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2014 Recap: What Does the Future Hold for the PlayStation Vita?

A frustrated Vita owner wonders what's next for Sony's troubled handheld.

Article by Kat Bailey, .

Last night I picked up my PlayStation Vita for the first time in months and commenced my annual pre-travel ritual: Downloading a handful of games for my long plane ride overseas.

For the past couple years, the Vita has been my constant companion on the road, entertaining me with games like Spelunky, Dragon's Crown, and Final Fantasy Tactics. Over the past year though, that has changed. The Nintendo 3DS library has gotten stronger while the Vita library has remained stagnant, pushing me more and more toward Nintendo's handheld. It's been bad enough that I've actually given serious thought to leaving the Vita at home for my month long trip to Europe.

The Vita's flawed Borderlands 2 port is among the lowlights in a flawed year for the platform's retail releases.

This is after a year that began with some promise. Coming off a fall that included the critical darling Tearaway, the Vita picked up FInal Fantasy X/X-2 HD and Danganronpa, as well as smaller releases like Luftrausers, Dead Nation, and SteamWorld Dig. After that though, the well mostly went dry. Conception II was a disappointing Persona remix, Borderlands 2 was a critically flawed port, and Soul Sacrifice Delta was an enjoyable but ultimately niche proposition. E3 came and went without a major Vita announcement, as did Gamescom, and media outlets began to speculate that Sony had given up on the system in the face of sluggish sales. Finally, the PlayStation Experience came around and Sony announced a handful of new games for the Vita including TowerFall, Suikoden II, Octodad, and Banner Saga—almost all of them ports of existing releases.

Ultimately, Suikoden II (and the latest USgamer Club) is enough to spur me to dust off my Vita and bring it to Europe; but even with a new RPG to keep me busy, I just can't shake the persistent feeling that there just aren't enough games for the thing. I've owned the Vita pretty much since launch, and outside of Persona 4 Golden and Super Robot Taisen Z3, I've mostly used it to play old PS1 games and a handful of indies that I also happen to own on Steam. Japan is still putting out games like Danganronpa and Hatsune Miku, but otherwise the original software has all but dried up.

These days, the Vita's main source of nourishment are variants on Rogue Legacy and Thomas Was Alone—boutique games that are enjoyable for a few hours but rarely last more than a few weeks on my Vita's (rather small) proprietary memory card. For want of anything else to play, I've kept Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD and Persona 3 Portable—plus a physical copy of Muramasa: The Demon Blade—on my Vita, which I periodically supplement with a random PS1 game. For my upcoming trip overseas, I've picked up Suikoden 1 and 2, Child of Light, and a handful of old PlayStation 1 shooters, which should all keep me busy for a while. But despite my recent bounty of (mostly old) games, the pickings have been pretty slim over the past few months.

Japanese releases like Disgaea 4 have helped bolster the Vita's catalog, but a general lack of Monster Hunter has hampered it overseas.

The frustrating thing for me as a loyal Vita owner is that I think Sony is mostly taking the right approach in positioning it against the Nintendo 3DS and Android/iOS. I like having a portable indie system, the retro selection is decent, and the limited selection of original content is really strong. But at the risk of sounding like a broken record, there's still not enough of it. If Sony are to rely on indie releases to keep the Vita going strong, then they need a Steam-like deluge to fill out their library, or else a more robust selection of games like Gravity Rush to help supplement them. Thus far, there have been too few of either.

All of which begs the question: What's next for the Vita? Does Sony hope to rely on remote play and indie releases going forward? Do they see the PlayStation Now streaming service—which makes it possible to play games like Mass Effect 2 on the Vita—as a magic bullet for the system's software problems?

Indie darlings like Nidhogg have been a welcome addition to the Vita's library.

I'm guessing Sony would say the Vita's future future encompasses a little bit of everything, but each approach has its flaws. Remote play—while an enjoyable novelty—is rendered all but useless by the lack of secondary shoulder buttons. PlayStation Now effectively tethers the system to a wi-fi connection. And as I've already discussed, the indie release strategy has been hampered by its limited selection.

Given that, it seems like any hope for the Vita's future lies with Japan. Fans of the PSP will recall that the system saw an impressive number of high-quality releases in its final years—Final Fantasy Type-0 and Valkyria Chronicles 3 among them—thanks to its large Japanese install base. Thus far, however, a similar bounty has not yet emerged on the Vita. Following Monster Hunter's defection to Nintendo, Japan has been mostly crazy for the Nintendo 3DS, relegating the Vita to also-ran status in that country. It's telling that Final Fantasy Type-0 has yet to emerge on the Vita, despite being a natural candidate for a release on Sony's platform.

