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Four Reasons Indies Can’t Save the PlayStation Vita

by on October 11, 2013
 

Oh look, another article on why the PlayStation Vita failed. Time to beat the dead horse some more, eh? In this case, that’s a double entendre, because the PlayStation Vita is about as successful as a dead horse in the portable race. My article is going after a more specific issue, which relates more to my interests in the game industry. I’m talking about the proposed saviors of the dying PlayStation Vita: The Indies! Yes, enter the Indies, with their quirky, innovative concepts and slender price tags! They’ll quickly populate the Vita’s meager library with all sorts of pixelly goodness! Except they can’t really help the PlayStation Vita out of this hole for several reasons:

It’s going to take too long for the PlayStation Vita

The indie initiative started way too late in the game. Sony’s new love affair with indies has been building up, and there are signs that it’ll make the PS4 a veritable playground for independent gaming. However, the strategy started being implemented well into the PlayStation Vita’s life span. The PlayStation Vita needs games now, and many of the indies on the roster are being slotted for post-2014 releases. Which means the PlayStation Vita will spend another sad holiday on the shelves. Not to mention the fact that most indie studios work as fast as you’d expect a studio with four people in it to work. Many indies announce work then disappear for months on end before even hinting at a release date.

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The Indies are mostly ports

The PlayStation Vita’s problem has never been a lack of games; it’s been a lack of games you can only play on a PlayStation Vita. Sure, if someone wanted to play their games badly enough on the run, the PlayStation Vita would be an attractive choice. But the Vita doesn’t have titles like Fire Emblem, Animal Crossing or Pokemon in its court. This hasn’t changed with the indie market. Many of the proposed indies have already been out on PC and PS3 for a while. And your average indie is 3 hours long, so we’ve had time to beat them several times over. Not to mention there’s very few PC’s that can’t run games like Hotline Miami, Lone Survivor and Stealth Bastard. There are some attractive offerings like a revamped Binding of Isaac, but on the whole the PlayStation Vita is still not getting a library of exclusives.

Portable gaming already has an Indie king

And its name is the smartphone. One of PlayStation Vita’s chief mistakes was trying to compete with the smartphone market. That backfired for some strange reason, as people weren’t rushing to Skype with a device that was shamed by low-end Androids. Trying to appeal to the indie crowd puts the PlayStation Vita back in competition with the smartphone. And this is a competition the smartphone is winning big time. Mobile gaming is probably the most popular destination for indie developers, so if you’re a fan of indie games you need look no further than your phone. The PlayStation Vita isn’t even really necessary for indie gaming, as any device with decent processing can run typical indie games. Hell, many of the Indies PlayStation Vita touts are available on android and iOS already.

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Indies are the appetizer, not the main course

By and large, many gamers regard Indies as fun little games that can occupy you for a weekend, but they still flock to the AAA market at the end of the day. So the best platform is one that mixes the two; quality AAA titles and a decent selection of indie games. PlayStation Vita only seems to be providing the latter. This isn’t enough to make the console an attractive choice. Moreover, Indies don’t have the marketing dollars to get high profile and bring in new blood.

So, while I’m happy there are a few fun new indie on my PlayStation Vita, I’m not sure this changes much. The PlayStation Vita will just go down as a newer version of its predecessor: An interesting little device that had some underrated gems, but one that never really went anywhere.

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