E3 2016 OPINION: Vita’s Decline in the West Has Never Been More Obvious

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

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*This is the opinion of the writer and does not reflect oprainfall as a whole.*

PS Vita | Akiba's Beat

One of the games that got announced at E3. I should probably play Akiba’s Trip.

Now, let’s get something out of the way. I love my PS Vita. I have a little under 50 titles in my collection with several imports and region exclusives, but it’s a pretty well-known fact that the system is struggling outside of Asia. If you’re an importer/collector like me, you will have to import many of your Vita English physical games already (such as Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth, Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires and Moe Chronicle) or partake in limited physical runs (i.e. Ar Nosurge Plus), and that number is likely to increase even more as the PS Vita goes into obscurity. I was hoping that E3 would help show people that the PS Vita is still alive and well with lots of Japanese support, and that publishers are still prepared to localise exclusives for it, even if big sales were not to be expected. I evaluate the PS Vita at E3 with a double-edged sword; as pleased as I am disappointed. Let me explain why.

Let’s start with the obvious. There was no mention of the Vita whatsoever at Sony’s conference this year, instead focusing entirely on PS4 and PSVR. Putting aside my belief that the PSVR will become as neglected a platform as the PS Vita, it was a good showing, and none of the games looked bad; just not my cup of tea. The absense of niche titles let alone Vita titles in the main event was a bit disappointing if predictable. There were also no new AAA titles revealed for the system that could perhaps have revitalised sales with the mainstream, but there were none of those either, just indie games. I was hoping there would be more representation on the E3 show floor, yet only one exclusive for Vita would be on display that I know of, that being Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs-Force by Bandai Namco. Everything else has at least a PS4 version in most cases.

Gundam Extreme Vs-Force | oprainfall

The only Vita exclusive on show. Would buy the localised release if it was physical, alas I will be importing at some point.

Let’s give some examples of some Vita titles that also will be getting PS4 ports at least – Sword Art Online: Hollow Realisation, both God Eater games, Summon Night 6, Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X, Fate/Extella, Akiba’s Beat, Exist Archive, Gundam Breaker 3, Rabi-Ribi, Fault Milestone One, and I think you now get my point. It would appear that publishers are wanting to gloss over PS Vita exclusives in favour of giving them PS4 ports in the West. NIS announced Touhou: Genso Wanderer for PS4 and PS Vita in the West, where in Japan it was a Vita exclusive.

Nowhere is this more apparent than XSEED. Firstly, the positive — they are bringing Shantae physical, as well as Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity to PS4 via PSN. While we are getting musou anime spinoff Fate/Extella and otaku RPG Akiba’s Beat so soon after the Japanese release and both of them will be day one purchases for me from a European publisher, they were not on my wishlist. I was wanting Net High and Omega Labyrinth the most. Ya’know, that wacky sci-fi dystopian visual novel with that gorgeous anime style? There are other exclusive VNs on Vita (namely Norn9 and Code:Realize), so a third one wouldn’t hurt. The trophy list was even localised, too, and I would have been all over this title if it was announced, as, being frank, it seems like the perfect game for me in both setting and tone (plus there are memes in the script supposedly).

PS Vita | Net HIgh

Aah, I would still love a localised release of this. Preferably with a limited physical run, but I digress.

Omega Labyrinth seems like it could be a decent roguelike, but if there were censorship issues with the ecchi content or the game sucked, then I could forgive not getting that. There was also Tokyo Xanadu, but, considering that Falcom are screwing Vita owners over with a little game called Tokyo Xanadu eX+, I’m not surprised we haven’t had an announcement for that. Alternatively, from XSEED the most likely games we’ll get for Vita now are Takaki’s latest projects, Valkyrie Drive and Uppers, which were also absent. I would hope that we’ll get them, but I don’t just want fanservice games localised for the PS Vita. While fanservice games were noticeably absent from E3, detractors still argue that the PS Vita has too many games with fanservice (of varying degrees), and more variety would be welcome. Which would also be a good opportunity for games like Net High to shine. In short, there was a huge missed opportunity here by XSEED to give some Marvelous Japan Vita games the spotlight.

XSEED weren’t the only publisher that disappointed me somewhat. What I was hoping for from Atlus was Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen developed by Aquaplus and Sting. Although the import reviews for this game on YouTube have been negative, I am still interested in trying this title out. There has been no word at all on whether this will be localised by anybody, let alone Atlus, and if they won’t be I’d rather have an outright confirmation so I can stop hoping and get ready to import it. That said, the lineup they have with SEGA is great, and I look forward to importing Persona 5, 7th Dragon III and Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X to Europe when they release in the US, and possibly Yakuza 0.

PS Vita | Utawarerumono: False Mask

I can’t understand what they are saying? I don’t think “This game sucks, don’t localise me” is correct.

