For the past two years, Nintendo have been blowing gamers away with the Switch, a phenomenal console/handheld hybrid that allows players to play whenever and wherever they like. Despite its success, the Switch isn’t the first console to pioneer such an idea – the PlayStation Vita is. As such, I’ll be looking at why and how the Vita did this, and why the Vita deserves just as much recognition for the Switch’s ideas. I want to preface this by noting the intention of this article isn’t to start a Vita vs. Switch debate, but to shine light onto an innovative gaming device that doesn’t get the respect and credit it deserves; the Switch comparison exists solely for comparison purposes due to its many similarities.
The main selling point of the Switch is its ability to play games both at home and on the go, something the Vita has been doing for years. One way this was pioneered was through the Cross-Save function, a concept introduced that allows saves to be transferred between the Vita and PlayStation 3 or 4 if the player owns the game on both systems. That might be a big “if” to you, as buying a game twice can be costly, but that’s where the Cross-Buy function comes in, an idea implemented by many publishers that grants you the right to download the game you bought for free on other consoles (e.g. if you buy Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time on PlayStation 3, you get the PlayStation Vita version for free).
These two ideas allowed players to play a game on their HD TV via the PlayStation 3 or 4, and then transfer the save to the Vita in seconds so that they can continue it on the go (and vice versa). This was exemplified by the release of PlayStation TV, a cheap microconsole that is fundamentally a Vita that connects to a TV. Just like with the PS3 & PS4, players could play a game on the PS TV before wirelessly transferring the save to their Vita, hence allowing continuation elsewhere until they return home and repeat the process but backwards. You could even use the same cartridge in this instance.
Moreover, the Switch is also a success because of its game quality, including it featuring console quality games in a portal medium. The Vita does the same. Although the PSP started this idea with games like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, the Vita fully realises Sony’s vision with a plethora of games that wouldn’t be out of place on the PS3 or even PS4. Games like Killzone: Mercenary, World of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest Builders, Gravity Rush, Tearaway, LittleBigPlanet PS Vita, Uncharted: Golden Abyss and many, many more are all top tier games that raised the bar for what a portable game could be. They decimated the concept of handheld games being smaller versions of their console brothers or nothing but quick time wasters, and games like Killzone: Mercenary and LittleBigPlanet PS Vita arguably even surpass their franchise’s console offerings. The Vita paved the way for quality mobile gaming, and the Switch popularised it.
Attentively, in what is probably most akin to the experience the Switch provides, the Vita has a feature called Remote Play. Remote Play allows someone to play their PlayStation 4 games (and even select PlayStation 3 games) on the Vita screen and/or with the Vita as the controller. That means that, just like the Switch would go on to do, the Vita allows players to play their PS4 game anywhere in the house on a portable screen. It goes beyond that though, because Remote Play even allows you to play outside the house. Of course, this requires good Internet connection on both ends, but if that’s the case then you can even play your PS4 in other countries, a feat that still blows my mind to this day. So, for example, my UK located PS4 could be played while on holiday by my Spain located PS Vita. It’s a revolutionary feature that shouldn’t be possible but is. Although Sony have recently made Remote Play available on Smartphones and Tablets, the Vita remains the best way to do it due to its built in controls (I say that both in reference to the Vita’s hardware, and in reference to the Vita Remote Play’s option to map the controls to whatever you like, hence providing an experience entirely optimised and dictated for and by you.)
Overall, despite the Vita not catching on in terms of sales, it has had an astronomical impact on the gaming industry. It introduced a smorgasbord of ideas that are groundbreaking both then and now, and while the Switch did a great job popularising the concepts, the Vita is what shaped the future of video games.
What are your thoughts on the Vita and its impact on both the Switch and gaming overall? Are there any impacts I missed? Let me know all this and more in the comments or via my Twitter profile @JoshsJots.