2012 was a rough year for the PS Vita. Though it launched in the west to acceptable sales with a slew of high-quality titles at its helm, the excitement for the system dissipated hastily in the months that followed. The launch software, though composed of many critical successes, lacked strength at retail; and while summer saw the release of 1 or 2 gems, the general lack of any software whatsoever was alarming. Vita’s weekly sales dipped as low as the 30Ks, while the 3DS was selling more than 10 times as many at some points.
The subsequent fall and winter after the summer drought looked a lot more promising with 2 blockbuster franchises on the horizon, but neither ACIII: Liberation nor Black ops: Declassified, despite both proving fairly popular bundled games, managed to spark enough enthusiasm to make this holiday season the cataclysm the Vita needs to turn its desperate and dire situation around. At this rate the PSV won’t last beyond 2 years. 2013 needs to be a turning point, so what will it offer us?
As it stands, the biggest and best of the lineup is as follows:
(Port | Japan exclusive)
Sly Cooper Thieves in TIme
Rachet & Clank QForce
Phantasy Star Online 2
Tales of Hearts R
God Eater 2
Valhalla Knights 3
Dead or Alive 5 Plus
There are a few things I notice about the list, the first being the abundance of much needed Japanese titles, a step in the right direction. The second being that most of these titles will struggle to hit anywhere near 1 million units, a step back. The third being that most of these games are expected to release in the first and second quarter, leaving a gaping hole in the second half of the year. It’s likely that we’ll receive announcements for those third and fourth quarter games up until and at E3, potentially adding some real firepower to the lackluster list.
Let’s talk about those potential titles. The most notable of which with realistic chances of releasing next year are another Uncharted from Bend, and GTA Vita. Golden Abyss is Vita’s best performing game (currently approaching 1 million units sold), leaving no doubt in my mind that it’ll get a sequel, and by november 2013 it will have been 2 years since Bend finished GA, which is the expected development time of a sequel. GTA on the other hand isn’t so blatantly obvious. There have been no announcements, official statements or hints from Rockstar or Taketwo. But luckily there is evidence, albeit anecdotal; ex-IGN news writer Jim Reilly tweeted way back in summer of 2011 “Rockstar Games is developing Vita games“, and Rockstar Leeds, the co-developer of the 2 PSP “GTA stories” games have only had the L.A. Noire PC port to deal with since 2009.
As mentioned, Uncharted: Golden Abyss is Vita’s best performing title, and the 2 “GTA stories” games on PSP sold over 11 million units combined, an incredibly impressive number. These 2 titles releasing in tandem next holiday season could do wonders for Sony’s handheld. Other potential big name titles include God of War, but with Ready at Dawn (developer of PSP’s GOW games) working on “an exciting new AAA IP for a Next-Generation home console game system“, a GOWVita from them has pretty much been ruled out. Gran Turismo is another potential title, but with Polyphony being Polyphony, we can only expect a release 3-4 years after an announcement, effectively making a 2013 release unlikely. Both of these can of course be outsourced, but that often presents a great risk to the quality and integrity of the title, especially if given to Nihilistic.
So, among the Uncharted sequel and possible GTA Vita, we can expect to see a range of smaller downloadable titles (think Sound Shapes and Super Stardust Delta), more PS3 ports with cross-play functionality, and hopefully some exciting, groundbreaking new IPs in 2013′s fall and winter. Not bad, certainly better than 2012′s disappointing holiday season.
Next year’s software lineup alone is promising, but even to its fullest potential it probably won’t push the Vita to where it needs to be. What will, you ask? Simple. The inevitable price cut. Sony held off from slashing the price this year, and hopefully this translates into a more aggressive, daring cut late next year, say of $50-$80. With the help of black friday deals, 160K Vita’s were sold in the last week in the US alone, this shows that there is in fact demand for the Vita, but at a lower price point. Bundle that cheaper PS Vita with that Uncharted or GTA and you’ve got a winning recipe that’ll be able to combat the probable 3DS cut and its software offerings in the same time period.
Another factor, often glossed over when discussing Vita’s future, is the compatibility with PS4. This could add numerous incentives for PS4 owners to buy a Vita, such as a Wii U-esque setup for select games, or streaming PS4 games onto the Vita via Wifi or 3G, a strong possibility if Sony are looking to take advantage of the Gaikai acquisition.
I think it’s safe to say that 2013 is the last year PSV has to prove itself, but luckily for Sony the future looks brighter than the last desolate and dreary year. What’s your take? Does the Vita still have its best years ahead of it, or is it already dying?