The only other publishers that localise Vita exclusives are NISA and Idea Factory Int’l — though I say “exclusive” I mean “console exclusive” as in they get a PC port. While this isn’t a bad thing, I wish they held off for a couple of years and give the Vita owners the chance to enjoy the game as an exclusive for a while. I will briefly outline that I am a pro-exclusive gamer, and that, for games consoles to stay relevant, they need exclusives in order for them to sell, otherwise you may as well get a PC. Nintendo know this, hence they release almost all their games exclusively on their platforms and they are still selling and staying relevant, even without proper third party support. I am one of those gamers that wants to convince people to buy gaming platforms for exclusives, and, if they keep going to other platforms like PS4 and PC, it becomes harder to justify the purchase, just like I am having with justifying a PS4 purchase as they all keep going to PC (like Megadimension Neptunia VII and Onechanbara ZII: Chaos). That said, aside from Genso Wanderer, both publishers have been quiet, which is a bit of a bummer, even if the games they have announced already (with the exception of Criminal Girls 2) are worth getting excited for.

If publishers are no longer giving Vita exclusives the limelight, I guess it’s a sign of the times that the PS Vita’s market is getting smaller and smaller in the West. More and more releases in the West are becoming nicher and nicher, and these niche games are much less likely to take to the stage at E3 or be demoed. As it is, many uninformed people think the Vita is already irrelevant due to the lack of promotion by Sony and larger retailers, and not big games that appeal to the Western casual are being released anymore. These people also do not purchase the Vita games that are released, leading to fewer localisations and fewer physical releases. Having a PS4 or PC version spreads the risk, as more people have a PS4 or PC than a PS Vita.

PS Vita | Root Letter

I am sad, too, that Net High doesn’t appear to be in the localisation pipeline. But at least your game is.

That said it’s still good to see that there are publishers still supporting the Vita — Kadokawa’s lineup they showed at their conference is excellent, and I am interested in every single game they are currently developing. One of them — Root Letter — already has a Western publisher and that game will be day one for me, which is the highlight of my E3. Yeah, I’m deadly serious. A VN that next to nobody will care about is the highlight of my E3. That said, God Wars: Beyond Time also looks excellent and the art style is gorgeous, in a similar style to Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines, which I also enjoyed. The lore, in particular, is appealing to me, and I do like my obscure games. Hopefully the strategy part of the game will be up to scratch, as well. Demon Gaze II also looks and sounds a treat as expected by Experience, and the first Demon Gaze is very good, so hopefully this game is an improvement, especially if it’s localised. I’d wager it’ll probably be one of the last exclusives we get brought over for the system. There’s also Reco Love, but I doubt we will get this visual novel title as it’s niche even for Japan, but I hope importers will find it a treat to read. There was also their dungeon RPG project due to be properly revealed in 2017 for PS4 and PS Vita, which intrigues me, as it’s a dungeon crawler. If you are a niche gamer, this should be the company that wins E3 for you — at least in my view.

Hopefully I am proven wrong about the exclusives, though, and that some more exclusives are brought over for the system as time goes on, or at least released in Asia with English subs — the games mentioned above I’d like to see alongside more Otomate titles in the West. But, yeah, if you’re a Vita fan, expect future E3s to have even less mention of the PS Vita from niche pubs let alone the mainstream, as the system is starting to enter its twilight years.

PS Vita | Girl Friend Beta: Summer Vacation Spent With You

Girl Friend Beta: Summer Vacation Spent With You. Another JPN exclusive I’d like to read someday.

About Joseph Puntschart

A university student who loves niche games and desires for them to be more fairly represented in the world. Favourite games include Persona 4 Golden, Super Mario Galaxy, Kingdom Hearts II and IA/VT Colorful. Hopes that one day a Japanese publisher will take the risk and make a Yaoi ecchi game. Think Valkyrie Drive with guys and you're on the right lines.

  • awvnx

    Realistically, Net High was way too niche to get a localization especially considering it’s Vita exclusive. People shouldn’t have gotten their hopes up from localized trophy names.

    As a VN fan, Utawarerumono 2 would have been great to see localized. But it’s not really a Vita exclusive anyway. I would have thought Atlus would have picked it up since they did Tears to Tiara 2 and Dungeon Travelers 2, plus this game is on PS4 also, but I guess those games just sold too poorly for them to continue doing Aquaplus games. Quite sad.

    • j0eeyy_p

      I would have accepted a localisation of Net High if it menat it got a PC or PS4 port, though I still would have been sad due a loss of exclusivuty.

      I’m glad there’s support for Aquaplus games! Personally, part of me worries if the furore over Dungeon Travelers 2 put Aquaplus off localising their games, they are essentially an “un-PC” dveloper due ot all the ecchi harem stuff they do. I wish we had an outright confirmation. Maybe I’ll ping the Japanese account via Google Translate.

