I love the Vita with a passion and play it more regularly than my 3DS. If someone tries to say it's a lost cause, I'm ready to leap to its defense by championing the great games it received in 2012. (Persona 4 Golden! DJMax Technika Tune! Gravity Rush! Sound Shapes! Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f!)
Still, despite my love, I have to admit the system didn't have the smoothest launch. The device is overpriced, the memory card situation is ridiculous, and the game library could have been better. If it hadn't been for my having a surprising amount of GameStop trade-in credit, I may not have even taken a chance on it. However, I think that's about to change. Now that 2013 has begun and Sony recognizes the problems, I'm convinced that the Vita could see a turnaround. It won't beat the 3DS, but it can at least start making up for lost time. I say 2013 will be the year of the Vita.
The first big step toward getting the Vita in a better position was giving its owners access to PlayStation Plus bonuses in November 2012. An Instant Game Collection consisting of Gravity Rush, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, WipEout 2048, Jet Set Radio, Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack, and Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions suddenly made the system seem like a much better idea. While the current Instant Game Collection now consists of Gravity Rush, Uncharted, Retro City Rampage, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Chronovolt, we're still in a good position for the future. Sony's shown that PSP games will be eligible for Instant Game Collection access, and that there’s a willingness to include major first-party releases as free games. They’ve even been offering discounts on Vita exclusives. This bodes well for Vita owners and perhaps by the time 2013 ends, LittleBigPlanet or PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale will be added to the collection.
Of course, you can't just rely on old and free games to keep a system solvent. You need new adventures for players to savor. Good thing there are plenty of big name games coming to the Vita in 2013. I can think of 12 big games coming this year that might, at the very least, be decent and, at best, could blow us away. We have Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, Tearaway, Soul Sacrifice, Phantasy Star Online 2, Dead or Alive 5 Plus, MLB 13: The Show, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus, Killzone: Mercenary, and Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault coming our way. Also, if all goes well, we'll see Dragon's Crown too. If you don't mind importing, there's also Tales of Hearts R and Muramasa: The Demon Blade. Hopefully we won't have to import those last two, though, as I think NAMCO Bandai and (maybe) XSEED would be crazy to not release those games outside of Japan.
I also don't have to tell you the cross-buy promotion is a fantastic idea. When you buy a copy of certain PS3 or Vita games, you get a copy for the other version as a bonus. So far, Sound Shapes, Retro City Rampage, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, Big Sky Infinity, and Knytt Underground have shown us the glory of the cross-buy, and all this has made me learn something important: I actually prefer playing the Vita versions of the cross-buy games. I bought Retro City Rampage and Sound Shapes intending to play them on the PS3 and having the Vita versions as a bonus, but ended up only playing them on the Vita because they looked better and were more fun that way. Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault and Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time are two more games that support cross-buy and, if Sony is smart, we'll see even more this year.
Then there are the PSP games. I don't know if you've noticed, but their prices in the PlayStation Store have been dropping. I picked up an extra copy of Persona 3 Portable when it was on sale for 50% off. It's not just about these types of brief sales though. The price of digital PSP games has changed. New releases cost between $9.99 and $19.99, when they used to start at $29.99. Not to mention the prices of Valkyria Chronicles 2, Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley, Fate/Extra, and other PSP games have dropped since the Vita was released. I'm confident other companies will continue to drop the price on PSP downloads throughout 2013 to capitalize on new Vita owners looking to supplement their library while they wait for new Vita games.
Most importantly, Sony has now realized the Vita has a problem. The first step towards recovery is admitting something is wrong. At CES 2013, Kazuo Hirai said the Vita sales were lower than expected and sales forecasts had to be lowered. The company has recognized that there is a problem and it’s something that is keeping buyers away from investing in a Vita.
That means changes are definitely going to be made in 2013. They've already started. As I mentioned earlier, PlayStation Plus came to the device in 2012, providing incentive for members to pick up the device and a membership to gain an instant game library and discounts. It's a good step forward. The $199.99 Black Friday 2012 Vita bundles were another smart move to encourage people to pick up a basic Wi-Fi model Vita with a game and memory card.
The next step is more games and discounts. I'm sure Sony has been doing its best at trying to convince developers and publishers to work with them to get more games on the system, and I'm pretty confident we'll see a better showing of Vita games at E3 2013. If the company really wants things to work, there need to be some price drops. $199.99 is a solid price for a Wi-Fi Vita. Forget about the 3G/Wi-Fi model; the AT&T data plan isn't worth the trouble. Focusing on one model and dropping the price will encourage people to spend the extra money on an adequate memory card.
Speaking of memory cards, the price on these has got to drop. There's something seriously wrong when I had to spend $70 on a used 32GB memory card for the Vita, while I picked up a 32GB microSD card for my phone for $30. It's ridiculous and considering how large the downloadable library is and will be for the Vita, that price will put people off. However, I'm going to be optimistic and believe Sony's revelations will lead to a memory card price drop at E3 2013 as well.
Basically, Sony's in the perfect place for a Vita comeback. It's not like the device can sink any lower at this point. Already, things are starting to come together to make the Vita stronger, like its PlayStation Plus inclusion, potential 2013 game library, and prospective PSP download price drops. All Sony has to do is support the system by showing what it will do to make it more attractive at E3, reduce those memory card prices, and perhaps even cut the price on the systems. 2013 could easily be the year the Vita shows it deserves our love. Hopefully Sony's E3 2013 keynote will prove I'm right.
Date: January 11, 2013
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*