but I had high hopes for a PSP2.
But perhaps the ill-fated PSPGo should have been the first red flag. The download-only format? The fact that not all PSP games were available on PSN? That it cost more than a PSP which could play downloads and UMDs? DUMB!
I hoped Sony would learn from its first portable forays and make a PSP2 that would address all its issues. Second stick, more storage space on game media, and, dare I hope for it, backwards compatibility? Okay, the last one was a long shot. but still. So, now that Vita support is ending, what could have been different?
The touch screens. I don’t know why they were needed in the first place. The front touch screen, maybe if they were hoping that other companies would either port their 3DS titles or release them on both. Still, that would be a difficult task with a screen made for use with a stylus versus something that has to be wide enough for a finger. Still, who picked up a PSP or a DS and was like, “Gee, I wish I could rub its back…”? If Sony thought they could get some commitments to get touch-heavy DS/3DS games (or even some mobile game ports), then they should have gone with a resistive screen and hide a stylus in the console like the 3DS. Personally, I think they should have aimed for the serious, adult gamer market. Try to get the crowds that like shooters, RPGs, etc. and skip the touchscreens altogether. Make it something tough and scratch-resistant.
Memory cards. A real system killer. The PSP had a lot of complaints about the Memory Stick Pro Duos, but at least it was used in other devices. I actually had a camera that used the same type of memory cards, so I didn’t mind picking up duos on sale, knowing I could use them in my PSP or camera. But the Vita memory cards were outrageously priced. Part of me wonders, “What were they thinking?!”, but no doubt they figured that they could essentially get some extra, practically free cash out of every Vita owner. But starting at $20 for a 4GB card, you had to have one to at least save games, and no third party alternatives? Ridiculous. Perhaps they thought users would buy the large 32GB cards (as 64GB wasn’t available in the US initially) just in case they needed the space, realize they have a good amount of room, and would buy digital versions of games, taking inspiration from PSPGo. But SD/micro SD cards would have been the way to go, even if they teamed up with Sandisk or someone and make some Vita-branded ones if they were going to abandon Pro Duos.
The OLED screen. I know a lot of people raved about the OLED screen. It was beautiful, but I never looked at my LCD Vita and felt like it was ugly or unbearable. If Sony had gone with LCD from the start, I doubt many people would have complained that it had a LCD screen. Just make it good.
Ergonomics. Don’t me wrong; the 3DS has its comfort problems too. But the Vita Slim is so much lighter and easier to hold. I bought one of those Hori grips as well, and I’ll never play my Vita without it. (Don’t need the L3/R3, but really any grip is nice.) They should have taken inspiration from the Dualshock controllers, as they are my favorite out of all the console controllers. Yes, it’s not something that’s easy to stick into your pocket or anything, but give up this idea for just a slight outward bend and bulge that makes it easier on hands, especially if the rear touchpad is eliminated.
PS3/PS4 Promotions. I think remote play should have been pushed more, particularly for the PS4. I believe Europe released a package with the Vita and PS4 to show off this function, and I don’t know why the US never released a package or did a special promo. Of course, The timing of the Vita was also an issue. Had it been released at the beginning of either the PS3 or PS4 era, they probably could have pushed the whole “play on your portable” idea that the Wii U tried and Switch has become famous for. More cross-buy titles would have been amazing or the ability to play on both for a nominal upgrade, say, $10.
PSP Ports. We’ll never know why some games were never made available for download on PSN, and I believe that if gamers who never had a PSP knew they could get he PSP’s must-play games on the Vita, they might have bought one. But if legal issues or concerns about piracy prevented companies from making it available digitally, Sony should have sponsored Vita ports and upgrades. Think about it: Crisis Core+ with a couple of extra missions or additionally voiced sequences. Final Fantasy Type-0 was released late in the PSP life, but yet one of the complaints of HD was that it still felt like a game for a portable, not a console. Metal Gear Acid I believe was another in-demand title for PSN, so a two-in-one packaging probably would have done well on the Vita. Even they had to be physical only, it could have been an awesome way to get some of those people who skipped the PSP to buy a Vita.
Other changes. Of course, 3G was just ridiculous, but so was the proprietary charging cable and the battery. Whatever they could do to keep the price within range of the Nintendo handhelds. $200 could probably have been feasible from the start if they skipped the touchscreens and gone with LCD.
In other words, the Vita should have been a cross between a PSP 3000 and a Vita 2000 from the start. It tried to be a cell phone and a 3DS AND a PlayStation home console, and it didn’t pan out obviously. Sony seems to have a problem with jumping onto bandwagons: 3G Vita, PS VR, PS TV, etc. I hope as Sony starts firming up plans for the PS5, they don’t go chasing after what they think the Next Big Thing is. If they want to do some kind of second screen to compete with the Switch’s popularity, then find a way to implement it without giving up what made the PS4 dominant for much of this generation.
My favorite Vita game? Final Fantasy X/X-2 Remaster. OMG, the PITA minigames were so much easier than the console versions. I finally beat the blasted Lightning Dodge AND Chocobo Catcher!! I know a lot of people say it’s Persona 4 Golden, but I still have yet to play it. But two awesome RPGs in one package (well, one cartridge and one download, but for a single price)? Awesomeness! Plus, X-2 has the best battle system in the Final Fantasy series in my opinion, but X definitely has the better story.
Do you or did you own a Vita? Why or why not? What do you think Sony should have done differently?