Mobile Gaming Didn’t Kill The Vita — Sony Did

Mobile Gaming Didn’t Kill The Vita — Sony Did

I have long been a fan of the PlayStation Vita. So this quote from one of Sony’s head honchos about portable gaming seriously bums me out.

Here’s Shuhei Yoshida at a recent Q&A, as transcribed by Eurogamer, when asked if Sony will ever develop a Vita successor:

“That’s a tough question. People have mobile phones and it’s so easy to play games on smartphones. And many games on smartphones are free, or free to start. I myself am a huge fan of PlayStation Vita and we worked really hard on designing every aspect. Touch-based games are fun – there are many games with really good design. But having sticks and buttons make things totally different. So I hope, like many of you, that this culture of playing portable games continues but the climate is not healthy for now because of the huge dominance of mobile gaming.”

This is nonsense. The climate is fine. Nintendo has sold over 50 million 3DSes and they don’t even have Minecraft. There’s no doubt that mobile gaming has had a huge impact on the traditional video game industry, but when it comes to the Vita flopping, Sony has nobody but themselves to blame.

Here is a partial list of reasons the Vita has failed:

  • Sony decided to gouge customers by forcing them to use proprietary memory cards, then jacking up the prices to obscene levels. (A 32GB Vita memory card retails for $143; standard 32GB SDHC memory cards cost $26.)
  • Sony marketed the Vita as a portable system with “console-quality gaming,” then went on to pack it with shoddy spinoffs like Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Call of Duty: Declassified, and Resistance: Burning Skies.
  • Despite all this, a subset of hardcore gamers quickly realised that the Vita was a fantastic machine for indies and niche Japanese games. So what did Sony do? They decided to start marketing it as a portable accessory to the PS4 — as if anyone would dish out an extra $357 to play Destiny on the toilet.
  • Vita owners also realised that the machine is fantastic for playing old PS1 and PSP games. Sony saw how much money they could make there, and they immediately filled out the PlayStation Store, pleasing fans with truckloads of classic new games every week. Just kidding. They ignored it. Even today you need to use a silly shortcut just to get some old games working on your Vita.
  • Remember the PS2? One of the most successful video game consoles in history? Chock full of great games that could be ported to the Vita in various ways? Someone should remind Sony of that.
  • Remember BioShock Vita? lmao
  • Sony has pretty much spent the past two years pretending the Vita doesn’t exist, ignoring it at every major trade show and convention. It’s embarrassing.

Remember when the 3DS launched back in 2011? Remember how hard it flopped? Instead of pulling back and blaming the “climate” for all of their woes, Nintendo doubled down, releasing new models and filling it up with stellar games to the point where it’s now one of the best machines you can buy. Granted, Sony doesn’t have Mario or Zelda or the storied development acumen of their competitors in Kyoto. But if they hadn’t spent the past three and a half years firing a giant rifle at their own feet, maybe things would look a little different for the wonderful PlayStation Vita.


  • I bought a vita for one game. DJ max technika. It played it well and I loved it. Alas I mainly use it for destiny in bed these days. Very happy to know that superbeat xonic (spiritual successor to DJ max) is coming out. As that will be all I need to spend hundreds of hours on it.

  • Hi, I know this is just another story to you and you’ve not researched it well but Uncharted GA is not a poor game by any means and does not deserve to be thrown in with Nihilistic’s piss poor FPS games. It was actually a really good effort. Personally I am really happy with the Vita as a games system though I only have SCEJ and 3rd party JPN devs to thank for that. The western devs and SCEA have let us down and even though I’m a long term PS user with a PS3, 4, Vita and TV in my house I sure as hell won’t touch the PS VR as it is guaranteed to be ignored within twelve months as was the PSTV, PS Vita, PS Move and Playstation TV before it.

    • Yeah, Golden Abyss is actually a decent game. I had a good time with it. Nihilistic should bear a lot of the blame for the shit-show that was CoD on Vita. Mind you, I wonder if Sony could have salvaged it. It probably required too much time when they needed a release in that honeymoon window.

