E3 2016 is over. Another year has passed us by with minimal mention of the Playstation Vita. That is to be expected of course, with Sony previously referring to the handheld as a “legacy console”, and publicly abandoning first party development efforts for the device. No one was expecting any announcements for the four year old platform, but how did we get to this point? The PlayStation Vita is a fantastic portable console. With it’s two joysticks, bright and beautiful screen, responsive face buttons, comfortable form factor, and fairly impressive visuals for a handheld, there is no reason that the Vita shouldn’t have taken the gaming community by storm. So what went wrong? Why a measly four years later, has Sony dropped support for the console? It’s because of us. Of all the Vita owners in the world who adopted the console, and proceeded to complain about it for the duration of our ownership. We are the reason the PlayStation Vita is on life support.
When the PlayStation Vita reached western markets in 2012, it launched with only a small handful of games. Escape Plan, Uncharted, Hot Shots, Hustle Kings, Little Deviants, ModNation Racers, Super Stardust, and Wipeout were your only options if you were buying in on day one. The launch was followed closely by the likes of Gravity Rush, Unit 13, and a few others, but releases for the console didn’t seem to pick up until well into the following year. Given the relatively mediocre quality of many of the launch titles, and the lack of variety, Vita owners were (understandably) frustrated. The reaction to the release schedule, however, is where the problem began. Rather than telling their friends about the great new console that is out and hasn’t quite picked up momentum yet, owners of the console complained incessantly.
The complaints were born out of a passion for the source, sure, but that is a difficult thing to differentiate on the receiving end of the complaints. So we, the Vita owners, cried from the rooftops about the lack of games, the lack of support, the lack of developer interest, all the while driving our friends and acquaintances further and further from the platform. “Well, I’m not going to buy THAT thing if there are no games for it.” “Why would I buy a console just to play one game? I’ll invest in one when there are a lot of games available.” The responses to our outcries were understandably similar. No one wants a device without substantial software. The problem is, we continued to cry. More and more games were being released on the Vita every week, some wonderful titles too. Not long into the console’s life, we started seeing ports of some of our favorite indie titles. But still, the Vita owners moaned and complained, despite dozens of more than worthy titles being available. Those on the outside didn’t know that game variety wasn’t a problem anymore, because we couldn’t control our hunger. After a while, the responses changed from “I’ll buy in when more games are available” to “I’m not buying that lifeless console with no support and a miserable community. I don’t want to pay to be disappointed.” Sony’s actions weren’t proactive, they were reactive. Because of our negative messaging, no one was willing to buy the console. If no one buys the console, the install base remains small in comparison to the competition. If the install base is small, publishers and developers are less likely to back the console in a significant way. If the console has a small install base and minimal third party support, manufacturer support will eventually end.
Many argue that if Sony had supported the console with more first party titles, more people would have bought in and more third party support would have come. But with the PS4 on the horizon, Sony saw a failing console and rather than desperately trying to save their sinking ship, instead opted to focus on their shiny new galleon. It was a smart move on Sony’s part, as the PS4 currently has around 40 million units sold, and a decision that was made easier by fan’s treatment of their handheld. Had we spent our time spreading word about the great features of the Vita and the potential it has rather than the lack of software, things may have been different. Sure, Sony may have still dropped support for the Vita, but at the very least, it could have been a more difficult decision. The Vita’s blood isn’t on Sony’s hands, it’s on ours. Every console relies on its community and messaging to sell. If the community is negative, public opinion of the console will be likewise. There likely won’t be a successor to the Playstation Vita, but if there is, I hope that we as a community will get behind it in a positive manner, encouraging our fellow gamers to give it a shot. It would be a shame to see this happen again, as if a handheld is given another chance, it will likely be our last.