I suppose I should mention that, for all of its issues, I still consider the Vita worth buying, if only to own Persona 4 Golden—a superb port and one of the best Japanese RPGs of the past 10 years. The past couple years have also brought with them the aforementioned Danganronpa 1 + 2, Dragon's Crown, Walking Dead, Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD, Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward, Tearaway, Ys, and Gravity Rush to go with a nice run of indies. For all my complaining, the Vita has given me a lot of entertainment over the past few years. But having played almost all of the games that I just listed, plus the available PSP and PS1 games, I've lately had to dig deep into PSN to find a reason to keep playing my Vita. Hence why I almost decided to leave it at home on the eve of a long roadtrip—ordinarily the best time to indulge my love of handheld gaming.

The Vita is still worth buying if only to own Persona 4 Golden.

I'd like to believe that things will get better next year—I am in fact looking forward to playing remastered versions of Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango on the go—but I doubt that will be the case. There will be more indie games, and maybe the odd port or HD collection, but the more substantial releases like Persona 4 Golden are getting fewer and further between. Even a last-minute deluge of high-quality Japanese imports seems unlikely in the face of Monster Hunter's departure for the Nintendo 3DS. Barring a massive turnaround, the Vita seems fated to limp along for another few years before finally leaving the mortal coil and taking Sony's handheld ambitions with it.

It'll be a shame if that ends up being the case. Absent a few weird design decisions like the rear touchscreen and the lack of additional shoulder buttons, the Vita is a beautiful system—a real joy to play—with a lot of potential. If I could, I would play it almost exclusively. But as Peter Main once said, "The name of the game is the game." Sony has done their best to shock the Vita to life with initiatives like the indie strategy, but the infusion of new games has thus far proven to be too little too late. And as much as I don't want it to be the case, I don't expect matters to improve anytime soon.

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Comments 36

  • Avatar for ShadowTheSecond #1 ShadowTheSecond 3 years ago
    I last used my Vita (aside from PS4 streaming) to go through season two of The Walking Dead game, so its been a while.

    I really want to love my Vita between it's beautiful screen (compared to my 3DS), the ability to play PSP/PS1 entries such as Tactics Ogre and such...but the lack of content gets old. I like indies and all, but it just isn't enough.

    And to agree with Kat, the lack of two more shoulder buttons is a killer. I can transmit from my PS4 to the Vita without any real lag in my apartment, but most games are essentially unplayable due to the lack of buttons (aside from Pinball Arcade, which is a common choice of mine).
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  • Avatar for Natabuu #2 Natabuu 3 years ago
    I've had a Vita for about a year now (that great Amazon Black Friday bundle) and I have to agree. With Cross Buy and PS+, I have a rather nice collection of digital games. However, I rarely play it because I'd rather play on a console or PC. While the 3DS is chock full of great exclusives, especially RPGs (Bravely Default, SMTIV, Etrian Oddysey), the majority of the Vita's best games are available elsewhere.
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  • Avatar for lanmao #3 lanmao 3 years ago
    I agree 100%. I don't regret picking up a vita, but there isn't much to look forward to.
    It doesn't help that the memory cards are still overpriced either. For the price of a 64GB card I could pick up a 2TB drive for my ps4. That just isn't right.Edited December 2014 by lanmao
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  • Avatar for Elliot-Gay #4 Elliot-Gay 3 years ago
    I can definitely understand where you're coming from Kat.

    In that sense I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to digest imports the way that I do. I've been playing Phantasy Star Nova and getting tons of hours of enjoyment there, Zettai Zetsubou Shoujo: DanganRonpa was my jam back in October, and Sen no Kiseki II had me glued to my Vita for 80 hours in September.

    It's sad to see the releases so thin out west, but I guess the golden lining in all of this is that it continues to have a steady stream of Japanese support over here.
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  • Avatar for Kadrom #5 Kadrom 3 years ago
    I've gotten plenty of enjoyment out of the Vita with all of the good indie ports it's received this year. I play games like Binding of Isaac and Spelunky way more on a portable than I do on a PC or console. I took all my games home with me for Thanksgiving and ended up playing pretty much nothing but Isaac the whole time. I don't really feel the need for good retail releases, although Danganronpa 1 and 2 and Freedom Wars definitely fall into that category as well.Edited December 2014 by Kadrom
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  • Avatar for pdubb #6 pdubb 3 years ago
    Thd fan service can be a bit extreme, but Demon Gaze is a pretty competent dungeon crawler.