      I think the memory card prices did play a part in making the system unattractive, especially when the 3DS comes included with a 4GB card (although not sure how long that has been the case).

      In the end, I think that a combination of high component costs and high development costs (bearing in mind the quality of graphics required for the Vita) meant that Sony would lose money on the Vita unless there was a massive uptake. When this didn’t happen Sony wasn’t about to throw good money after bad, and just kept Vita on life support for the duration.

  • So true, my Vita has really grown on me and I love it, but it really feels like Sony just didn’t try to even market it effectively or leverage it’s capabilities.

  • Hold on a second – “then went on to pack it with shoddy spinoffs like Uncharted: Golden Abyss” – Golden Abyss is arguably better than Drake’s Fortune. As @beakeroo said, you can not liken it to Nihilistic games.

    I don’t disagree with your point – it is Sony’s fault the Vita is in the state it is, they don’t support it nearly enough in the West. But hey I don’t know one person that owns a vita who doesn’t love it. Recently bought one for my brother and he just can’t believe how good it is.

      • Ah fair enough – Not that I want to trumpet remote play but I would say it is definitely something I use and would outweigh the value of trade in. But hey to each their own pal!

  • I’m still a firm believer that Nintendo killed off the Vita by obtaining exclusive rights to Monster Hunter. It’s what kept PSP sales going strong in Japan until it’s death, and not having it at all on the Vita was a death sentence.

    • I agree that the Japanese sales would have been MUCH better with Monster Hunter or Yokai Watch, but Nintendo would have been crazy not to go for exclusivity on those properties, especially when buying such exclusivity would be much cheaper in the beginning before Vita install base got too big. Nintendo couldn’t afford to have Vita as a strong competitor, since 3DS sales have been all that has kept Nintendo going really. To an extent, mobile is to blame for shrinking the target market for handheld sales, and it then became a much more kill-or-be-killed battle between 3DS and Vita. Sony didn’t want to go full retard because it still had PS3 as well as PS4 on the way. Nintendo didn’t have a fall-back position anywhere near as strong.

      • The Wii was the 2nd best selling console of all time, Nintendo were not relying purely on the 3DS to keep them afloat. Just because they had a year or two in the red when the Wii U first launched doesn’t mean they were in dire financial straits.

        • Yup, at launch Nintendo had a pile of cash which would shame scrooge mcduck, and Sony was making huge cuts.

          • I’m sure Sony’s lack of funds had something to do with why it didn’t go too hard on Vita when Nintendo pulled out the stops with the 3DS. Sony had to choose its battles wisely, whereas Nintendo didn’t have a realistic alternative apart from putting its efforts behind the 3DS.

        • I don’t mean that Nintendo was struggling for cash, but they were definitely struggling for market presence. The Wii was on its way out, and the 3DS was not doing that well. If Sony had gone in hard with the Vita, Nintendo would have been floundering, with the Wii U still a year away. I think that was why Nintendo made the decision to really go hard on the 3DS by dropping the price and snapping up exclusivity on key Japanese third party franchises. It needed something it could rely upon for market share while the Wii U found its feet. The fact that the Wii U has been struggling has seen Nintendo double down on 3DS in the interim, possibly ushering in the NX as a handheld hybrid rather than as a traditional home console.

    • Monster Hunter would have no doubt improved sales in Japan but it would have had very little impact in the western world. MH isn’t anywhere near as big outside of Japan.

      • Yes, but one of the huge problems with the Vita is that it’s stuck in a viscious cycle.
        The playerbase is small because there’s no games, and nobody wants to create games because it has such a small playerbase.
        A huge boom in Japan would of done quite a bit to fix that.

        The Vita is a fantastic piece of hardware, it’s the software that’s really let it down.

        • Agreed. Sony made a huge mistake in letting NIntendo take Monster Hunter away from them. It was, for a while, their killer app, and killer apps bring audiences which starts a virtuous cycle of development and user base.