  • Steve Baltimore

    While I agree with this to a point, there are a lot of Vita titles coming from XSEED,NISA,AKsys and others. They may not be exclusive to the console but the point of a handheld is to have a console like experience on the go. Also since most of the titles coming cross save you can easily take your game on the go and never lose any progress.

    • j0eeyy_p

      I didn’t actually think of that. My point still stands though as not everybody is interested is buying a console without exclusive games and if they aren’t usually console/handheld gamers, would need them to justify a PS Vita/PS TV purchase. I only play games on PC because that’s where VNs are, they are “exclusive” in a way. But I still prefer them on Vita.

    • Smug

      You can drop NISA and Aksys if you care about having games being released the way they’re supposed to be (and not broken messes in the case of NISA too).

      Also the handheld need to be pirated so you can archive your saves, screenshots and other data without needing a PSN account and internet connection.

    • j0eeyy_p

      To be fair, Grand Kingdom’s fuckups with the physical copy/LE by NISA is something that dosen’t fill me with much confidence about NIS. I’m glad I didn’t preorder that game.

      I don’t think Sony would agree, though if they officially announce that it’s dead it may encourage publishers to stop localising. Likewise when the system is cracked too. That said, fan translations would help improve the English visual novel library on the Vita and I really hope the day comes – but only after localisations stop in their own time. They are trying to keep third party support alive even though they don’t give a fuck about supporting it themselves, they also don’t really care about the quality of games beinf put on the Vita (see Mop: Operation Cleanup)

      Ironically enough, in South East Asia they are still releasing games – like Moe Chronicle and Deemo. Just sucks that the West keep getting digital only releases and we have to import from Asia. Hopefully Caligula will get an R3 physical release.

    • Smug

      NISA fucked up plenty of times on previous vita western releases (except Demon gaze for the sole reason it was supervised by Experience Inc.), not to mention all the shit they have done on other systems too. At this point, anyone supporting this company is asking for troubles.

    • j0eeyy_p

      Yeah I recall, but remember that people are still going to run out and buy Party Favours. That said, I can’t wait for the PSP or PC releases of Invite Only to be patched so that the uncensored content is perfectly playable in English.

      Hopefully if they localise Demon Gaze 2 it won’t be butchered. But I’l wait and see.

    • Smug

      Criminal Girls is never going to be released on PC as NISA pulled it off from Steam. Probably because they found out they dont have the luxury to blame on rating boards as scapgoats like they could do on consoles for the censorship.

    • j0eeyy_p

      You’re right, I can’t find it on Steam. Is there an official confirmation statement from NISA? Don’t care if there’s PR bollocks.

      Not to mention the Steam release practically baits hackers and pirates due to it being incomplete.

      At least Monpiece PC will be day one for me.

  • A lot of this amounts to “my exclusives!” and just all in all very unrealistic expectations. I’ve always felt like it doesn’t matter if a game is on both a handheld and on a stationary, mainly because I feel like the two will likely not compete for the same audience. Most people who buy these games once you down the road put them on PC won’t have ever have had any intention of picking up a Vita to begin with.

    If anything I feel like this only opens up for the Vita to be more alive. Being able to also for cheap port a game to PC enables developers to far more easily turn a profit from localizing games. So drop that elitist attitude of there being some kinda enjoyment in having exclusives. Just be glad that we can all enjoy the same games on our preferred platforms.

    • Steve Baltimore

      I have to agree here. The fact these game expand to other platforms makes it much more likely they will be localized to being with.

    • Firion Hope

      I disagree, I’ve seen a lot of people say why bother getting one when they can play a better version of all the games for cheaper on pc instead and its a valid complaint. I blame Sony not incentivizing devs for that one mainly.

      Also without exclusives there’s literally zero point in consoles existing at all. Think of it this way is the PS2 fondly remembered because it had a dvd player and games you could play much better versions of on Xbox and Gamecube? No, it’s fondly remembered because of all the games you could only play on it.

    • Yes, and most of the people saying “why bother getting one” are ones who never had the intention of getting one to begin with. So what if they continue holding onto that idea?

      The single reason for it having those exclusives is because you knew it was the console you could expect most sales from putting a game on. I mean even then, why should I as a consumer care if my console of choice is fondly remembered by others? I’m getting tons of fond memories of my Vita already as is. I had tons of fond memories of my original Xbox back then too. Exclusives aren’t the end all, and the notion that they somehow would be is ridiculous.

      Even then though, your point only applies to home consoles losing exclusives to PC or to one another, not handheld ones going to stationary platforms. Because again, what I gain from playing a game on the go is not something you can replicate in simply putting it on PC. I would still have to play it seated as opposed to while on a long journey or from wherever else I may so desire. There’s still a unique appeal in handheld gaming, and there always will be.

