Kickstarter and GoFundMe campaigns are common in the gaming industry, although these campaigns are rarely responsible for maintaining an entire console platform.
This was the case with Sony’s PlayStation Vita, the most tragic handheld device in the game. Dedicated developers and editors kept the console alive until the very end, with Sony putting the final nail in the coffin of the game. Vita on July 20, 2021.
“It meant a lot to us … to deliver games that were all about making people happy rather than selling millions of copies on the platform.” says Joseph Brown of Top Hat Studios, talking about the work they’ve done to bring multiple titles to the PS Vita. “For us that means showing the players that we really care about the community and the fans.”
Top Hat Studios has been developing Vita ports for years – such as LAZR, Synergia, Hyper Team Recon – because “they keep wanting to give back to those who have supported them.” It is a platform made unique by its fans.
“PS Vita has a great community associated with it, which is very active”
Andi Han, Top Hat Studios
“PS Vita has a great community associated with it, which is very active,” says Andi Han of Top Hat Studios. “Unlike other platforms where games come and go, the PS Vita has a fun ecosystem where games mean something to the community when they launch, and generally stay in memory because of their accessibility on the web. console. This is quite rare in today’s industry. “
Han isn’t wrong to say how much PS Vita developers care about their fans; this community has been part of the reason for launching several games, as has been the case with Benjamin Widdowson from Suzaku, the developer behind Sense: A Cyberpunk Ghost Story, which was recently released for the console in 2020. ”So many people said that the platform was dead and frankly, without the folks at ‘Vita Island’, Sense might not have been able to achieve our Kickstarter goal. “
“Vita Island” is a term used to refer to the PS Vita community and the most die-hard fans of the console, a reference to how it is separated from the community around other gaming platforms. Suzaku’s love for the Vita is part of the reason he chose to release the game on the seemingly dormant device.
“It’s just a cool feeling to have a physical copy of a game I made in my hands. Growing up with PlayStation and being one of three people at my local GameStop who lined up at midnight for a Vita is even cooler … being able to do it once was amazing. “
Although Suzaku might not have known it, Sense: A Cyberpunk Ghost Story will remain the only time it sees its work on PS Vita, as July 20, 2021 was the last day to submit a game for certification and eventual release on PS Vita. PSN store. Even though the store itself will remain open in perpetuity, developers will no longer be able to post new titles to the digital storefront.
The decision to shut down the PS Vita, PS3, and PSP storefronts – which was quickly reversed, at least for the most part – came as a surprise to many in the industry.
However, this was not surprising news for everyone; Brown said that “the writing has definitely been on the wall for quite some time now,” and UnMetal developer Francisco Tellez de Meneses said he was made aware of Sony’s move a year before it doesn’t happen.
“This is the reason UnMetal was released on PS Vita before anything else: there was a deadline,” he tells us. “I couldn’t say anything, and had to stop everything I was doing on the game to focus on the port for PS Vita. In fact, the game had to be finished, pass Sony quality control and be fully approved beforehand. the end of 2020. It really muddied my plans and even caused me to lose a great publisher. “
“If the developers could create physical PS Vita games on their own, the console would be alive for many years to come.”
Francisco Tellez de Meneses, developer of UnMetal
The UnMetal survival game is now available for the PS Vita, but many developers haven’t been so lucky. Lillymo Games released three games for the PS Vita, but while its next two projects were also due to hit the handheld, the PS Vita versions have since been canceled. And yet, Sony still allowed the team to purchase a development kit earlier this year, weeks before the digital store closure was first announced.
PS Vita has been primarily supported by its community for most of its life, and there was a reason people hung on in the first place. Its position as the successor to the PSP at the time of release was enough to generate a lot of excitement around the console, and even despite its pricing issues, it was able to impress gamers enough to stick around once it did. they had bought it – and the developers noticed.
“I think overall this has been more beneficial for Japanese and independent developers than Western or AAA developers; we’ve seen this clearly reflected with the software library,” Widdowson said. “For indie games, I think having a very powerful portable device to port our games to indie games away from niche or experimental games to more traditional or mainstream experiences. I think that also broadened the appeal. independent games in many markets and in particular Japan. “
While Nintendo Switch is today’s indie platform of choice, the PS Vita’s OLED display has been where many indie classics first released and found an audience. Guacamelee, for example, is now a popular independent franchise following the success of the original game, which led to a well-received sequel five years later in 2018.
Sony was very indie-driven during the early years of the PS Vita, but once that started to change with the rise of the PS4, support for the PS Vita started to dry up. When Sony announced that it would be halting development of proprietary PS Vita games in 2015, it felt like Sony had given up on supporting the platform, especially for developers still working on the console.
“His [support is] already gone. It’s been years since the store was refreshed, ”says Thomas Altenburger, developer at Flying Oak Games, the team behind the latest version of Vita, Scourgebringer.
Altenburger is very aware that the “new releases” page of the Vita store is frozen in the past, which strongly reflects sales. For him, it’s not even clear why Sony is leaving the store open.
The decision to reverse the shutdown came after fans expressed disappointment with the shutdown, in which case Sony decided to keep the PS3 and PS Vita stores open while keeping the PSP store closed.
“It’s a token of gratitude to a community that has never let it go through thick and thin”
Thomas Altenburger, Flying Oak Games
“There was a known deadline for certification, and since the store is not refreshed, nor animated with new events or new sales, it is almost finished,” says Altenburger. “The fact that Sony is preserving purchases doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense in this context – I think it’s mostly a public image move to keep it online.”
Of course, removing the store would have consequences whether or not new games could be released there. There are a plethora of digital titles that would be entirely lost without yet existing on the store, and their loss would be a huge blow to the video game preservation effort. Not only that, but as Altenburger points out, these games would be in a position that many older titles now find themselves in: stuck in a state where they cannot be legally released or replayed.
“If the developers could create physical PS Vita games on their own, the console would be alive for many years,” De Meneses says, “but as far as I know that’s not the case … it it’s hard to predict how long it will take. will last. “
It wouldn’t be such a big deal, of course, if Sony had some sort of preservation solution. While emulation is a popular way for fans to enjoy old, inaccessible retro games, it’s by no means a real solution.
“We’re seeing a lot of gamers asking developers to make their games available for the machine as a self-hosted download after the store closes,” says Altenburger, “but what gamers don’t see is that it would violate literally every deal that developers can make with Sony, throwing them into legal trouble and jeopardizing the developers’ ability to make other games. I don’t think anyone will take that risk. “
The PS Vita will be remembered by its fans, but also by the developers who have invested in this device for the community. “In addition to being a great portable and powerful console with a beautiful screen, it’s the community itself that makes Vita what it is for me,” says De Meneses.
“It reminds me of the MSX community: such a strong group of followers and people who love this console and keep it alive.”
For Joseph Brown, this is the role the handheld computer played during its time in the industry. “La Vita was important because it was a platform that was almost entirely and uniquely community driven; something that hasn’t really existed in the indie scene for a long time. The bond between publishers / developers and fans on the PS Vita was a unique thing, and I think something that is very worthy of appreciation. “
Thomas Altenburger, however, best sums up the Vita and why it’s worth remembering, when asked why Flying Oak Games released a PS Vita game in 2021 in the first place. Besides the challenge of even bringing the game to the Vita and being able to use the handheld features for a unique gaming experience, there was a main reason.
“It’s a token of appreciation for a community that has never let it go against all odds.”