Rockstar announced this week that they would capping of their celebration of the Grand Theft Auto (PlayStation 2) trilogy by bringing releasing a re-mastered Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on iOS and Android, leaving fans to question; why not Vita? Rockstar may have outgrown its unique-relationship with Sony, but the (PlayStation 2) Grand Theft Auto Trilogy will always be associated with PlayStation.
Admittedly Grand Theft Auto has come a long way from its early top-down beginnings, going on to become one of the most popular franchise in the medium to date. Most recently Grand Theft Auto V set records by making over $1 billion dollars in revenue during its first three days on the market, a feat that very few would have predicted during the franchise’s humble start. While the series started out as a guilty pleasure and niche hit, it truly hit its stride when Grand Theft Auto III graced the PlayStation 2 way back in 2001. The PS2 will go down in history as a console with one of the richest software libraries to date, but in nearly every collection at the time – a copy of Grand Theft Auto III could be found.
GTA III challenged the limits of gaming, both in terms of scope and content. Perhaps the biggest change was the way people perceived the franchise and the platform of which it now took center stage. No longer relegated to the PC, Grand Theft Auto became the phenomenon that we know today through its marriage with Sony; where it went on to debut two more titles on the PlayStation 2. Even when Sony created their first ever portable console – the PlayStation Portable – Grand Theft Auto was a marquee showcase for the hardware’s capabilities. Like many marriages there are often infidelities, and the overwhelming demand from fans led to Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City, and San Andreas expanding to other platforms. The interesting thing though is that while the franchise expanded to alternative hardware, the terms Grand Theft Auto and PlayStation remained largely synonymous until the ushering in of the PlayStation 3.
In April of 2008 Rockstar put its PlayStation affiliation to bed with the multi-platform release of Grand Theft Auto IV. Launching on both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 the game retained the open-world crime that the series was known for, it was clear that with GTA IV Rockstar was intent on moving the series in a much different direction in terms of tone and style. Where the trilogy felt like a family, Grand Theft Auto IV felt like a distant cousin; and it essentially marked the end of the Sony’s privileged relationship with the series.
In 2011 Rockstar decided to honour the ten year anniversary of the acclaimed Grand Theft Auto III by releasing a re-mastered edition on both iOS and Android devices. At the time of its release, mobile was a burgeoning force and the addition seemed to be fitting given the poor state of portable gaming at the time; in fact it was so successful that Rockstar would repeat the process by similarly celebrating the anniversary of Vice City in December of 2012. Now only a year later San Andreas is set to join the club – but unlike when this campaign began, mobile is no longer the promising platform that it once appeared to be.
Where at one time mobile was seen as a direct competitor to the portable-handheld market, the two are viewed in different lights today. As the industry has taken on a much more creator-friendly stance in recent times, we have seen developers shy away of mobile in favour of other options. Handhelds seem to be back in full swing and we are seeing Triple-A games on mobile becoming a dying breed as the powerful PlayStation Vita and popular Nintendo 3DS have become both viable and successful platforms. There are likely many reasons why Rockstar have chosen to continue to support mobile with these acclaimed, but given the capabilities of the Vita there are quickly becoming less reasons for them not to bring it back to PlayStation.
Not porting these re-mastered classics to PlayStation Vita is not only disappointing to wishful fans, it’s a missed opportunity for Rockstar to honour the relationship that helped make them classics to start with. Celebrate these titles in the manner that they deserve, away from touch controls and casual audiences. While the mobile ports surely bring Rockstar some dough, bringing the already re-mastered trilogy to the PlayStation Vita has the potential to be a monumental hit for Rockstar; and could possibly serve as a test-flight for a new entry in the series. No one can blame Rockstar for striking the iron while it was hot and choosing a promising platform to distribute its 10-year jubilee; but it’s time that they recognize that that the promise has dissipated and the iron has cooled. If they are indeed intent on remaining mobile, there is no mistaking the fact that PlayStation Vita is the proper home of the Grand Theft Auto Trilogy.
Ultimately the choice is up to Rockstar, but by voicing our opinions on the subject we can make that decision much easier. There is a Twitter campaign currently active that urges like-minded fans to let Rockstar Games know that we want the re-mastered (PlayStation 2) Grand Theft Auto Trilogy on Vita. Inform Rockstar that there is an audience, and that it’s on PlayStation Vita – where the game deserves to be.