Uncharted Golden Abyss

Remember when the PS Vita came out, and Sony promised us that we were getting PlayStation 3 quality graphics and games on a handheld? Uncharted, Assassin’s Creed, God of War, all of your favorite AAA games can now be taken on the go! What more could one want?

It turns out that not that many people actually want huge cinematic console quality games in the palm of their hands. Sony’s Don Mesa already said that AAA economics don’t work with the Vita, and players would rather have the huge experiences where they belong, on a huge entertainment setup.

In an interview with Polygon, Sony President Shuhei Yoshida backs up that logic and explains how Sony came to its new focus on the PS Vita: indie games and third-party games.

“When we launched PSP titles, a big talking point was PS2-quality games in your hands,” he explains. “It was an amazing experience to play PS2-quality like Twisted Metal on your portable device. But as time went on and the PS3 launched and people started to see next-gen games, that PS2 quality was not enough. People’s expectations for the quality just moved on.

“So when we launched the Vita with Uncharted, it was amazing; PS3-like quality in your palm, but as time moved on, you are seeing PS4 quality and people’s expectations for the graphic fidelity has gone up.”

In other words, handhelds are never going to catch up with consoles because graphics are improving too rapidly. Instead, Sony is more interested in what gamers are getting out of the Vita now rather than what the potential power of its hardware could maybe give them.

“It’s very fortunate that the indie boom happened and they are providing lots of great content to Vita. Gameplay, game mechanic wise, people want to spend 10 minutes, 15 minutes getting in and out. On Vita, it’s great with suspended functionality, so these indie games really great for that from a game design standpoint.

Instead of watching big stories or cinematics, you can spend hours on Vita. So, I think that’s actually the biggest star to help provide great content to Vita going forward. And we continue to make games cross-platform games, especially on digital side.”

Oh my! A handheld device actually behaving like a handheld device? Brief and fun bursts of gaming that can get you from point A to point B happily?

I have to say, it might not be popular, but I agree with Yoshida a hundred percent. This shift in focus for the Vita is exactly why I picked it up earlier this year. I had no interest in taking my PlayStation 3 with me on the move. If I play a cinematic game, I want it to be just like I said before: on a huge TV, so I can be blown away by the visuals and high budget selling points of the AAA market.

Hotline Miami 5

Graphical fidelity in the palm of my hand does not impress me. What does impress me is how well the design of a game can get me to focus on completing a goal rather than the smelly people around me on my commute. Big budget games are all about the flair, but indie games and retro games are purely design driven experiences.

Puzzle games, platforming games, strategy games and role-playing games, these are the kind of games that I can play while on a train. Jump in, have fun, jump out. I don’t want my entire commute to be dedicated to a loading screen and cutscene of a AAA game.

I’ve always suggested that there should be a fine line between portable games and console games. It’s been that way for 25 years, ever since Gunpei Yokoi proved with the Game Boy that simplicity sells a handheld.

Sony has had success with putting console games on a handheld machine, like with Uncharted: Golden Abyss and God of War: Chains of Olympus, but not everyone is up to the task of taking on projects like these. The limited financial rewards have scared off big publishers, leaving the smaller indie companies and a lot of Japanese companies to fill in the gaps with some quality smaller games built around the idea of being portable and accessible, not huge and bulky.

Persona 4

The final question is damning in its own right. When questioned if we would be seeing less first-person games from Sony on the Vita, Yoshida replied:

“I would say, yes, that’s correct.”

There you have it! Sony’s grand answer to solving the Vita’s woes is to find others solve it for them.

Quite frankly, it’s working. I bought a Vita because of it, and I did so to play Ys, Persona 4, Guacamelee, Spelunky and Hotline Miami, not Uncharted and God of War. Let Sony deal with making the Vita more friendly with apps, PlayStation Now, cross-play, and other inner tinkerings.