During the recent EGX 2015 Developer session, it was revealed in a Q&A with Sony’s Shuhei Yoshida that he does not believe the climate is healthy enough for a successor to the PlayStation Vita, due in large part to the adoption of smartphones with cheap (and often free-to-play) games. This came as disappointing news to some, albeit not completely surprising. One thing to take away from Shuhei Yoshida’s comments is that, at least for the foreseeable future, the PlayStation Vita will remain the only dedicated handheld system offering an experience resembling the home consoles, albeit the last gen ones.
It is important to note that by ‘experience’ I do not necessarily refer to the Vita’s graphical capabilities (which whilst still impressive, are no longer cutting edge) but rather, and more importantly, it’s control system. Handheld systems prior to the Vita made significant compromises with their control schemes, to the extent that 3D game experiences often felt restricted due to the limitations of the hardware, for example a lack of dual analogue sticks. This remains the case with the Nintendo 3DS, which despite a recent hardware revision does not have true analogue sticks, but rather a sliding ‘nub’. In this respect the PlayStation Vita remains, in the words of The Verge’s Chris Plante, ‘the best portable console you can buy’.
In terms of its GPU capabilities the Vita is no longer the cutting edge system it was when it was released in December 2011 in Japan, however whilst the Vita’s hardware was initially designed to provide a portable PlayStation 3-like experience, many of the best releases on the platform are those which do not come close to pushing the hardware to its limits. Examples such as Hotline Miami and Velocity 2X show that games with strong art direction will always look good on the system, even if they don’t utilise the latest graphical bells and whistles.
The costs of developing triple-A titles is extremely high, and the simple reality is that the amount of money required to develop games like Killzone: Mercenary and Uncharted: Golden Abyss is too high to justify for a portable release as the market has changed significantly in the last seven years or so. With that in mind, we as consumers should stop expecting those releases from the Vita, as history proves they simply don’t sell well enough. Though some love to claim that the lack of triple-A support for the Vita means it is dead, as is usually the case the truth is more complicated. It would of course be helpful for Sony to show more support for the system outside of Japan, something they appear unwilling to do, but the fact remains that we will likely continue to see a steady stream of Japanese titles and indie ports which will keep the system alive.