1) Invest in some exclusives
It's popular belief that without Capcom's Monster Hunter franchise, the PSP would've never experienced any major success in Japan. Thankfully though, the addictive hunter/gatherer simulation helped sell countless PSP consoles, including a baffling number of limited-edition units in varying colors, often branded with pictures of the game's cat mascots:
Ok well, this one has dragons on it, but you get the picture.
How on earth Sony let Nintendo buy out the exclusivity rights to their only surefire portable seller, I'll never know, but that's the sort of thing that I hope got somebody fired.
Point is that Sony has always been terrible about keeping their exclusives around, usually choosing to invest in their own mediocre studios (Infamous wasn't all that great you guys…) rather than shelling out the big bucks to keep a company like Capcom or Square-Enix in their pocket. Sony got rich by making systems that were easy to develop for, and assuming that the money would follow as rookie studios helped fill the library. Unfortunately, the most recent generation of gamers have been taught to simply wait for sequels to the games they already like, and convincing people to take a chance on new franchises like Unit 13 is way harder than just showing them a portable Call of Duty with full multiplayer and getting the money shovel ready.
Hell, should've just thrown Activision a quarter million dollars and renamed it "Call of Duty: Unit 13"
Consoles have always hinged their success on the ability to attract third party developers, though the new market paradigms seem to reward those willing to shell out some cash. Nintendo's Monster Hunter gambit has proven that they're ready for a moeny war, and Sony has best be willing to dig deep into their pockets for the rights to Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, or whatever else.
Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core is one of the worst RPGs I've ever played. It probably sold a million PSPs.
So Sony, stop wasting money on crap like Little Deviants and get those third-party exclusives! Better yet, shell out the bucks for Capcom to start work on porting Mega Man Legends 3 to the PS Vita. 100,000 fanboys can't be wrong…
NEVER FORGET ;_;
– Vito Gesualdi is GameZone's Senior Editor and a self-described "comedic mastermind." He invites angry Vita fanboys to troll his in-progress novel American Nobody, found at StarRebellion.com
2) Support backwards compatibility
So the PS Vita's biggest problem is obviously its lack of games. There's about fifteen titles right now, and most of them are… meh. What's the system seller exactly? Uncharted? A port of Ninja Gaiden? Meanwhile there's really nothing too exciting on the horizon, and I can personally name just two games I'm looking forward to (Tales of something or other, and Phantasy Star Online 2).
This game is going to be awesome and I bet I'll have like two other people who actually want to play it with me.
Thing is, this shouldn't matter so much, seeing as how Sony already has a solid backlog of awesome PSP titles! Unfortunately, with no UMD slot, gamers are being forced to purchase the games through the PlayStation store… which is downright stupid.
Look Sony, you're trying to convince people to buy your expensive new toy right? So why not point out the awesome library of games which can picked up used from GameStop for like $10? I personally have a shelf jammed full of great PSP titles, all of which I'm sure would look fantastic on the PS Vita's gorgeous screen. Unfortunately, I just can't justify plunking down $20-$30 to buy a game I already own, and the lack of a Passport system for American Vita owners is actually kind of offensive.
I want to play Castlevania on my Vita, and I don't want to pay for it again. Seems reasonable.
This is really a no-brainer Sony. You've already created a system to facilitate the digital download of physical games (currently active in Japan), so why deny it to your biggest potential market. Consumers like myself are more than ready to ruin the non-existent collector's value of our PSP games by mailing you a cut-out UPC code and five of our American dollars in return for intangible data! This is basically free money we're prepared to send you, and the only thing you have to do is stop trying to gouge us for $30 downloads and make your own portable an even more attractive buy.
In fact, by not letting me play games I already own, it means I'll probably just pirate them the second your stupid Vita gets hacked to pieces. Why are you letting me justify piracy!?
3) Use the PS Vita to redefine the PlayStation brand
Sony's branding has always been a bit too snobby for its own good. Sure, when you're selling high-end stereo system and HD television sets, you've gotta put on your classiest suit to market that sucker. But the video gaming market is rather diverse, and Sony's focus on being the coolest kids in the room means that they're ignoring a variety of consumers.
Because racism sells video game systems…
That's the big difference between Nintendo and Sony. Whereas Nintendo's brands have universal appeal (Mario, Zelda, Pokemon), violent action titles seem to be among Sony's sole offerings. God of War, Uncharted, Killzone, and Infamous are all very good games, but not the kind of thing that convince mom and dad that little Jimmy needs a PlayStation. Sony All-Stars Battle Royale seems like the most obvious example of their confused brand strategy. You can't just take a lighthearted franchise like Super Smash Bros. and start jamming psychopaths like Sweet Tooth into it. Even us older gamers just want something colorful once in awhile, and having the bad guy from Killzone dismember Parappa the Rapper just doesn't sound like a fun time.
If this game doesn't suck, I'll be amazed.
I'm not saying that Sony needs to make the PS Vita the kid-friendliest console on the block, but they do need to realize that the edgy branding they succeeded with in the 90s isn't working anymore, and it's time to use the Vita to completely refocus the brand, and what better place to start on expanding the repertoire is ripping on Nintendo's biggest portable franchise: Pokemon?
