Vita's Swansong is Coming - But What Will it Be? - ArticleAdam Cartwright , posted on 04 November 2018 / 2,197 Views
Since its launch in 2011, the PlayStation Vita has continually soldiered on despite western AAA support drying up, its own manufacturer moving its efforts to the PS4, and constant internet doom-saying that the console is dead (which, judging by a recent sales leak of North American software, it effectively has been for a number of years). Yet it’s taken until 2018 for Sony to deal the final two death blows – announcing that both production of physical carts in the west and distribution of the hardware worldwide will be ending in 2019.
This made me wonder about when we’ll see the final game land on the console and what form it will take. We already have multiple titles announced for release next year, including some final physical releases sneaking in just before the cut-off point. Even with western physical production ending, carts will still be available in Asia & Japan, and beyond that we’ve been given no date for the shut-down of the PlayStation Store (which will allow strong supporters like Ratalaika Games to keep going). So just what form will the final Vita game actually take?
I find this such an interesting concept, as previous videogames consoles always had a definitive cut-off date (which is chronicled here), leading to things like the N64 (Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3) and Neo Geo (Samurai Shodown V Special) going out with an absolute bang, because once cartridge or disk production stopped worldwide, that was it. Nowadays, game machines are in such a different position and in the Vita's case there are multiple different end dates for multiple different things, which is what I'll be looking at in this article.
What Will be the Final Western Retail Release?
This one we already know the answer to, given how few of the larger publishers are supporting Vita these days. The only one left is Aksys Games, whose Code: Realize – Wintertide Miracles is due to be the final game you’ll likely find on store shelves (or general online retailers) for Vita. This is perhaps a fitting end for the platform, given that the first Code:Realize helped popularize otome games in the west and opened up a whole new market for the handheld in its twilight years. Unless we get a surprise announcement from another publisher at the last second (which seems unlikely, given that even PQube Games has now moved on) then this one seems to be a shoe-in.
What Will be the Final Physical English Release?
This is where things get a little more tricky. Sony announced that production of Vita carts in the west would be stopping by March 2019, giving publishers a hard cut-off date to ensure their releases are ready. At this stage, the only companies regularly putting out physical Vita games are the limited companies – the likes of Limited Run, Red Art, and Strictly Limited Games. Each one has something lined-up for next year (The House in Fata Morgana, Project Hardcore, Sayonara Umihara Kawase, etc.), although there’s every chance there will be some further surprises along the way (Limited Run Games has at least 30 more Vita games to come - hopefully the above-pictured YIIK is in there).
The wildcard here is the Asian-English market, which has contracted significantly in recent years compared to its heyday of 2014-2017, but has also gained one major player who looks set to continue releasing Vita games. This is eastasiasoft, the publisher behind Rainbow Moon and Soldner X-2, which has recently branched out into publishing physical versions of indie games like Reverie and Severed. The company has confirmed that it will continue supporting the handheld through 2019, meaning it stands a good chance of handling the final English-language physical release.
What Will be the Final Physical Release?
It’s worth noting that the PSP, which was discontinued in Japan in 2014, continued getting physical releases for a further two years in the region until 2016. This was in stark contrast with the rest of the world, where it was unofficially discontinued a few years earlier and physical software releases had dried up by 2013. It’s possible we may see a similar situation with Vita, which is getting things like Catherine and Is it Wrong to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon?, as well as various otome titles such as La Corda d’Oro 3 and Variable Barricade in its homeland. These releases could end up outlasting publishers like eastasiasoft (although Sony's recent censorship mission in the region may put a rapid end to that).
What Will be the Final Ever Vita Game?
All of this leads to the final question of what will the final Vita game be, and more importantly, when will it release? As previously mentioned, in older generations there was always a definitive final official release, due to there being no digital distribution, but things are so different in today’s world where even new PSP games could be released if a developer truly wanted (something Brian Provinciano did in 2016 with Retro City Rampage). Beyond that, unofficial games can come well after a console’s death. For example, NG.DEV has released multiple titles on both the Neo Geo and Dreamcast in recent years (and, coincidentally, the company has just released its first ever Vita title – Fast Striker).
We know of plenty games targeting a release on Vita in 2019 – Battle Rockets, Project Sense, Suki & the Shadow Klaw and Warped: Metaverse being among them, and there’s potential for localizers like Atlus to come through with 13 Sentinels beyond this. Yet hobbyists and just general fans of the handheld might keep things going even longer than this, although a lot of that will depend on how long Sony allows the Vita store to keep going for.
Sony might finally be lowering the curtain on the Vita’s life, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s the end – I could speak at length about how many games I’ve got in my backlog, but even beyond that there’s a sea of upcoming stuff to look forward to (make sure you check out my article about upcoming Vita games for 2019 at the end of the year!).
But like it or not, the Vita is effectively reaching the end of its life now, and I find it fascinating thinking about what’s left to come for it. Things have changed rapidly over the past 10 years, meaning that the end of production of physical media no longer means the end for a console, leaving a big question mark over what the future will hold.