The Kaz looked upon the Vita, tired and beleaguered, and he said, "Let there be cross-platform development. Let the PC developers be fruitful and multiply. Let there be a price drop." The Kaz looked upon his works and he was pleased.
- From the Gospel of Hirai
I enjoy my Vita. It's a well-designed system for me. It fits in my meaty hands, the screen is gorgeous, its got a decent amount of graphical power, and its battery life is good enough for me. I dig my retail library: Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Street Fighter x Tekken, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, and Assassin's Creed: Liberation. I bought the thing on Amazon for $180 last year and it's been pretty good to me.
But the tale of the Vita hasn't been pleasant overall. The portable's sales have been horrible. The $249 launch price for the WiFi model was only decent prior Nintendo dropping the price on the 3DS and releasing the Mario Kart 7/Super Mario 3D Land double punch. The memory cards were (and still are) absolute highway robbery. One of the system's heavily promoted titles, Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified, was rushed out the door and is one of the worst games in the franchise's history. The PlayStation Vita's poor sales have led major publishers to simply avoid developing games for the system.
It's in preparing for the PlayStation 4 that Sony began to make solid moves that would help the Vita. To differentiate its latest console, Sony has reached out to PC indie developers. Led by Sony Computer Entertainment VP of Dev. Relations Adam Boyes, the company has bent over backward to make it easy for indies to bring their games to PlayStation platforms. Boyes and his team have talked to developers making PC, iOS, and Android games and asked them how the publishing process could be made easier. Sony also instituted the Pub Fund, offering developers an advance payment to make timed exclusives for Playstation platforms.
The whole thing finally came together when Sony's indie push met its Cross-Buy initiative. Cross-Buy means that when you purchase one platform version of a game, you get that same game on other platforms. Steam does the same; if you purchase a game on PC, you'll get the Mac and Linux versions as well. Along with the Cross-Buy system, Sony added cloud saving. both system systems work well together, allowing you to buy a game on PlayStation 3 and continue to play that same game on PlayStation Vita. Major publishers haven't dealt with cross-buy much because they don't have Vita versions of their games, but indies? Games like Hotline Miami, Thomas Was Alone, Guacamelee, Divekick, Stealth Inc, Retro City Rampage, and Lone Survivor all support cross-buy.
The PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 audiences are now a trojan horse for PlayStation Vita development.
Apple did the same when it launched the iPad Mini. Instead of just making a smaller tablet, Apple made sure that the iPad Mini's screen was the same aspect ratio as its larger counterpart. Developers didn't have to do much to support the small tablet; all of their apps worked for the most part, barring some changes in touch targets. The mini launched with a ton of support in the form of apps made for the 10-inch iPad.
There are over 77 million PlayStation 3's out there and some users will be tied to that platform for years to come, but Sony's hoping a number of them will move to PS4. The home console audience takes some of the risk out of supporting the PlayStation Vita; with those consumers, it makes decent business sense to make small tweaks and bring a game to the Vita.
You saw this in the Gamescom announcements. Fez, Rogue Legacy, and Helldivers are coming to PS4, PS3, and Vita. Wasteland Kings, Hotline Miami 2, Volume, Binding of Issac: Rebirth, Velocity 2X, Switch Galaxy Ultra and are all coming to PS4 and Vita. With Cross-Buy, Sony is saying to prospective Vita buyers, "hey, if you get a Vita you can play all these awesome games you already own on the go."
Add in the price drop and Vita Remote Play and you have a compelling story for gamers. And if gamers flock to the PS4 and Vita, then Sony will have a compelling story for developers and publishers: don't just make games for one platform, make games for the thriving PlayStation family.
It will be interesting to see how the next two holiday seasons turn out for Sony and the Vita. Here's hoping their latest moves pay off, because I need more games on my Vita.