          Even if it didn’t sell well outside of Japan, it would have resulted in an increase in Vita development more generally, and so addressed the Vita’s main weakness – its paucity of

          • 100% correct, but the Japanese are an amazingly stubborn country. The will avoid what’s obvious, especially companies like Sony, who aren’t really smart when it comes to their business decisions. They make good products, but their support is poor as. However, Monster Hunter would have made the console, like it did with the PSP… And I love (still love) my PSP and my Vita, but damn…

  • Then they also released the PS-TV but made it incompatible with a bunch of the Vita’s best games. Really they should have patched their Vita library to have alternate control schemes on PS-TV.

  • I too have a Vita but can only count on one hand the number of exclusives for that.

    Got the Little Big Planet bundle and later got Uncharted but the game I really liked on it was Gravity Rush.

    The Vita had a lot of potential but Sony basically followed the trend porting everything rather than create new IPs or encourage third party developers to do so.

    At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the hardware is. It’s the games that make gaming.

  • I really like my Vita despite having so few games for it.

    Was thinking about this subject last night & what truly killed the Vita was the price of the memory cards & the fact that Sony never dropped the price to help increase sales.

    I primarily use my Vita to play my PS1 Squaresoft downloads but if I had a proper sized memory card I would actually buy download only titles.

    • You can order 64GB cards online (from play-asia, for example) but they are pretty pricey.

      I’m not sure that the memory cards killed the Vita, as if you buy games on card the memory card is only needed to save games – although they did a lot of damage to its abilities as a downloaded game platform.

      The bigger impact of the memory cards was that, just before or just after purchase, you would find that you were expected to plunk down another chunk of change for a memory card. I’m sure it put a lot of people off purchasing just for that reason, and left a lot of people with a lasting negative impression of the platform before they even had a chance to try it.

      • More that stores like EB & JB didn’t tell their customers that the Vita needed a extra memory card to play, save & download games (also an issue with the PSP) & Sony didn’t say that ALL data was saved onto the memory cards -so useless background info & updates ended up taking up chunks of precious space.

  • I love my vita, but it really is sad to think about what could have been. I completely agree that the only one to blame for its “failure” is Sony. The lack of support they’ve shown is astounding and quite insulting to those such as myself that shelled out for one and supported it.

  • I must admit that I only own a 3DS as I can’t justify the expense for a Vita. There just isn’t any system selling games on it in my opinion.

    • The hundreds of jrpgs and older playstation games i missed out on when i was younger and even newr ones like Stranger’s Wrath and Persona 4 did it for me. Easily spent hundreds if hours more on my Vita than 3ds, though i generally use my 3ds for multiplayer games like Monster Hunter.

      • I have to admit that Persona 4 was the game that almost tipped me over the edge into buying a Vita.

  • Sony marketed the Vita as a portable system with “console-quality gaming,” then went on to pack it with shoddy spinoffs like Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Call of Duty: Declassified, and Resistance: Burning Skies.

    This has been Sony’s problem in the handheld space since they announced the original PSP. Outside of the market for handheld JRPGs, Sony has failed to grasp that very few people want to play AAA HD action blockbusters is less-than-optimum conditions.

    I could list a dozen Nintendo franchises that work brilliantly on a handheld because the games are bright and simply designed.

    The PSP launched with a Wipout game. That tell you everything you need to know.
    It was pretty, it was fast as hell…. it was a sh*tty game to play on a crowded train with inconsistent lighting and a less-than-great control stick.

  • wait wait wait…. so you’re saying Sony don’t really have a clue??? Who’d of thunk that…

    I’ve always thought of Sony as having beautiful hardware, with software written in dos on a x486…lets not get into their marketing dept, poster-child of the term ‘ClusterFuck’

  • Alas, poor Vita! I knew him, Jason; a device of infinite power, of most excellent design; it hath borne me on its back touchpad a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those analogue sticks that I have caressed I know not how oft. Where be your games now? Your power? Your graphics? Your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the Internet on a roar?

