Sony’s conference at Gamescom 2013 is done and dusted, and in terms of PlayStation Vita announcements, fans have some awesome hardware price drops and plenty of games to look forward to in the near future. But while there was some great news, there was a notable lack of IP announcements outside of the indie realm, as I previously predicted.
While I’m personally happy with what’s on the horizon, there’s no denying indie games aren’t every gamer’s cup of tea. The PS Vita is still struggling to establish its identity, seemingly stuck between its original conceptualisation as the handheld for ‘console experiences on the go’ and its newer image as the indie and niche-friendly games machine.
The Vita currently supports the best of both worlds, but it’d be a hard case to argue that the majority of early adopters and the more casual buyers out there didn’t buy the graphically powerful Vita with the former impression.
Perhaps the one true surprise announcement was that Borderlands 2 is making its way onto the PlayStation Vita. While it’s a port of an existing console game, it’s a ridiculously huge third-party property at that, one that has sold millions, and one that isn’t an indie title. Could Borderlands 2 be the leading example the Vita needs to regain consistent third-party support for the handheld?
Looting and shooting RPG on the go: who the hell wouldn't want to?
Yes, I think so. Since the mediocre to disastrous reception of Assassin's Creed III: Liberation and Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified late last year, third-party support for the Vita from the major publishers has lessened noticeably. And I don’t blame the developers and publishers: if an Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty title — Vita exclusive versions, mind you — couldn't sell well enough, what can?
Liberation was exactly terrible, but it was hard to play without thinking it was definitely a watered down handheld Assassin’s Creed rather than a unique experience which could match its console brethren. And don’t even get me started on Black Ops Declassified, a lazy spin-off with terrible gameplay and a true lack of content.
As I’ve said before, recognisable names and experiences shift copies. Both Liberation and Black Ops Declassified sold off their names alone, but that didn't stop gamers from realising they both weren't essential exclusive experiences.
Borderlands 2 is a big brand and a big draw for the Vita, and this time, Sony needs to handle this third-party title properly, because the big name trick only sells and works so many times.
It is apparent that this time around Sony are serious about the success of the port, as SCE (Sony Computer Entertainment) are confirmed as the publishers. If they and Iron Galaxy Studios handle the port well and nothing content-wise is lost in the transition to the handheld version, 2K and Gearbox can lead by example and convince other major developers and publishers to consider PS Vita versions of their future multiplatform releases.
This is the first, small step back to stability for the Vita, and for Sony to regain the confidence of third-party publishers and remind them that the Vita can handle these graphically demanding games without concessions, and that there is a market for them.
As noted by Gearbox in the announcement, there were thousands of fans tweeting and emailing them for the port since last year. The Vita can provide for the gamers wanting those big name games, too, and the fans are constantly vocalising that.
It may not be the all-new IP many hoped would be announced at Gamescom 2013, but that all comes later. If Borderlands 2 on the Vita is of quality and the fans support the port, third-party support will surely be reinvigorated and we can expect better and more frequent versions of our favourite multiplatform games, on-the-go, and hopefully from there, some third-party Vita exclusives that aren’t the same sort of embarrassing rushed mess as Black Ops Declassified mixed in with the Sony's stellar first-party efforts that we know are always on the horizon.