F*** YEAH RAINBOWS
Ah yes Pokemon. A fun and enjoyable adventure which appeals to kids and manchildren alike, and a way to show that this gorgeous piece of tech offers something for everyone. Of course plenty of companies have tried to rip on the Pokemon formula and failed terribly, which is why it might make more sense to follow a piece of advice we've already touched on and just buy something already awesome! Seems like this Skylanders thing is proving to be rather popular, so why not lock up the exclusive portable rights? Either that or buy some other crappy franchise and revitalize it.
I mean, you could probably treat Bandai to a crappy dinner at the Olive Garden in return for the full rights to Digimon.
Eh… never mind.
4) Beef up the marketplace with affordable classic titles
Let's be honest, as much as we lazy editorial writers like to pit the 3DS against the Vita, truth is that the bigger problem is the mobile gaming marketplace. Portable gaming consoles once appealed to casual gamers, bored souls who just wanted to play Tetris while waiting for the bus. Unfortunately, now that most cell phones can play games almost on par with the original DS, trying to convince these casual kids to invest in another $300 piece of tech to cram in their pocket is one heck of a hard sell.
Can you believe we once paid $90 for a system that only played Tetris?
Luckily, both Nintendo and Sony have one major advantage in this area: mobile games suck. The majority of successful titles are barely competent flash clones. I mean, Jetpack Joyride was the mobile game of the year, and that game sucked back when it was still called Helicopter. So though there will always be village idiots content with playing Angry Birds for hours at a time, one step above them is the semi-casual crowd, willing to shell out some decent money for some real games.
The easiest way to draw in these semi-casuals? Classic games. After all, the mobile marketplaces are absolutely littered with awful touch-screen versions of games like Sonic and Mortal Kombat. There's no reason similar titles couldn't appear on the Vita, and the fact that the PlayStation classics are still absent from the Vita store is mindboggling, especially since the awesome little portable is starved for games.
I swear, the other day I was at Target and some 400lb butterbaby was freaking out about the new Mortal Kombat GOTY. He would've bought a Vita for sure.
Let me put it this way: back before my jailbroken PSP got stolen, I probably convinced a dozen friends to purchase their own unit just by showing them that it could run Donkey Kong Country. Granted, that particular license might prove a bit difficult to acquire… but there's no reason you the Vita can't run Final Fantasy VII by now.
5) Find your Super Mario 64
What's interesting about the PS Vita is that it's actually a much more Nintendo-esque device than Nintendo's own 3DS. Nintendo has always been interested in finding new ways to play games, the DS's touchscreen and Wii's motion controls giving developers freedom to try out creative new ideas. That's part of what makes the 3DS so disappointing for me, as the 3D feature is really just a visual gimmick, and can't really be implemented in any innovative way. Aside from the included AR cards, the 3DS really isn't doing anything I haven't seen before (and the screen resolution sucks).
Second analog stick sold seperately. *Facepalm*
Meanwhile, the PS Vita is a veritable playground of potential. In addition to being the first handheld smart enough to include a second analog stick, the device comes packed with plenty of weird features which could definitely make for a fantastic game. The giant touch-screen is obviously the most exciting piece of tech, but the console's front and rear cameras, built-in microphone, Sixaxis motion sensors, and weird ass rear touchpad all seem like some really cool toys for developers to play with.
Thing is, nobody really seems to know exactly what to do with all these little gadgets. Little Deviants was supposed to be the title which spotlighted all the crazy tech in exciting new ways, but instead we got a giant collection of rather mundane tech demos. No surprise Sony shuttered the studio not long after that clunker was finished…
What the hell is this crap…?
What Sony needs now is a game like Super Mario 64, which in addition to being an awesome adventure, shows off everything the console can do. Uncharted: Golden Abyss made an attempt to be this game, but Nathan Drake isn't on par with Mario in terms of likability, and a solid all-ages romp is where someone can really get inventive with the console's various features. Hell, maybe it's time for Sony to finally knuckle down and ecide on a decent mascot. Either that or let Sackboy star in something truly epic.
Super Sack Adventure is probably too suggestive a title…
Kazuo Hirai has been talking some big game ever since his career switch from head of the PlayStation brand to CEO of Sony proper. Of course, his big talk doesn't make up for the fact that the former electronics giant is in major trouble, steadily declining revenues resulting in a $6.4 billion dollar loss last year. Not surprisingly, Kaz is looking to the PlayStation brand as a major element of Sony's future success, with the recently released PS Vita handheld a major pillar of that strategy. Thing is, though the PS Vita has already sold around 1.8 million units, Kaz's projection of 10 million units by year's end is a definite pipe dream, especially when you consider that even Nintendo sold just 4.5 million units of the arguably more popular 3DS system in their first year.
Still, the PS Vita is a damn sexy device, and with some smart planning Sony could make their portable a major contender. Unfortunately, they've still got some kinks that need to be worked out before they can truly start unloading these beauties. So Sony, here are my top five pieces of advice for making your PS Vita into a true success story.