Once again we find a good number of readers, viewers, and even writers or leaders of this news industry reacting viscerally. With Tomb Raider showing itself to not entirely be exclusive, a lot of PlayStation eyes seem to be focused on the Vita, and the lack of any reveals for the little machine from this summer.
It’s enough to have a slew of people believing that the Vita will die, or be abandoned, or needs saving, but these are extreme reactions for a handheld that is only three years old (two years depending on your region). Especially extreme when you consider that most handhelds tend to have longer life cycles than consoles do.
- The PSP has ended its manufacturing in Japan, and is slated to end its production around the world this year. That is a 10 year life cycle, the same length still expected for the 360 and PS3.
- Nintendo DS lasted 10 years like the PSP, and is survived by the Nintendo 3DS which can play its games.
- Game Boy, and its many iterations lasted for just over 14 years.
Most will point to a lack of support in games for the device, but it can be easy to neglect that PSP had the same problem even though it had sold more at this point in its life span. The same issue can be pointed out for the 3DS, and even the Game Boy, halfway through its lifetime.
It’s a little known fact that the Game Boy was just about dead before Pokémon reached store shelves, documented by IGN’s history of the portable. Knowledge within the smaller industry from back in the 1990’s used to be that consoles near their end after roughly five years, and should be replaced just after that. But Pokémon gave the handheld new life, and created the opportunity to double its lifespan.
“The collect ’em [all slogan] hadn’t aged a day in the two and a half years since its Japanese debut. Once again, it built slowly at first, but before long it was everywhere. Sales of the Game Boy hardware spiked, and old green-screened bricks were dusted off once again. It was the first platinum selling game on the system since Kirby’s Dream Land 2. The Game Boy was back.”
It took one game — technically two, red and blue — to pave the way for seven more years of Game Boy and gaming on the go, when many observed and likely would have said, “Game Boy is at its end.”
As many likely recall, and Justin Towell of GameRadar eloquently summarized, the 3DS had a very rocky and slow start, yet it became a massive and (unlikely) success. Nintendo’s successor to the DS launched in early 2011 and needed a price cut almost immediately and that would harm their overall profits. Yet the company was able to turn this issue around with a larger, easier to produce model, in the 3DS XL, and consumers happily accepted the larger version. What followed were the necessary games:
“Around this time, the console’s problem of a lack of games was also solved with around 6 high-quality releases. The likes of Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7, and–to a lesser extent–Luigi’s Mansion 2 and Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D all have that traditional Nintendo first-party gloss and appeal. There was a free game if you bought three of an amazing selection, then Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Pokemon X/Y arrived and the 3DS simply wasn’t in trouble any more. The turnaround was complete.”
While its pace was nowhere as stifled as the Vita’s, it is the most recent example within this constantly evolving industry on how to turn the fortunes of a system around; most importantly how swiftly they can make the 180 degree turn.
There is something else that can be concluded from Sony’s reveals at E3 and Gamescom this year, not just a feeling of emptiness for their handheld. This idea can be drawn from the actual lack of announcements for all of the PlayStation consoles. By this I mean the lack of blockbuster reveals, games being worked on by Sony’s many first party studios. They’ve obviously had ample opportunity to really give owners of the hardware to anticipate the future, but why have they held back?
Unlike Microsoft, who has completely come out swinging, possibly even revealing every single game and exclusive that is in development for Xbox One, Sony has stayed their hand. It is unclear why but my well educated guess would be that they have found no reason to jump the gun on games. As I reasoned in my first article for Middle of Nowhere Gaming, many developers and publishers are likely holding back on giving release dates and reveals, to save face for their work in case it needs more time. Sony has a clear and almost brazen advantage with their PlayStation 4 for this generation, why not take their time? Why not allow their developers another year to make those first PlayStation brand games more awe striking. Moreover, can the same be assumed for their other products as well?
For those who may still remain uninformed, the PS4 and PlayStation TV are both products that can be, and are meant to be paired with the Vita for different gameplay experiences. Both products are new to most regions and deserve the spotlight for the moment. In the past, for other conferences, many used to say ‘Sony spent too much time talking about the Vita’ or ’It feels like they’re trying to push the Vita too hard’. I believe that they learned from those sentiments this year, but didn’t neglect the handheld either.
Instead, if or when the PS4 and PS TV achieve greater momentum, they’ll once more shift back to the Vita, complimenting the device with a new version, and a slew of Sony brand titles. This is, by point of fact, how Sony operates when one of their devices falls behind. Like the PS3 in the beginning of its life cycle, or the PSP after pirates, emulators and slow load times seemed to want to bury it, they came back with better games, and better hardware.
Sony does not give up. And neither does Microsoft or Nintendo for that matter. It’s only been one year, in the third year of the device that we’ve been without major game reveals. That does not mean they aren’t coming, or that we’re seeing an end, but more likely smart, calculated business for the future.
As I’ve proposed here, what we’re seeing is a lesson in progress. Early adopters of the PSP and 3DS were jilted, scorned by a lack of high quality, ‘triple A’ titles. Those who learned adapted, and continue to wait for the console making games to drop for the handheld, and in the Vita’s case, the audience has decided that the titles just aren’t there yet. Instead of asking ourselves if the system is dead only three years in — just a year after it has met its console match made in heaven and their child, the PS TV, is on its way to international recognition — let’s ask the right question. Instead of assuming Sony has thrown in the proverbial towel, as they never have, let’s make the right assumption. How much longer until the proper Vita titles are revealed? How much longer until Sony comes back, and shows us all why the Vita will not go quietly?
Scott Deisner is an Associate Writer for MONG. He enjoys story and character driven content above all else, things made from potatoes, and long walks on sandy beaches ;P You can follow him on Twitter.