And that's okay!
Everyone keeps telling me that the PlayStation Vita is dead in the water. From our own Brendan Griffiths to James Portnow and co, it's hard to argue with the logic. Sony didn't mention the device once during their Gamescom presser, sales figures are buried in their financial reports and landmark releases have slowed from a trickle to a standstill over the last few months. If Sony hadn't nailed it to the shelves it'd be pushing up the daisies.
But there's a problem. If the PS Vita is floundering and fading as badly as many pundits believe, then why am I constantly spending every minute of my free time reviewing PS Vita games? I'd nail down the coffin lid, only there's so much new software spilling out of it! And I have to finish off my Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited and Danganronpa 2 reviews for tomorrow. And play some more Borderlands 2.
So no, dear reader, the Vita is very much alive. But the idea of the Vita, the whole philosophy behind it and even the reason many of you bought it, has radically changed. It's life, Jim, but not as we [no, stop it - Ed].
Looking back, the Vita was originally sold on the promise of being a premium handheld capable of supporting gorgeous feature-rich AAA titles. Instead of the notably pared-back portable games that often make their way to handheld devices, Sony came in strong and heavy with titles like Uncharted: Golden Abyss, LittleBigPlanet and Killzone Mercenary; every inch full-fat console games that wouldn't feel out of place in the living room. Hell, Assassin's Creed: Liberation even became a home console game! Packing insanely powerful specifications, a screen to die for and two thumbsticks for shooter fans, most of us bought into the idea of playing AAA games on the train.
Those were the days. They're over now.
The reasons are obvious. Put simply, developing these AAA-quality handheld titles is akin to financial suicide; requiring enormous budgets that rival home console releases... yet can only be purchased by a tiny install base at the cost of a fully-fledged home console game. The numbers literally don't add up, and as third parties started to tiptoe quietly around the device, Sony themselves realised that they'd have to support first-and-second-party studios with an untenable amount of money to make it worth their while. As such, the big games just... stopped. Since the PS4 has shifted ten million consoles and counting, Sony's first-parties have bigger priorities, as we heartbreakingly saw when Media Molecule revealed a Tearaway port rather than a Vita sequel.
I'd go into more detail, but with the best will in the world, several hundred words of explanatory text aren't going to hold a candle to Extra Credits' erudite breakdown of the situation. To avoid retreading old ground, I've embedded their video below. Behold.
Many PS Vita owners have found themselves utterly exasperated by the lack of the sort of games they originally bought the console for, then naturally felt abandoned if not betrayed by Sony's Gamescom silence. It's understandable, but it's also where things get interesting.
The Vita may have been the ghost at the Gamescom feast, but one Sony employee wouldn't stop talking about it. Namely Shahid Ahmad: Sony's legendary indie fixer. After the show, he continually reminded gamers that there is in fact a host of software coming to the platform, from Murasaki Baby to Frozen Synapse Prime, Freedom Wars, Flame Over, Bodycheck, Final Horizon, Rogue Legacy, Nuclear Throne, Son Of Scoregasm, DRM, Forget Me Not Beautiful Edition, Axiom Verge, Gravity Crash Ultra, Titan Souls, Risk Of Rain, Hotline Miami 2, Assault Android Cactus, Tales Of Hearts R, Minecraft, Velocity 2X... and breathe.
They join a host of fantastic indie titles and ports designed to make the most of the platform, providing a breathtaking variety and breadth of software that's practically show-stopping... and that doesn't risk making their developers bankrupt. Factor in the fantastic localised Japanese lineup, the likes of Disgaea 4, Danganronpa, Demon Gaze, Hatsune Miku Project Diva f 1&2, and you've got what I've long referred to as a gaming connoisseur's paradise.
See, that's what the Vita is. What it arguably always was. A platform for inventive and forward-thinking games, of cult classics and fresh ideas, alongside a ridiculously vast back catalogue and the occasional big-name eye-opener. It's not the AAA-packed dream machine Sony originally sold you, but it's still an utterly superb device for a savvy audience. To move forward, we have to admit that... and also admit that, if you bought it on the promise of massive fat AAA titles and can't bear the idea of stepping out of your comfort zone to play awesome smaller games, you might want to consider a trade-in. There's no shame in that.
Mind you, there's a glimmer of light at the end of that particular tunnel. If PlayStation TV and PS4 integration can attract a sizeable user base over the coming months and years, we might reach the player base necessary to make those pricey AAA games viable again.
It's a long shot, but until then... oh wait, has the Danganrompa 2 embargo been broken already? Sorry folks, I've got to fire up my Vita and grab some more screenshots.