  • got my vita to play borderlands on it. was very sad to get a pretty terrible port and havent gone near it since.

  • Persona 4 golden, Gravity Rush, Sound Shapes, OlliOlli, Hotline Miami, Titans Souls, Rogue Legacy, Virtue’s Last Reward, Freedom Wars, Dragons Crown, Lumines Electronic Symphony, FF1 to X2, PSP classics like Dissedia and Tactics Ogre and patapon.

    Tbh there is heaps to play on the vita and I love mine. I still have a backlog of stuff on it I need to finish.
    Sony could have pushed it a bit harder but I think if people wanted to buy it they would have. It’s not like there’s nothing to play on it. People just already have a 3ds or a phone and don’t really need it. People don’t give crap about proprietary memory if there’s a game they want to play on it. (for me it was p4 golden) I think sony is right. It’s sad but i figure nintendo’s next handheld will get a massive graphics buff and nobody will miss it (the vita) at all.

    • Nobody is doubting that there is a volume of games. But to be realistic, a handheld, like a console, has to be judged on that games where it is the first platform (before ports there of emerged) or what exclusives exist on it.

      Like many other platforms (PC included) the number of true exclusives has dwindled to the rare category as publishers and/or distributors try to ensure all platforms are covered so they don’t lose any segments of their market.

      Like others, the Vita might have shone if the mentality from the 90 and early 00s was still in play. Make a game that utilised and pushed the features of the platform it was on. That just doesn’t happen anymore because not everyone owns a Vita, not everyone owns an XBone, etc.

      Sadly though this is the age we are now in where games are now multi-platforms from the get go and technically do not have an original platform anymore.

  • Purchased mine for Gravity Rush and Project Diva. Then I discovered Tearaway, a memorable and fun game. Now very much looking forward to Gravity Rush 2. 😀

    • Same here, if it werent for those two games i never would have touched it, then the limited edition project diva one happened and the money just kinda… jumped out of my wallet

  • The Vita is the best handheld I’ve ever used, hands down. I say that, and yet, I’ve bought two of them, and traded in both of them. Each time, I start off thinking “wow, this thing is amazing” only to be completely disinterested in its library, filled with indie titles that I have no interest playing, and shitty ports of games. There are good games on the system but they are few and far between.

    I eventually bought a PS TV just so I could play Persona 4 Golden (and maybe Persona 3 eventually) but Sony really screwed up with this thing. Which sucks, because it’s such an amazing device. It controls great, the graphical capability really wows me, but the library of games is such a turn off to me.

    • Yeah agreed, my mate has one and the hardware/ps4 streaming is great but besides that…. the library is nothing to get excited about (for me).

      If I owned one and a ps4 I would just use it for rocket league.

      • Pretty much. Like, there are great games on there, and I’m sure there are a lot of people who like ’em, but all of the games I play on Vita are ones I can easily play elsewhere. Playing Rocket League on it sounds tempting, though.

      • Holy shit. I’m obviously aware of the remote play feature, but had never put two and two together and realized I can fucking play Rocket League anywhere in my house.
        I’m trying it tonight.

          • No good, unfortunately. The input lag is very noticeable (and I’m sitting next to my PS4 with a direct wifi link) and the frame rate drops by juuuust enough that it makes those minute adjustments impossible to make.
            An issue exacerbated by the lack of analog inputs for acceleration, and the less-precise analog stick.
            It’d get you by if it’s all you have but I wouldn’t want to play a ranked game online.

  • I think it’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem. If developers put more effort into developing good games instead of being blinded by console dollars and the few mainstream games that “failed” because they didn’t really leverage the Vita’s capabilities well then Sony would have paid more attention to it. As such, it was left to the indies and Japanese developers to keep the Vita alive which doesn’t attract the “core” gamer crowd which in turn makes it less lucrative for Sony to keep supporting it in any large capacity which in turn makes it less attractive for the AAA industry…

    Personally, the Vita was made for me and I have more games on it than I can keep up with and even more are on the way. It’s disappointing that I can’t do more with it because of Sony’s lack of support but I’m just glad it hasn’t been ignored by everyone. This is also the problem that VR faces. If no one does anything meaningful for it, it will die from the get go and only live on as an enthusiast machine.