    I love my vita and I would love a Dragon Crown 2 or even say a Shadow Complex or the recent Strider remake on the Vita.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #7 brionfoulke91 3 years ago
    Between games like Gravity Rush, Soul Sacrifice, Dangan Ronpa 1 & 2, and Freedom Wars, the Vita is starting to have enough exclusives to justify owning. It's a shame that we're missing some great games from Japan.
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  • Avatar for GunFlame #8 GunFlame 3 years ago
    The Vita has no consistent vision, or more accurately, Sony do not. It does lots of things, none that well.

    Shaping it as a streaming device, a place to play console-like titles on the go, a place for indies, for retro titles and for PSP-esque Japanese titles. All are not there (like the article mentions). There's also no consistent roadmap, not consistent support being mentioned by developers, just Sony harping on their indie promise.

    The 3DS works, because it has Nintendo titles. But the Vita, as great as it is hardware wise, just doesn't have a place right now.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #9 Roto13 3 years ago
    The Vita has been an indie port machine for a long time and will continue to be one for the rest of its life.
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  • Avatar for ryanmckenzie02 #10 ryanmckenzie02 3 years ago
    I wish I could see a long life for PSV, but that would be a lie. The first year was a fun ride, but I am more than doubtful about it's future. I believe sony should have made a smaller version that could also act as a phone and tie it in with the ericsson cell division. Just me I guess.
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  • Avatar for lordFaramir #11 lordFaramir 3 years ago
    oh... sony.... :(
    and by the way, nobody here playing freedom wars? or tales of hearts R? shinovi versus? and yet to come games next year like atelier escha&logy?or oreshika that someone on siliconera saw was already english translated demo? perhaps Im the only guy who never run out of VITA games. but youre right.I dont know what other games sony will bring in the future... beside indies... :(Edited December 2014 by lordFaramir
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  • Avatar for Asintador #12 Asintador 3 years ago
    Totally agree with the sentiment. There's been a noticeable lack of Vita-only games that grab the attention. The machine's been a retro, indie, JRPG wunderkind of a console.

    Retro gaming on Vita can also have problems, though, with those PS1 games that need those additional 2 triggers (Syphon Filter has caused me some remapping headaches).

    I'd like to see more of the Japan-only PSP and Vita games released in the Western PSN stores. Sword Art Online was a pleasant surprise (not so much the game itself rather than the fact that it exists on the store), as was Black Rock Shooter. Why not the Kurohyo: Ryu ga Gotoku / Yakuza PSP spinoffs?
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  • Avatar for renatocosta90 #13 renatocosta90 3 years ago
    I've had a Vita for a couple of months now, and it has been less used than my 3DS. The playstation plus subscription is a great way to have cool new titles each month to try ouy. Besides the great suggestions that Kat made, I'd say Binding of Isaac feels incredibly at home in Vita. I just hope we can have at least some new great games in 2015.
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  • Avatar for chiptoon #14 chiptoon 3 years ago
    I'm a bit stunned by the opening paragraph. I've had quite the opposite experience.

    The Vita is the only console I use every single day. There is constant stream of new and interesting games for me, filled out nicely by PS+ with games I would never dream of buying, but are nice to try.

