Mat Langford’s Gaming World – The State of the PS Vita

I admittedly was very excited for the PS Vita launch. I had it circled on my calendar and couldn’t wait for that day to get here. It came, I bought it, and I loved it. The launch lineup was awesome with at least one really good title in most gaming categories (save for RPG, but we’ll get to that).

But then…nothing.

It’s been quite a while since the Vita has had anything new released for it, and I went from bringing it with me everywhere to not bringing it at all. I’ve played through Uncharted and got most of the trophies. I’ve had my fill of FIFA Soccer. I’ve even played myself out of PvZ and Motorstorm RC. Now, I wait…and wait.

I understand, as with any new platform (handheld especially) that there is a certain incubation period where the developers feel out the situation after launch to see if the water is deep enough to sink a money boat into and start development on a teir-A game. But the feeling of stagnation is something that I just can’t shake. Is the Vita that platform? Will developers start to seriously consider the Vita’s power and bring top game franchises into the handheld stratosphere? As this waiting period gets longer, my suspicion grows.

It’s a tough market out there with the iOS and Android platforms in direct competition. Even though the PS Vita has branded itself the mobile rig for serious gamers, it seems as though the high price point and the fantastic availability of cheaper and infinitely broader catalogues on the mobile devices may yet be Vita’s downfall. One of its strongest points is also one of its biggest weaknesses: Mobile multiplayer. It’s a great idea in theoy, with the 3G models of the Vita allowing players to connect wirelessly from anywhere and play with anyone around the world. But are the 3G speeds fast enough to give gamers the speeds they need in order to multi-play on the go?

A game like Call of Duty on the XBox 360 runs only through the home’s wireless or wired internet connection, and even then, with a bad connection or someone living far away and hosting a match, the experience can be a frustratingly laggy one. Now imagine a person hosting a match over 3G while heading to  work on the train? This may not be the norm, I know, but even joining up in a match on 3G with people harnessing much more suitable home connections would probably result in a pretty bad time.

With studios bringing franchises like CoD and Resistance to the Vita, it would seem as though the big devs are already starting to create and port bigger titles over. But how will these titles stack up with their big-system counterparts. Lets not kid ourselves. The internals of the Vita – while impressive – are nowhere near the power of the big 3 consoles. What kind of overall experience are we going to have with these first person shooters? The small screen real estate may prove to be a severe limitation to hard-core FPS gamers used to playing on televisions and monitors. Will the CoD for Vita be Vita specific? If not, will it  share leaderboards with the PS3 version? If the gameplay is harder to see/use, or the handling on the Vita isn’t exactly up to snuff with the actual PS3 controller, then will we have gamers avoiding it all-together in order to not hurt their scores and achievements on the PS3? It would be an interesting situation if players avoided taking their “game on the go”  because it would inevitably hurt their overall CoD rankings.

It’s a tricky situation, and it will no doubt be speculated upon further when the new Resistance game comes out this month. It will be interesting to see how the game actually feels and plays, as well as how they incorporate the controls and touch functionality into the first, true FPS for the Vita.

We did get Skype this week though. Adding yet another social element to this device that supposedly wasn’t competing with the iPhone. I understand that statement in the gaming sense, the Vita is the go to mobile platform for bigger developers who are – hopefully – waitingto harness the power of the Vita, but do I really need another Facebook/Twitter/Skype device with me, and a much bigger one at that?

One thing is for sure, developers are going to need to start giving Vita gamers a bit more to play if they hope to keep their loyalty high in a iOS/3DS heavy market. But if Resistance bombs on the basis of it being a good shooter on a bad platform, a good fundamental game hampered by bad controls or a poor visual experience, then if you look far enough in the distance, you can see the end of the Vita just over the horizon.

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