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How Sony could save the Playstation Vita (but won't)

As it stands, the Vita's probably only getting two types of games from here on out: things that will make a profit with just the Japanese market, and ports of PSN and Steam indie games developed first elsewhere. As much as Sony seems dead set on turning the Vita into a glorified WiiU GamePad for the PS4, it could easily be just as good as the PSP or 3DS as a standalone handheld. So let's take a trip down hypothetical road and imagine how things could have been different.

Leveraging the Back Catalog:

What's that? Another excuse to post an image of Crash Bandicoot? You got it.

One of the major uses for my Vita over the last few months has been for PS1 emulation. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. I love those games. Problem is it only became that way for me because Sony screwed up and let you download any PS1 game you can buy on PS3 or PSP directly to the Vita. Due to licensing issues Sony is either unwilling or unable to resolve, you can't normally do this with every PS1 Classic (especially in North America).

This is something that definitely needs to be resolved. More than 1,200 PS1 games were released during the system's lifetime. Less than 150 are available on Vita in North America, including the Japanese imports. What gives, Sony? The PSP library available on Vita is also much smaller than it could be. And given that we know the PS3 is capable of software PS2 emulation (thank you hackers), why not bring that library to Vita as well? The system is nearly as powerful as a PS3. Hell, they have Dreamcast emulators running on tablets and smartphones with similar internal specs to the Vita. Why not expand Classics to Sega's backlog, like Nintendo has done on the Wii and 3DS with Virtual Console?

Turning my Vita into a Genesis emulator? Sign me up, please.

Is this the only thing the Vita needs to be? Of course not. But the idea of having a portable PS1 and PS2, in addition to the Dreamcast, Saturn, Genesis, and more? Could you imagine a device like this a few years ago? And given how close the Vita is to the PS3 in power, why not go for all three generations? You couldn't emulate it of course, but you could bring over the best PS3 games to Vita. Fuck The Last of Us on PS4. Why not The Last of Us and all three Uncharted games on Vita. Give me a discount for buying it once on PS3 (if not Cross Buy) and I'd be a lot more okay with double dipping.

Finding a Middle Ground with Third Parties:

Ideally, I would love for Sony to go to Ubisoft and say "we'll pay to bring Far Cry 4 to Vita, you just have to sell it Cross Buy with the PS3 and PS4 versions". Forget system exclusive content. Give me a free copy of something on my handheld and I'll buy all my third party games on your console instead of the competitor's. Remote Play with PS4 and using PS Now for PS3 games is nice, but this is a far superior solution.

Won't look like it does on PS4, but I'd still love to take my Far Cry destruction on the go.

Would that put more of a cost on Sony's end? Yes, but I think it'd be worth it. It'll bring more third party licensing revenue to Sony, and they'll have one more game on Vita for people to buy standalone if they don't want it on PS4 or PS3 (or they just don't own one). It's a win-win for Sony, even if the initial investment is more. With the right marketing for the program (read: a promise of free promotion for any third parties that sign on) I see it pulling in enough money to justify doing it in the first place.

Hopefully, this wouldn't just be for retail. Valiant Hearts, Strider, DuckTales. Why are these games not on Vita? They don't really tax the PS3, so I doubt it would be incredibly difficult to bring them to Vita. Especially with the APIs and development tools Sony has already created for doing just that. Cross Buy, Cross Save, Cross Play, Cross Controller. These are the types of things that get me to purchase one game over another. And that goes across platforms and storefronts, including those that otherwise wouldn't make Sony any money.

Using Playstation TV to Expand the Installed Base:

This thing has far more potential than most realize. It's up to Sony to actually use it.

The PSTV (known as Vita TV in the Eastern market), could be quite a big deal if positioned correctly. The $100 MSRP gives the base model an incredibly low barrier to entry. But I think the bundle needs a bit more. A PSTV with a Dualshock 4, a memory card, and a month of Plus would be a much better deal at $150. Just enable the DS4 for Vita touch screen/panel use when possible, patch PS Now so PS3 games with analog face buttons will function with the DS4, and allow handheld Vitas to be used as controllers for PSTV. That way all your gaming bases are covered, and the PSTV is immediately a much better value proposition.

