E3 2012: Did Sony Give the Vita the Boost it Deserves?

Since its launch earlier this year, the Vita has been routinely accused of many sins, namely poor software variety, lack of innovation, and a failure to use all of the power at its disposal.

Gearing up for E3, it’s been no surprise that much of the speculation around E3 has been centered around the Vita. Will it get a price drop? What new titles will be announced? What sort of features might they unveil?

At their press conference Monday night, Sony finally put all speculation to rest by making several announcements about the handheld. First, they announced new titles headed for the Vita, including Assassin’s Creed Liberation, Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified, and PlayStation All Stars: Battle Royale.

They then went on to prove that Sony is working toward an eventual media hub integration with both the PS3 and Vita by announcing that both Crackle and Hulu plus are coming to the the handheld, two services that are already available for use on the PS3. Also, it was revealed that PS1 classics will make their way to the Vita via the PSN.

We then got a glimpse at cross-platform play when PlayStation All Stars: Battle Royale was demonstrated on both the Vita and the PS3 in a real time match, and got a teaser announcement that the Vita will become an enhanced controller for the PS3 complete with motion controls and unlockables via DLC for Little Big Planet 2.

But despite the new announcements for the handheld, the question still remains: did they do enough to give the Vita the boost it needs to make its way to the top of the market?

While the titles announced are impressive, it is still a little disappointing to see so few new ones. This disappointment is exacerbated by the rumors floating around before the show that Sony was planning to announce 20 new titles for 2012/13.

While they are both standalone titles and individual experiences on the Vita itself, will Black Ops and Assassin’s Creed be impressive enough to move people toward picking up the system? And while it’s neat from a nostalgic standpoint that you can bring PS1 classics to your Vita, it’s hard to argue that that isn’t really demonstrating the full potential of the Vita. With all of its integration and capabilities, it’s not really enticing to play Chrono Trigger on it when I have the ability to play a hardcore shooter with better graphical fidelity and console-like mechanics.

The cross-platform integration, however, is where Sony wins on this one. I’ve said it in previous editorials, and I’ll say it again; this is what the Vita needs. Seamless cross-platform play between the PS3 and the Vita is an industry first, and if they can successfully pull it off, it could be a huge boost for the Vita and finally score it a niche that it so badly needs to stand out in the handheld market. Imagine the potential here; if we could manage to have multiplayer cross-platform play, people could literally play Call of Duty or another online-heavy title anywhere (granted they have the 3G or WiFi capabilities). The possibility of this opens new doors and could revolutionize handheld/console integration as we know it.

However, the “enhanced controller” tech brought about by the Little Big Planet 2 DLC is falling somewhere on the other end of the spectrum. Gamers themselves sounded off on this by complaining about the fact that the Vita would now be considered a “$250 controller”, looking to have more functionality looking Wii-U esque rather than being a separate platform.

Would an enhanced controller integration be an interesting feature of the Vita? Can it bring about new gameplay mechanics that a normal controller can’t? Of course, this all depends on how the developers choose to integrate it. Through LBP2, it sounds like the Vita’s motion controls will be the biggest part of the integration, alongside the fact that using the Vita as a controller also unlocks new story modes and other in-game features.

But again, this may not be what gamers are looking for from the Vita, especially when we consider the features and overall power the platform has.

So, was enough done to give the Vita a boost? Of course, we’ll only know with time, and there may be more reveals this week as E3 continues. And while it may not be all that we were expecting to see from Sony, it’s hard to argue that they’re finally taking a step in the right direction to give the Vita the boost it deserves.