“There can be no complacency” – PlayStation Europe CEO Jim Ryan at the PlayStation presentation at Gamescom, August 2014.
I have had a good few hours and a very enjoyable sleep since I watched Sony’s press conference on Tuesday, which has allowed me to have a clearer perspective on the situation. As a PlayStation 4 presentation, it was immaculate. Showcasing many amazing titles set to launch next year, proudly announcing over 10 million sales worldwide in less than a year and expertly demonstrating the ability to share your games with your friends over the internet – everyone associated with the PS4 must be incredibly proud. In the battle for “next gen” supremacy, Sony continue to pull away from Microsoft and it’s very much objectives achieved and surpassed for all involved.
The problem is that it’s not the only platform they have, or the only audience that expects attention. Whilst they are limited to what can be achieved in an hour long segment, we once again sit here lamenting a lack of coverage for Sony’s handheld. You could probably say it was expected, especially after the lacklustre showing at E3 just two months ago. Gamescom is different, though. It’s “our” show, it’s where we were introduced to Tearaway. It’s where we got to see Killzone Mercenary for the first time. It’s where we were told that Borderlands 2 was coming, Football Manager Classic could be expected and also where we saw Shahid Kamal – he of Strategic Content and vocal Vita advocate – last year proudly stood on stage and rolled off multiple projects that would also come to Vita. Whatever your own view on the man or the show last year, it had a Vita flavour and we all left the show at least appreciative of that. It hadn’t been forgotten.
The same cannot be said of Tuesday, where the only real mention of the platform came from Mike Bithell whilst he discussed his impressive Volume title. The other mention of the Vita was when Media Molecule were on stage, taking the most unique IP that the Vita has and taking away the reason to buy it. Many owners felt betrayed. We have subsequently learned that a few games in the show-reel such as Papers, Please will be making it over. However, this was so poorly communicated that the after effects of the show resulted in a Twitter meltdown and some unwarranted abuse thrown at PlayStation employees who are prominent. Shahid took matters into his own hands as he tweeted many titles that are being developed, but this is the point; there are games coming. There are reasons to buy the platform. It’s just Sony either doesn’t want to or cannot afford the coverage to the system. This is what is disastrous and the ultimate reason for the plight of the Vita – exposure and perception. The Vita is two and a half years old and still the mainstream opinion remains negative. The bigger sites that hold so much leverage over what people buy are still in the camp that the Vita is a failure, and performances like the last two conferences only serve to back up this notion. Why do Sony not want to put the Vita on a pedestal? There are so many amazing experiences to enjoy, why not proudly demonstrate this?
Gamescom – like E3 – is a games conference conducted over a period of days but many are only focused on the keynote. We know that the next few days will result in videos and coverage of titles coming up such as Minecraft, Frozen Synapse Prime, Flame Over, Velocity 2x and many more but is it unrealistic to have shown these for a few minutes? Were the lessons from E3 not heeded? Or do those in power not care? The titles that are inbound are also incredibly divisive of the Vita audience. The vast majority of the 100 Vita titles currently known to be in development will be indie titles. We have welcomed and embraced the indie scene on the Vita, these experiences from incredibly talented studios have given us many hours of fun. We are incredibly grateful that the indie scene erupted, but even the most stoic of Vita defenders would struggle to keep a straight face and say it’s what they bought a Vita for.
However, most owners have embraced the culture, adapted their expectations and the result of that is a multiple game backlog giving many titles to play, and with the localisation of many Japanese first-party experiences Vita owners will continue to have many games to play for a long time. We will continue to promote discuss and champion these games until we are no longer needed, which will hopefully be a long time. The problem is that we only have a limited reach, are not mainstream and cannot reach the vast majority of Vita owners to tell them this. It’s why large conferences and large gaming site opinion, as well as marketing and advertising are so crucial to the success of a system.
The Vita is a platform in its own right, and there are reportedly more than 8 million Vita owners across the world, who spent significant sums of money on it. We just want Sony to stand up and be proud of the handheld they created, and demonstrate to owners, fans and potential buyers that this is a system worth buying for the games and experiences it has. Not to Remote Play, rent older titles or even to hide away out of embarrassment. If Sony cannot dedicate time to the Vita at these big conferences because of the need to compete with the Xbox One, then focus the Vita on its own, separately.
I know for a fact that the fans, as well as those actually developing the games for it would be happy with that. This is why it’s just so frustrating to see Jim Ryan standing on stage and proudly proclaiming that there can be no complacency, when we can see Sony happily being complacent with the Vita. We bought your system. We deserve some attention and support too.