Combined with the aforementioned backlog of three Playstation console generations, two handheld generations, and potentially catalogs from former manufacturers like Sega, NEC, and SNK and suddenly you've got a better $100 gaming micro console than any of these Android alternatives. Sony immediately has by far the greatest competitor in a field that Amazon, Apple, and Google all see the potential for profit from. Rather than having to fragment the Playstation ecosystem with a special low budget console, they can just expand the Vita ecosystem (thus increasing the developer incentive to support the thing).

Rather than making a special SoC and OS for your Bravias, just put a PSTV in it.

Here's the clincher though: PSTV needs to be the hardware and OS of choice for all Sony smart televisions, not Android TV. Assuming Sony can get every major streaming media partner on board, there's no reason they need to support Google's ecosystem and online store. If the Bravia division can turn things around (and this could actually help with that), every smart TV sale is another Vita in somebody's home. That means another device that can Remote Play with PS4, another device that can do PS Now, and another device that can buy and play games through the Vita's PS Store. And Sony pockets all that revenue, not Google.

Oh and, Ya Know, Maybe Some First Party Games:

No, I wasn't going to skip over this. Right now, the Vita's biggest issue is a lack of upcoming exclusives. Shipping another game on the scale of Uncharted or Killzone isn't feasible on the Vita. They cost too much to make and they don't sell enough copies to be profitable. Especially not next to their superior console counterparts. Instead, Sony needs to work with its smaller second party studios and some of its smaller internal teams on lower risk, lower budget projects.

...so I guess Sony is just done making original experiences like this on Vita?

Sony may not have the IP catalog that Nintendo's got, but as I've touched on in the past it's filled with a number of gems. LocoRoco, Ape Escape, MediEvil, PaRappa, Patapon, Jak and Daxter. Hell, even more recent games like Puppeteer or Into the Nexus, which didn't necessarily get the attention they deserved on PS3, would be a perfect fit on Vita. I think the business model Nintendo has used for the 3DS has worked wonders for them. No need to fix what ain't broke here. Even just one retail exclusive per season would be a massive improvement over the complete drought they've given us in 2014 outside of the Eastern market.

I think the Vita would also be a great place for some PS4 Cross Buy games. A new Cool Boarders or Jet Moto might not work as a big budget PS4 exclusive. Why not a budget priced, Cross Buy release instead? I could easily see a new ATV Offroad Fury, LBP Kart, or Motorstorm using this model as well. I figure Sony plans on using its AAA retail games to leverage new PS4 purchases, so future PSN games like Resogun and Entwined could come to Vita as day one Cross Buy titles. I can't imagine most of those being massively difficult to port, and knowing that you have "free" games waiting for you on a new platform you haven't bought yet makes it that much easier to justify buying one as a consumer.

Miscellaneous/Everything Else:

My thoughts on Vita Memory Cards in my best Joe Pesci voice: You muddafucka you!

With the aforementioned, I think Sony would be golden. Cheaper memory cards (4GB - $10, 8GB - $15, 16GB - $25, 32GB - $40, 64GB - $60) would help. A PS4 and Vita bundle, either $500 just for both systems or $550 with Plus and a memory card, would also be a smart move. And I still say a $200 Vita bundle with Minecraft and Lego Marvel would do wonders in the US for younger gamers. But more so than anything, the thing just needs the right marketing and the right PR for once. Because as it stands, Sony's comments about the thing's future really haven't done them any favors.

Could they do this? Sure. Do I think this would work? Yes. Will they attempt anything remotely like this? I highly, highly doubt it. And as a Vita owner, that's pretty disappointing. What do you all think? Am I asking too much? Would this be a good idea? Love to hear your thoughts in the comments, as always. If you like what you've read, feel free to share/like/upvote/etc.
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About ctg867one of us since 2:47 AM on 11.29.2013

I'm an (aging) dude who plays games and comments about stuff. Been on Dtoid since 2010-ish, back during the Sterling days, though this account's a bit newer than that. Don't post on the FP anymore but you can find me on Qtoid and (occasionally) the Cblogs.

I also stream on Twitch sometimes, if you're interested: