PlayStation Vita Roundtable
Posted on Wednesday, February 22 @ 13:44:18 PST by Anthony Severino
Q: A number of Vita launch titles aren’t going to offer “infrastructure” online multiplayer as a feature. Is online multiplayer yet as important a factor for handheld games as console games, especially given the increase in price for handheld titles? And does the lack of online in some games show weakness in the Vita out of the gate, or were developers under pressure to get their product ready for the launch window?
Daniel Bischoff: Online multiplayer doesn’t mean nearly as much at launch as it will later in the Vita’s cycle. There won’t be a huge population of gamers on the Vita at launch, certainly not when they’re spread out across the massive lineup of software. The first game to sell a million units will need multiplayer. No one is missing it right now.
Adam Dolge: Handheld gaming and online multiplayer aren’t incompatible, but it’s not necessary. A lot of people just want to game on the go with their handhelds, and online typically requires more of an investment. I do believe, however, that online multiplayer is a good selling point, and it’s a shame we aren’t going to see it out of the box. Developers were probably under pressure to get their titles out for launch, so it’ll be interesting to see how online play is integrated in future titles.
Dale North: I think developers were waiting for some established examples of networked play before jumping onboard with their own multiplayer options. Combine that with the push to have titles ready for launch and it seems that full multiplayer titles will be a bit of a wait. Maybe Resistance will be our first outting.
Nicholas Michetti: The increase in price for handheld titles does draw more attention towards a lack of online play, especially for a system that has connectivity features like Vita does. It's difficult to tell whether the lack of online multiplayer will negatively impact sales, but gamers certainly are more aware of it and are asking about it for Vita titles. Saying that having online multiplayer in Vita games is as important as it is for console games may be a little premature—especially given the differences in preferences of consumers in the two markets—but with a title like Mario Kart 7 on 3DS having online play and selling millions of copies, it certainly doesn't hurt to have online multiplayer as a feature.
Not having a group of online multiplayer-enabled launch titles doesn't necessarily indicate that Vita has weakness, but if the system continues to lack games with online multiplayer, that may be a big problem for Vita moving forward. The system is building a reputation as being able to further narrow the gap between the console and handheld experience—not having online multiplayer would weaken that reputation. The first wave of titles can be looked past because developers were probably trying to get out their games for launch, but in the future, Sony has to try to ensure that games without online multiplayer on Vita are more of an exception and not a rule.
Q: How much of a factor is Vita’s lack of backward compatibility on its sales performance? Given how well the PS3 has sold since the removal of PS2 hardware-based backward compatibility and the introduction of the PS3 Slim, is it a factor at all?
Nicholas Michetti: What's strange about backward compatibility is that, as a feature, it used to be seen as a "must have" for any console—handheld or major home console. Now, gamers are seeing consoles with partial backward compatibility or the feature being removed entirely in some cases and no console manufacturer really being sore for the omission. The PSP's sales were not all that strong in the West, so Sony being hurt sales-wise for Vita because of a lack of compatibility with PSP games is unlikely. Sony should try to offer PSP owners something—the "UMD Reader" peripheral idea sounds good, for instance—but Sony likely will not end up with many problems from not including more PSP backward compatibility with Vita.
Dale North: Backwards compatibility is a hot point with gamers, but it's potentially less important on portables than it would be on consoles. I don't see people not buying a Vita because they can't play a PSP game on, especially given all the new types of experiences it provides. That said, it seems gamers really want full support of the large and varied PSP back library on Vita. Hopefully, Sony is working on this.
Daniel Bischoff: It’s not a factor. There are more than enough consumers who will hold on to their PSPs well after owning a Vita. There are even more consumers who never even bought games on the PSP, given that system’s issues with piracy and rampant hacking. People will complain, to be sure, but gamers tend to feel entitled.
Adam Dolge: Yes, the ability to play PSP games on the Vita is a huge selling point. As for the PS3 doing well since the PS2 hardware-based backward compatibility removal having anything to do with sales, I think that’s false—the PS3 Slim had a shot in the arm thanks to a price drop.
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