gamescom 2012: Did Sony resuscitate the Vita?
E3 2012 for Vita owners was a disaster, plain and simple. With this current generation of home consoles in their twilight years, and no imminent announcements about the next generation, Sony had a golden opportunity to really go to town – shouting about their brand new handheld. What they chose to do instead, in the interests of keeping their briefing brief apparently, was totally overlook the twenty-five Vita games on the show floor to fit in announcements about well-worn franchises on the outgoing PS3. For the first time in my Vita owning life, I was genuinely worried about my investment. Sony really did look like they were going to blow another handheld launch.
Fast forward a few months – I and many other early adopters were hoping that Sony would pull something out for Gamescom. Maybe somebody high up at Sony took the criticism seriously, or maybe it was always planned this way. I don’t know, but in Germany they gave the kind of press conference many of us Vita owners had been waiting for. Maybe talk of the console being dead is a little over the top, but there’s no denying that it’s in a bad place right now. What would Sony bring to Gamescom to show they were still serious about the Vita?
After giving virtually no insight into future releases for the Vita at E3, there was only really one way to go at Gamescom, and that was all out. They kicked off their charm offensive with Little Big Planet Vita and Playstation Allstars, the latter being used to introduced Cross Buy, a new scheme that allows you own both PS3 and Vita versions of some cross-play titles, but only pay for one of them. Then came an “exclusive new look” at Assassins Creed: Liberation and another mention for Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified along with the announcement of a special edition Vita bundle. Rounding off the presentation of already known future releases were FIFA 13 and Need for Speed: Most Wanted. No game-play footage, but reassuring to know they’re still on the way. A quick pause to slip in the news that certain PS One classics would be playable this month, and then on to the new games.
First to break cover, and the stand out game of the briefing in my opinion, was Media Molecule’s delightful looking Tearaway; at last a brand new AAA IP for Vita owners to get excited about. To wrap up the Vita section, Sony started with a teaser for Killzone Mercenary, and finished by revealing that PS Plus is coming, and showing some in-game footage of Call of Duty. The PS Vita love-in was over, and suddenly it all seemed so simple for Sony – show a little flesh and get gamers interested again.
So, did Sony save the Vita at Gamescom? On the whole, just about I think. I came away from the stream feeling much happier that some big games are actually on the way, and reassured that there was a real plan in place to turn the console around. My only gripe is that it’s all in the future. There’s no meat today. If you’re like me, and your Vita is currently little more than a mobile YouTube player, games launched for Christmas are not soon enough. If I was to guess, I would say that Sony’s plan was that new owners would tide themselves over by downloading PSP games until the real games hit. Not a bad idea, but I had a PSP, I’ve already bought and played the PSP games I’m interested in. I want new games, built from the ground up to harness the Vita’s horsepower.
Post Gamescom the Vita is out of intensive care. It’s sitting up in bed, eating regular meals and receiving visitors. If Sony wants it to leave the gaming hospital permanently it needs to start delivering on what it promised, and not by Christmas, right now. If we get to 2013 and more big titles are not on the horizon, if I still can’t remote play big games, if 3rd party apps aren’t turning up in numbers, the Vita really will be in serious trouble.