    • Firion Hope

      I don’t think that’s true

      Maybe you don’t personally care, but exclusives are important and always have been. Again without exclusives there’s no point in consoles even existing. And yeah vita is already niche to begin with so Id rather it be remembered as more than that one console who had all its games ported to PC later. I mean think of the Xbone, no one wants one because all its games come to PC anyway.

      I think most handheld gamers mainly use them at home anyway, not to mention the PSTV being a thing. Also laptops are a thing that exist or Surface tablets or streaming to phone so its not like PC can’t do it too. I like handheld gaming myself but that’s clearly not a draw for most people outside of Japan. Exclusives are what make vita more than that thing you can remote play from PS4 to (which PC can also do now… lol)

    • Steve Baltimore

      I disagree with there’s no point for it existing without exclusives when it comes to handhelds. Reason being, I cannot put a laptop or home console in my pocket. The point to a handheld is to have a console like experience on the go.

    • Firion Hope

      GPDXD win can (it actually looks pretty neat). Anyway I still love my vita regardless.

    • j0eeyy_p

      It’s not elitist. It’s realistic. The Vita will drop into irrelevance quicker if ther aren’t exclusive games being released for it, a lack of sales are occuring because people are buying PS4 or PC versions. In a way, yeah it helps the pubs financailly, but niche publishers should also focus on fan satisfaction, as this includes taking the occasional risks on titles that may or may not have a market.

      Funnly enough, I wrote this just before Caligula was announced and haven’t had a chance to amend the article. Atlus still have faith in exclusives sort of, but no physical release also makes me a sad panda.

  • Firion Hope

    I think this is the first year where they didn’t show or mention it even one time. Sony just can’t be trusted to support anything thats not a console and I also suspect the PSVR will suffer the same fate after a while. It’s a shame because it’s such a nice handheld and gets everything right but Sony have never done anything to support it despite so many opportunities. And they probably won’t make another one too so we’ll be stuck with whatever region locked 5 year out of date thing Ninty shits out next.

    Ill always love the handheld though. I hope it gets cracked finally since this is probably its final year of life because it could open the door to fanslations. Like the vast majority of interesting exclusives don’t make it over which is a shame.

  • Mr0303

    The Vita’s life story and lack of success is truly a tragedy, since it is my favourite handheld.

    Sony announced long ago that they are not going to support it any longer with first party games (especially considering the release of PSVR) and that is also true for some of the bigger Western 3rd party publishers. Vita games eventually releasing on PC is not a big issue, especially considering how different the two systems are – a handheld is quite a separate experience. Games being available for PS4 and Vita usually have some great benefits like cross buy/play/save, which makes owning a Vita worth it.

    I don’t mind Vita games having reputation as fan service games, because usually that is just an element of it and it just means less restrictions on the developer’s creativity. In a current PC culture that is most welcome.

    The future of the system is quite obvious – we will get the odd awesome title like Estival Versus and will have to keep an eye out for what is worth importing from Japan. Due to the hardcore dedicated audience and its moderate success in Japan my bet is that we’re going to get some more Vita games at least for a couple of more years.

  • Nin

    Yeah, I wish Utawarerumono 2 would come over. I suppose it would be theoretically possible for it to get a fan translation even now since the PS3 can be hacked. But it doesn’t seem likely either way.

    Anyways, the Vita’s only use is for being an otaku game machine, which means it’s more alive in Japan than the US by default. Since Sony isn’t considering a successor to the Vita, either they care more about the international market than the domestic market, or the Vita isn’t exactly doing fantastic in its home country either.

    • j0eeyy_p

      At least I’m not the only one wanting Uta! Though I’m not sure there’s enough demand for a hacked PS3 fan translation! On PC or Vita, maybe.

  • David Mayn

    Well, at least we now get Caligula from Atlus, which is really great news. Hopefully Net High by XSEED will follow soon and they just wanted to give Extella and Beat more spotlight. And Uta too for that matter, all three games are eagerly expected by me.

    • j0eeyy_p

      I’m not hopeful, but Net High would be a dream! <3

  • Rampaging Zeroroute

    IMO extella was was made more with the ps4 in mind judging by the enemy count

  • JonathanisPrimus

    Genso Wanderer was released as a late port on PS4 in Japan. Based on the lack of attention it’s receieved, I’m guessing it sold very poorly compared to the Vita version, which was a big success for them.

  • Panpopo

    Root Letter hype!!

  • Andrewmated

    It’s probably a great system for niche games and I will probably get one myself for that reason, but it’s treatment by Sony has been pretty poor. Plus lack of a decent amount of internal memory is still one of its biggest flaws.

    • j0eeyy_p

      It definitely is! I would highly recommend getting one. But if you’re a physical collector, be prepared to import a lot of the recent releases, especially if you live in Europe.