First-party Vita games are scarce--and apparently they're going to stay that way

If you're in the market for unique indie titles, niche Japanese imports, or perfectly portable puzzle games, the PlayStation Vita is heaven on earth. But if you bought into Sony's handheld thinking it would capitalize on its superior graphical fidelity when compared to the 3DS, you might've backed the wrong horse. Judging by the dearth of announcements at E3 2014, Sony has scaled way back on first-party projects that could revitalize the Vita through the end of the year and into 2015. So how did it come to this?

Simply put, Sony's investments into first-party support haven't panned out like it probably hoped. Games like Tearaway, Gravity Rush, and Killzone: Mercenary turned out great, yet they seemed to have barely resonated with Vita gamers at release or in the months that followed. A seemingly surefire hit like the Sony-published Vita adaptation of Gearbox's Borderlands 2 completely missed its mark, feeling like an inferior port that neither Vita owners nor Borderlands fans wanted. If not for the swath of indie games and third-party titles filling in the cracks on the Vita's release calendar, the Vita would be in dire straits. Because, as Shuhei Yoshida recently affirmed, support for the Vita by way of AAA exclusives will only continue to dwindle in the coming months.

Yoshida told Polygon at E3 that "It's very fortunate that the indie boom happened and they are providing lots of great content to Vita," adding that graphics are no longer a major "talking point" for the Vita's strengths. "When we launched the Vita with Uncharted [Golden Abyss], it was amazing; PS3-like quality in your palm," said Yoshida. "But as time moved on, you are seeing PS4 quality and people's expectations for the graphic fidelity has gone up." Essentially, the excellent indies that Sony coaxed to its platforms have to pick up the slack now that the Vita can't seem to leverage its status as a handheld graphics powerhouse.

And while the introduction of Remote Play did wonders for making the Vita and PS4 feel almost symbiotic, the functionality might actually hurt dedicated Vita gamers in the long run. That's because, if I'm reading between Yoshida's lines correctly, Remote Play will almost act as a substitution for original first-party games on the Vita going forward. From the Polygon interview, "Yoshida said Remote Play has also taken a little bit of pressure off of Sony to make first-party Vita games." From Sony's perspective, why spend resources trying to replicate a console gaming experience (as seen in the Vita spin-offs of Uncharted and Killzone) when you can just stream the high-res graphics of the new-gen versions instead?

Nintendo is dominating Sony when it comes to first-party handheld support, and it seems like that's unlikely to change. Without any Pokémon X and Y, Mario Kart 7, or Super Mario 3D Land equivalents lined up for the Vita, and no attempts to develop a killer app anywhere in sight, it seems like Sony is throwing up its hands and leaving it to other developers to carry the system. If you bought a Vita hoping for distinct, unique handheld gaming experiences brought to you by Sony, you're probably feeling the bitter sting of buyer's remorse right about now.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lucas likes his games like he likes his music: eclectic. With all the weird and wonderful stuff he's played over the years, the two of you are bound to feel the same way about something!
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