Who lost Gamescom? That would be the PS Vita
Where was the PS Vita during Gamescom this year? It certainly wasn't at the forefront of Sony's minds when they were planning their Gamescom press conference.
The Vita only managed one solitary mention in this year's press briefing when Mike Bithell appeared to briefly talk about his new game Volume. For the rest of the show though it was conspicuous by its absence which is not a good sign for Vita fans at all.
There was more exposure of the Vita on the show floor but by not showing anything of the handheld in the main press conference, which was streamed live worldwide, ignores a massive opportunity to show the world exactly why the PS Vita is worth owning.
Sony has admitted that they're not quite sure how to market the PS Vita outside of Japan. Sony Computer Entertainment boss Andrew House admitted as much when he spoke to journalists at E3 earlier in the summer. Japanese gamers are still very much engaged with the high-def handheld, even buying triple-A games.
In the West however things haven't gone quite so swimmingly. Titles that helped the handheld gain a foothold in Japan like Persona 4: Golden are much more niche titles in Europe and North America and triple-A titles that could have helped the PS Vita establish itself as a home for high-end gaming on the move have either been badly marketed (like Assassin's Creed III: Liberation) or truly awful (like Call Of Duty: Black Ops Declassified).
Mixed messages don't help either. On the one hand they marginalize the handheld's exposure on big stages at E3 and Gamescom while off-stage, they're stating how committed they are to the PS Vita as part of the PlayStation ecosystem going forward. Then there's SCEE VP Michael Denny's gaffe in a Gamescom interview with GameReactor where he suggested, "I mean Borderlands 2 is still to come to the platform…" even though it has been out for the PS Vita for a couple fo months now.
Almost worse that that was the statement by Shuhei Yoshida, Sony Worldwide Studios boss that they will be cutting back on amount fo first-party titles that they will developing for the PS Vita, especially at a time when the big third-party publishers have all-but deserted the platform.
But what can Sony do? It's not like the console lacks decent games. Killzone: Mercenary and Tearaway have proven that triple-A experiences that have been designed specifically for the Vita can be amazingly compelling and the handheld has also managed to become a decent home for JRPG fans with the Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster and Persona 4: Golden.
On the downloadable side, the PS Vita's side of the PlayStation Store is crammed with amazing experiences from the Fez to Hotline Miami to Proteus. and much more in between. It has a broad canvas of experiences for gamers to sink their teeth into and the growing number of Cross-Buy, Cross-Save enabled titles gives players the chance to take some of their PS4 or PS3 games, like Fez or Hotline Miami, on the road and pick up just where they left off. And don't forget about Telltale's The Walking Dead series which is a great experience that is ideally suited to the PS Vita.
That's even before we get into the extensive PS4 Remote-Play functionality and upcoming support for their new Gaikai-based streaming service PS Now.
The PS Vita, in order for it to succeed, needs more than just lip-service. The big titles need to be featured on-stage alongside the PS4 blockbusters. Gamers need to see that the PS Vita is as well supported as its big brothers under the home TV.
We need to see the exciting new titles like Murasaki Baby live on stage alongside The Order: 1886 and Driveclub in order to get a sense that Sony have confidence in the hardware they've built.
There's also a lot top be said for continuing their first-party support. Sony, like Nintendo, has a lot of talented development studios in their stable and even more studios involved in their XDEV programme who can bring any number of Sony's big properies to the PS Vita in new and imaginitive ways as well as creating new IP's ideally suited to the PS Vita.
You just need to play LittleBigPlanet Vita or Killzone: Mercenary to see how well Sony's IPs can be adapted to the handheld and Media Molecule's Tearaway is an incredible game that uses the Vita's unique abilities to the full. In fact it was successful enough to warrant being reworked for the PS4.
It wouldn't take much to show the world how great the PS Vita can be. If Tearaway or Killzone: Mercenary had been given as big a stage demo as Tearaway Unfolded or Killzone: Shadow Fall then how many more gamers could have seen the Vita at its very best.
Sony has been fearless with the PS4 showing a huge variety of titles many of which are seen as big risks in the console space. Now it's time to be as bold with the PS Vita before it becomes the perennial joke that the PSP was for so many years.
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