    3ds on the other hand... I haven't really gotten into anything since the last Zelda a year ago. Saw the flashing red light about a month ago and didn't bother plugging it in. I've been hunting for a good 3ds game to get for the holidays and can find nothing I want.
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  • Avatar for Nazo #15 Nazo 3 years ago
    I don't know how people manage to play so many games, I've got a pile of physical and PSN+ games to get through. If they stopped making Vita games tomorrow it would still keep me entertained for years.
    My main worry is that we'll never see another Gravity Rush. That's the game I want more than anything.
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  • Avatar for Frosty840 #16 Frosty840 3 years ago
    Vita has probably been my primary gaming machine through 2014, but Kat's right, I've made my way through all the stuff I want to play on it and am rapidly running out of reasons to turn it on any more.
    This past month has been mostly the 3DS and Theatrhythm for me, despite my loathing for the 3DS's screen, low power and low resolution. Some games simply manage to push past that.
    I have to say that Sony were the masters of the Vita's downfall by so badly overpricing the proprietary memory cards. I know plenty of people who specifically refused to purchase a Vita for that single, specific reason, despite otherwise wanting the system.
    The proprietary cards likely served a genuine purpose —Vita's loading times can be pretty terrible even without the possibility of someone buying a class 2 SD card for it— but consumer backlash against their pricing hurt the system terribly.
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  • Avatar for catstronaut #17 catstronaut 3 years ago
    To me, it feels like the Vita has a very specific audience, and if you're not in that audience you're left with very little to play. It has a strong niche Japanese appeal, with really fanservicey RPGs and visual novels, but not a ton else. All I've managed to get out of it is DJMax Technika Tune, which I love, and very briefly some indie ports and smaller games. Really looking forward to playing Suikoden II, though.
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  • Avatar for mobilesworking #18 mobilesworking 3 years ago
    @ShadowTheSecond I hope the shoulder-button issue doesn't hamper Persona 5. I doubt my ability to complete such a long game except on a handheld.
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  • Avatar for mobilesworking #19 mobilesworking 3 years ago
    @Nazo I absolutely adore Gravity Rush. I can't remember the last time a game so filled me with wonder. Taking to the skies that first time was a joyful moment of empathy in which I momentarily disappeared into the game. It's been a long time since that happened.
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  • Avatar for docexe #20 docexe 3 years ago
    I have been interested in buying one, as I have enough games on PS+, but I’m waiting for another price drop.

    The library does have interesting things on it and just the fact you have access to the online PSP catalog is a plus. But the machine has certainly become niche with limited appeal, being primarily a platform for indie ports and quirky Japanese games.

    It’s somewhat sad given the potential it once had, but as things stand, I have to agree with Kat’s conclusion: Its future doesn’t look bright, it will limp along for a few more years and then Sony will quietly discontinue it. After that, it’s improbable they will try again with another handheld console, more likely they will focus on bringing PlayStation Now in a functional way to mobile and tablet platforms.
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  • Avatar for Exhuminator #21 Exhuminator 3 years ago
    Vita had plenty of releases in 2014. Off the top of my head:

    Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed
    Arcana Heart 3: LOVEMAX!!!!!
    BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma
    Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars
    Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
    Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair
    Deception IV: Blood Ties
    Demon Gaze
    Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited
    Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition
    Freedom Wars
    Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f
    Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1
    Hyperdimension Neptunia PP: Producing Perfection
    Mind Zero
    Natural Doctrine
    Ragnarok Odyssey ACE
    Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus
    Soul Sacrifice Delta
    Tales of Hearts R
    The Wolf Among Us
    Toukiden: The Age of Demons
    XBLAZE Code: Embryo
    Walking Dead Season 2

