In the land of handheld gaming – already a dying breed – the PS Vita is a clear loser. It’s sold just a 10th of the models as its predecessor the PSP, and the Nintendo DS has outstripped sales 20-to-1. The system’s woeful performance is a clear indicator that Sony needs to come up with a new strategy or leave the handheld gaming market altogether, and it would seem that their solution is to shift the system’s focus toward indie games.
There are a few reasons the Vita has done so poorly. One, it’s not priced competitively. The 3DS sits at a cheaper price point and offers something unique; the Vita has better graphics, but the lack of novelty and higher price tag make it unattractive. Two, its game selection is poor. Missing the flagship titles that make the system worth buying, the Vita simply fails to offer anything that’s not available elsewhere. Finally, dedicated handheld gaming devices are losing steam altogether in a world where mobile phones are the de facto choice for people looking to play on the go.
So what’s the point of owning a PS Vita?
Really, the system is good for two things: Remote play for your PS4, and playing small games like ported-in classics and indies from the PSN store.
In many ways, it makes sense that indie games would do well on the console. They frequently have lower-quality graphics that don’t need the visual power of a full-size engine, and many of the titles distributed by Sony offer a simplistic arcade-style game play that yields itself to playing in small bursts. Since most indie games purchased on the PS Vita can also be played on the PS4 without securing an additional copy, gamers get a little added value that wouldn’t be possible for a PC or mobile phone. Coupling these strengths with the obvious reluctance of top-tier gaming companies to produce titles for the struggling console and it becomes clear that the Vita is an indie console whether it wants to be or not.