That’s all, folks. Last week, the final batch of digital releases rolled out for the PlayStation Vita, ending a run of almost ten years since the launch of the original version of the handheld. This week, we’re checking out that final wave of new games while also looking at the development side of things, but we wanted to kick it all off with our own thoughts.
With the Nintendo Switch acting purely as an in-home console for many, the PlayStation Vita was the last of the ‘real’ handhelds out there, and a technical marvel when you consider some of the AAA games that were released for it. Titles like Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Killzone: Mercenary, Tearaway and Gravity Rush all provided graphics and/or gameplay that were unrivaled in the handheld domain. Players looking for a unique console-like experience on the go really only had one choice this past decade, because although the 3DS had a fun library it was also full of ports and tons of shovelware that felt too close to the mobile domain.
First party support quickly faded away though, and Sony hasn’t released a game for the platform since 2015, just three years after the handheld launched outside of Japan. Support from publishers like Bandai Namco and NIS America continued for another year or two, but since 2017 we’ve mostly had to rely on a small community of indie developers and porting specialists for new titles, so it’s amazing to see that they’ve been able to do this for four years when Sony’s run of releases lasted only three.
From the puzzle games by Lightwood to the indie ports by Ratalaika, Sometimes You and Eastasiasoft, we’ve been able to enjoy a fairly steady stream of game releases these past few years. Add a few small independent developers to that mix, and we have a library that grew to over 1,000 titles in just under a decade. Sure, a lot of people will point to early releases like Persona 4 Golden, Tearaway, LittleBigPlanet or Rayman as some of their favorites, but it’s a system that endured past that time period with tons of titles that might not be “console-like”, but are great to play on the go with a handheld that travels more comfortably than the Switch.
Is this the end of the line? Yes and no. Sony’s no longer accepting submissions to the PlayStation Store, which also means that game updates can no longer be made available to players. If you have found a critical bug, or a glitched trophy – it’ll be there forever, unless someone at Sony decides to okay an exception. There are a few more physical games on the horizon though, as publishers like Eastasiasoft and Limited Run Games have purchased batches of cartridges before they ceased production on them. They’ll be released in small quantities and some of them could very well be re-released of previous digital games, but collectors will no doubt jump on them.
We realize this is unlikely to happen, but we’re hoping Sony will revisit the handheld domain at some point. If the Steam Deck is successful, and they can ensure compatibility with people’s digital libraries for (for instance) the PS4 and the Vita, then it would have a real shot. Part of the problem with the Vita was a lack of system sellers so soon after the handheld’s launch, but the prospect of playing God of War, The Last of Us, Ghost of Tsushima and Red Dead Redemptions on the game sure seems like an exciting one. We just have to wait for the technology to catch up and see if the market’s ready at that point. Until then, there’s life yet in the excellent Vita library we have, which just grew a little bigger this past week.