    I don't know what universe Kat lives in, but in my own this year was GREAT to my Vita and terrible for my wallet.Edited December 2014 by Exhuminator
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #22 brionfoulke91 3 years ago
    @Exhuminator True! I forgot about some of these releases, thanks for reminding me! Vita isn't a system without games, but unfortunately it seems to be a system who's games don't get much coverage. That really should change.
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #23 Kat.Bailey 3 years ago
    @Exhuminator Citing Hyperdimension Neptunia, Arcana Heart 3, Tales of Hearts R, Demon Gaze, Conception II, etc etc doesn't do a ton to help your case, unfortunately. But if those games float your boat, then I can see the Vita being exciting for you.
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  • Avatar for TheFightingFish #24 TheFightingFish 3 years ago
    I actually just picked one up myself recently, even while being fully aware that there are not many full retail releases coming up to interest me. For me, I love PC indie games, but as a busy dad I really don't put in much time in front of the TV at home these days. The Vita is basically the best device that I can see to provide a "Humble Bundle Steam Games on the Go" experience. I get why folks expecting more Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Persona 4: Golden or games of that ilk would be disappointed in the upcoming releases. But for me Rogue Legacy, Grim Fandango, The Banner Saga, Geometry Wars 3, Hotline Miami 2, Risk of Rain (incredible game on the PC), Shovel Knight, Super Time Force Ultra and games like that is way more than enough to keep me happy. They are not "exclusive" games, but they are "portable exclusive games" which is just what I need for how I currently game. As long as the PC indie ports tap stays open I'm super happy with the system.Edited December 2014 by TheFightingFish
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  • Avatar for Exhuminator #25 Exhuminator 3 years ago
    @Kat.Bailey Considering myself and others find those Japanese niche games appealing, it does actually help my case, insofar as enjoying the system personally. The fact is if you like otaku bait games or indie PC ports, the Vita is a happening place to be. If you're looking for the original AAA-portable games Sony promised two years ago, yeah you're gonna have a sad time.
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #26 Kat.Bailey 3 years ago
    @Exhuminator I do find Japanese niche games and indie PC ports appealing. But the games you cited are generally middling at best, and the indie PC ports continue to be a trickle rather than a deluge.
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  • Avatar for CK20XX #27 CK20XX 3 years ago
    In a way, the Vita seems to serve as a reminder of Sony's true nature. It's still regarded as a superhero for how it thrashed Microsoft with the PS4, but that image is fading away. Beneath the surface, Sony is still a confused, troubled company that is prone to some embarrassing flailing when it doesn't have an evil nemesis to punch... kinda like Sega was in its console days, actually.
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  • Avatar for TheFightingFish #28 TheFightingFish 3 years ago
    @Kat.Bailey The trickle (regarding PC indies) is currently enough for a moderate gamer like me. Though I do worry a bit that even that trickle will dry up at some point. 2015 still seems to have a solid indie lineup in the early days at least. I'd assume that since games keep coming that indies are selling at least ok on the device? I'm not sure if I've ever seen any devs discussing Vita PSN sales with regards to making back money on their porting efforts.
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  • Avatar for pdubb #29 pdubb 3 years ago
    I can dream for a Infinite Space sequel for vita out of nowhere since Platinum Games dropped Bayonetta 2 on the Wii U out of nowhere
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  • Avatar for TernBird #30 TernBird 3 years ago
    @Exhuminator That list isn't entirely fair, given that a lot of those titles are available on other consoles. Sure, having The Wolf Among Us on-the-go is nice, but if I can play it at home then why would I bother with a Vita port? Conception 2, Dynasty Warriors 8, BlazBlue, Walking Dead 2... I don't really need a PSV to play those, and even if I wanted to play Conception 2, I can readily pick it up on my 3DS.

    Besides, no matter how rabid Miku's fans may be, they can't support a console.
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  • Avatar for kevincrandall53 #31 kevincrandall53 3 years ago
    Phantasy Star Online 2
    Faster Than Light
    Madden 15 or 16

    These are three games that I would love for my Vita. Sadly, I don't see that happening any time soon.
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  • Avatar for kevincrandall53 #32 kevincrandall53 3 years ago
    @RyougaSaotome PSNova looks like fun, but I don't read Japanese. Is there an English text option?
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  • Avatar for Elliot-Gay #33 Elliot-Gay 3 years ago
    @kevincrandall53 Sadly not. There's a ton of text and voice work, and that'd be a huge undertaking if they didn't even have plans to release in the west.
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  • Avatar for aros #34 aros 3 years ago
    As soon as you hilariously described yourself as loyal despite your knowledge and experience of the systems games being anything but I quit reading. I hate the types who make out they play every game ever released but somehow also count games launched at the same time as port, doesn't count. Have you ever heard someone complaining a bone and 4 multiplat is a port and therefore doesn't count as a new release?

    This year has been fabulous for Vita and I've played it over 1,000 times as much as ps4 with no exaggeration. The future games lineup looks as good or even better than it ever has. Its a wonderful time to be a Vita owner, and 10x so if you wait on games more suited to a handheld to come to the handheld.
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  • Avatar for aros #35 aros 3 years ago
    @Roto13 and that is absolutely awesome tbf. I can't believe so many people seem to play hundreds of handheld style indie games hunched over a pc rather than on a handheld. There's nothing I love more than Vita in bed or on the sofa or at my girlfriend's while she watches some boring shite.
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  • Avatar for paulogy #36 paulogy 3 years ago
    So lately I've been playing Minecraft, Resogun, and The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth on my Vita. All with offline play and tons of replay value. I'm looking forward to playing Freedom Wars after all the good things I've heard. I think you should give these a go.

    I would agree with you that the Vita will fade off in the next year or so except for the fact that they just launched PlayStation TV, and I think they will still want new titles to support that platform. So whether that means touch-less conversions of some of their Vita exclusive titles (ex: Uncharted Golden Abyss), ports of more of their console exclusive titles (like Journey), ports of PC indie games, or all-out exclusives, hopefully we'll see all of the above in the coming year.Edited January 2015 by paulogy
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