  • I love my Vita and have logged many hundreds of hours on the machine so far… but having said that, I think the only big-name exclusive title I’ve played on it is Uncharted GA (which I loved).

    It’s primarily a catch-up device for me. A chance to play all the old games that I missed for one reason or another.

    And it’ll forever hold a special place in my heart for letting me play Metal Gear Solid 1-3 on the daily commute. Never thought those days would come.

  • While I do agree with you for the majority of this, the reason that they haven’t ported ps2 games to the vita, or many at all onto the ps3/4, is, from what I’ve been told, that the ps2 was an incredibly complicated console, especially for today. It’s the reason why the ps3 costed so much at launch, because they had the ps2 stuff inside so you could have backwards-compatibility, until they took it out. Heck running an emulator for the ps2 on a PC with 10x the specs still runs pretty badly because its difficult to emulate. From what I hear it took them ages to get ps2 games like P3 FES on psn for ps3.
    Not only that, if it’s as complicated as I have been told, then the ps vita might not even have the specs to run an emulator of it. Yes, they remade persona 4 for the vita, but that wasn’t a simple emulation, they probably had to do a redesign it for the hardware

  • PS Vita seems like a good platform for platformers. Bring back Crash Bandicoot and release it for Vita! Drown in $$$!!!

  • You can’t even transfer to Vita from PS4, how great is that. And PS1 games just flat out aren’t available on PS4.

  • Don’t care for AAA and LOVE quirky/Indy games, made me a perfect candidate for a Vita. I shelled out for a 64GB card almost as soon as I got it. Had been on PS+ for a while before hand which meant I had plenty of games already. It’s pretty much a Spelunky & Hotline Miami machine bfor me but there are some other great titles too like Flower, Unfinished Swan, Velocity 2X, Dragon’s Crown, anything by Devolver or Curve, OlliOlli, Everybody’s Golf (play heaps of that), Gaucamelee, some of the Lego games (are good). Also just had a baby, Vita is my new best friend, great for parents.

  • Jason……..thank you so much for this article.
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I loved my Vita so much, now it’s collecting dust.
    Sony better wake up. Vita games mostly all suck.
    Using Wifi to share screen gameplay on Vita via ps4 sucks….it lags like crazy!

  • I still believe that the lack of Western support for the PSV is what killed it; The PSV still has plenty of games coming out for it in Japan but then again, none of them are AAA titles. The only really good games are also available on the PS3/4.

    Another problem was the lack of accounts; the PSV was locked to one user account. You can’t share it with family members, and you can’t have multiple accounts from different regions, which sucks if you have both a Western and Japanese PSN account.

  • Yes. The Vita should have come with internal memory, been able to use standard SD cards OR game carts should have been able to hold a save data like the 3DS.

    Less importantly: I also feel that they COULD have designed it better. It’s already bulky for a hand held, it could have at least been comfortable and bulky to help encourage longer play sessions. Kinda like the Shield portable but not necessarily as large. A hand friendly shape, proper triggers and bigger analogs (Which could click, although TBH the touch screen works OK as an R3/L3 substitute than the rear pad which just doesn’t work at all for R2/L2.) Imagine the backwards compatibility options with that control scheme. Heck, I’d debate that they could have looked into making it a portable PS2 instead using smaller PS2 internals. I’d have bought that as well.

    I don’t think the market killed the Vita. Sony’s poor decision making and lackluster marketing did. They had ample opportunity to fix, at minimum, the memory card issue but chose to rather keep their over priced, propriety milk-a-cards (As someone who owns a 32GB vita memory card I feel I’m qualified to say that).

  • The Vita should never have existed, there was no market for it. They were lucky to get the sales they got.

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