Vita fans are a very resilient bunch. It seems that every so often, a new challenge is thrown in the way of their pursuit of system satisfaction, and the latest bone of contention revolves around release dates; or more specifically release parity.
Perhaps we have been spoilt? After all we have been very lucky and a huge amount of titles, and more to the point, indie titles enjoy simultaneous release dates (and cross-buy) with their PS4 and PS3 counterparts, thanks in no part to the talented and experienced studios working with these titles.
In recent months however, there have been quite a few notable Vita absences. Teslagrad, Bastion, Axiom Verge, Oddworld: New ‘N’ Tasty and many others have all been subject to delays for their Vita versions and I’m not so sure that Spry Fox’s Road Not Taken is ever going to come. Nom Nom Galaxy has been canned altogether, whilst the upcoming Mighty No. 9 is also not going to release at the same time as its console equivalents. It doesn’t stop there either, with Vita versions of Borderlands 2, Minecraft, Disney Infinity 2.0 and Resident Evil Revelations 2 failing to arrive at the same time as their console counterparts, and as I started writing this piece, Galak-Z was also essentially cancelled.
It certainly seems that Vita owners are getting the short shrift of the situation. Now don’t get me wrong, of course I would much rather have these games than not – only a fool would say otherwise, but I can’t help but think that delays only impact the effectiveness of the title in the long run.
The most noise seems to be made for the PS4 version, and you can understand that to a degree. It’s the far more successful and popular system and, if you want to maximise the impact that your game can make, you are going to want to push it on the more prominent device; it’s simple business sense and gamers – and especially Vita owners – often forget that gaming is a business.
The problem is, however, that usually these games (particularly indies) are cross-buy enabled. When the Vita version finally arrives, it’s going to be released with very little fanfare or mention and can very easily slip under the radar. Prominent gaming websites are already not discussing Vita options of games, and when it does come out they will already have covered it, and not be all that interested in covering again; for them it has had its day. With many gamers not taking up the offer to grab the Vita version of the game, it is effectively wasting however much money was ploughed into continuing development.
For the most part I can sympathise with developers. With limited resources and time available, developing for multiple platforms at once can be very difficult, and that is before the lack of horsepower that the Vita has compared to some of these other systems is accounted for. As these games become more ambitious, I suppose it was inevitable that the Vita would begin to struggle.
Regardless of any understanding for the circumstances of delays, I personally feel that by releasing versions separately you are ultimately impacting the future performance of the title. By the time you eventually release the game, will it have lost its relevance? Will it be released at the same time as something more high profile and therefore lost its chance? Or worse, people will already have played it on their PS4 and won’t fancy playing it again, cross-buy or not.
That last line is also true of Resident Evil Revelations 2. After we were told at December’s PlayStation Experience that it would be Vita-bound, Vita owners the world over were bemused as the episodic content was released for other systems and it was only when it had finished the chapters elsewhere were we told of the handheld versions fate.
This “summer” and not developed in house, but ported by a studio best known for indie titles. When it finally arrives, will it have lost any momentum it could have built up? And with no disrespect to Frima Studios, are people already doubting how good the port will be? Not only that, with an 18th August release date it’s going head-to-head with one of the most anticipated independent titles this year in Mike Bithell’s Volume – which has the Vita version releasing at the same time as the PS4 version…*
The Vita is struggling in the marketplace, this is not brand new information. It’s just frustrating and ludicrous to me that something that has found its niche as a haven for indie titles and specialist games is now starting to have them delayed and put on something that already has the titles that the Vita does not. What is the aim here, to make the Vita even more irrelevant?
We would all of course prefer that developers take their time, we would all rather get a working and effective game rather than something rushed to meet a deadline, but as many other developers do manage to release multiple editions at the same time is it too much to ask that everyone tries to do the same? If not for the sake of the Vita’s library, but for the performance of the game itself.
After all, you still want the Vita version to sell, you don’t want to have developed it and then have it flop, right?
This editorial first appeared in issue four of The Vita Lounge Magazine. Look out for more opinion pieces in future issues!
* When this article was first written (for the issue 4 deadline of July 31st) we did not know that Volume for the Vita would be delayed. It’s actually quite ironic that the delay was announced the day the magazine launched and probably illustrates the point of the article even more!