As a big fan of the Vita platform this is one of the saddest entries I’ve ever had to write. The Vita platform had so much potential and Sony dropped the ball as hard as humanly possible. While no handheld device will ever defeat the 10 ton juggernaut that is Nintendo, there is still room in market for an alternative to everything 3DS. While Sony of Japan still shows the system the love it deserves, but just like with the original PSP Sony of America couldn’t find their ass with two hands and a map when it came to marketing the machine. Even ignoring that, Sony hamstrung the console from the very beginning, which is the majority of the reason why the Vita never took off. Here are the three main ways Sony doomed their unloved offspring.
Expensive Proprietary Memory
Dear God, this was such a blatant money grab. With the move towards digital distribution a large memory card is very good thing to have and by making the Vita only use a proprietary system Sony can extract more money out of their dedicated fans. I get that Sony is not doing that well, but milking the people who support you is bullshit. A lot of people who might otherwise be interested in what the Vita has to offer were turned off by the fact that memory cards are so ungodly expensive. Sure, the PSP had the same problem but it was mitigated somewhat by using the memory stick which was also used in other Sony devices so the prices were lower and you could buy an adapter to use microSD in a memory stick shell. The problem with such a memory card is that nobody likes spending more more for the same space as a standard format card. PSN is actually pretty good for a console system on flash sales and discounts for digital content, but that will very very quickly eat away at the paltry 8 GB card you get with a standard unit.
Let’s compare the Vita with its rival the 3DS and the same size card, 32 GB. Nintendo has always had a philosophy of use established technologies that may be a bit out of date, but work very well and are cheap. Evidence of this philosophy is seen in the fact that the 3DS uses standard SD cards. SD cards read more than fast enough and are VERY cheap so they are the perfect flash memory for a handheld device. Currently on Amazon you can get a 32 GB SD card for about $10 – $15 depending on the speed and brand, but if you’re a tech lover like me you’ve likely got the damned things floating around your house right now. Let’s switch over to the Vita. I currently have a 32 gb card – imaginatively called Vita memory cards – and it costs a whopping $80. You might be able to find them on sale or cheaper, but that’s the standard price for it, and that’s STUPID. Proprietary memory is dumb anyway but Sony goes weapons grade idiot on how overpriced the Vita memory is. This is strike one, and honestly it could just about kill the console on its own but it still has two helpers.
Sony of America has their heads so far up their asses when it comes to marketing anything handheld you have to wonder if they have to open their mouths to be able to see the money they lose. They originally tried to market the Vita as a full power console in a handheld shape, but that’s obviously off the mark. The Vita is indeed a powerful machine and the original OLED screen is the finest screen I have ever seen on any portable device. However, it is not capable of playing ports of PS3, let alone PS4 games. While quite a few games look amazing – Uncharted Golden Abyss honestly looks better than the first Uncharted game – but it’s still a handheld. They made a big deal about the AAA games being released for the system, but they quickly trickled to nothing. I’m sure it killed a lot of interest when there were no 1st party releases for months or even years a time. The ports quickly disappeared and we were left with the current slate of indies and random Japanese games. I’ll be the first to admit that I love a large amount of the indie games on the vita, but dear God do I hate the overwhelming amount of anime inspired crap that gets sent over from Japan. If Sony wanted to market the Vita as a indie gamer’s portable best friend I think they could have gotten some serious traction. But they didn’t.
Now Sony is positioning the Vita as the peripheral for the Playstation 4, and that’s not as bad but it’s rather limiting. It really kills the device to make people think that not only do you need the $150 Vita but also a $350-$400 PS4 to be of any use. The Vita possesses the ability to play any PS4 game over wifi – both local and over internet – thanks to the Remote Play feature. I am a huge fan of this feature, and I think it’s awesome I can be at my brother’s house an hour away from home and still play my PS4. There is a catch however. Remote Play is a fantastic feature but it greatly depends on how much the developer thought about control schemes. A few games are damned near perfect, for example Destiny and Fallout 4, but a lot of top tier games are iffy when played remotely. The Witcher 3 was my favorite game of last year, but it was very awkward to play remotely. It all has to do with the last strike.
The original PSP could do 3D games, but only had a single analog nub instead of the traditional twin analog sticks that named the legendary Dual Shock controller line. The Vita improves upon this by adding the second stick, but they still only have a single pair of triggers. Yes, there’s the touchpad on the back but I find it to be quite awkward to use, even with my large hands. This wouldn’t exactly be a problem until you consider that the Vita has the aforementioned Remote Play and the ability to play downloaded PS1 titles. By removing a pair of triggers and having non-clickable analog sticks there’s 4 different inputs that have to be simulated using either the front or rear touch pad. Being fair on a lot of games this isn’t a problem, but it’s something that Sony could have easily rectified. For a system that is currently marketed heavily upon its Remote Play feature the lack of so many inputs is a bit much. Now, a developer who puts effort into it can overcome this as with a good amount of games on PS4 but it’s extra work they should not have to do. For a console that was rumored to possess the ability to play PS2 ports – where the hell are those, Sony?! – it doesn’t make any sense to not have the full control set. This may be a weaker strike, but it’s one that really had no reason to even be a strike. Sony could have done better, they just chose not to.
This may sound like I’m not a fan of the Vita, but I will dispute that all day long. I think the Vita is a fantastic platform that Sony bungled. They could fix a couple of the strikes, but the controls are something we can’t get around. I wish Sony showed the Vita the love that its fans does, but they just don’t seem interested in it at all. After the “legacy platform” comments months back it shows just how little Sony seems to care about its neglected offspring and that’s a damn shame. It was never going to beat the almighty Nintendo in the handheld market but that doesn’t mean for one second it couldn’t have carved itself a nice little niche of its own. Sadly, Sony never seemed interested in making that happen.
Incidentally, Sony: If you’re not going to put any effort into the Vita besides “stability updates” that do nothing but take away the ability to install homebrew then how about just letting us fans have an homebrew installation ability. Piracy on the Vita is absolutely non-existent – the very first dump of a Vita rom only happened late in 2015 – so why not let us install homebrew software? If you are so dedicated to not giving the Vita the respect it deserves let those of us who will have our chance.