Could Indie Games Save the PS Vita?

The Playstation Vita is without a shadow of a doubt one of the best handheld consoles that ever existed. Its build quality, screen, controls and specs are completely unparalleled. It has the ability to bring current-gen console-quality gaming to the mobile platform without even straining itself. So why does a console like this require saving?

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Primarily, it’s because there simply aren’t enough games for it. Sony executive Fergal Gara explains that the reason for this is because “games on tablets and phones have changed the marketplace, and people can’t carry too many things around at one time.”

True enough, the emergence of the mobile platform has changed the way games are being played. Software developer Gaming Realms, an affiliate of entertainment hub Total Gold, says that the growth in market of mobile gaming comes from the increased adoption of smartphones by consumers, which accounts for 17% of mobile usage and 50% of smartphone app usage.

When Vita launched, there was also a reasonable but largely unattractive selection followed by a considerable gap. However, piles of indie games are now increasingly filling the gaps, which may actually result in the console seeing something of a resurgence in use by existing owners, if not potentially more sales. This is good for Sony, because it’s caused them not only to save their console, but also to finally open their doors to the indie development community.

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Sound Shapes is one such title – a platformer where the levels are built in a visual sequencer, so each collected item adds to the background music (though it’s so involved that “background” seems like a misnomer), to the point where you’re finishing a level at a crescendo of noise and harmony and you’re beginning to wonder why exactly all games need Uncharted-level graphics. The Vita is capable of those, obviously, but it’s the clean, sharp Sound Scape videos and its brilliantly-used soundtrack that put it in equal standing next to major studio releases.

The amazing thing about indie games is that, because they’re made independently and thus don’t need to bow to any marketing department or studio input (up until a point, obviously – there are indie developers with departments’ worth of staff), they tend to go off into the “weird” more often than not. Lone Survivor is a pixel-art tribute to Silent Hill that has you wandering through dark corridors and hiding from or firing bullets into a series of horrifying enemies.

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While there are some games that will do horror, there are no major studio releases risking 2D short of Rayman Origins, and that was a proven concept only because it wasn’t pixel art. The Vita has rapidly transformed from something sold on the capabilities of its high-quality 3D graphics to a machine that now runs games that are of all shapes and sizes.

The size is a bonus, of course – many indie games are smaller than the hulking, multiple-gig size of the average triple-A title – and fitting more of them onto Sony’s pricey memory cards can never be seen as a negative thing. But regardless of how many times you’ll have to re-mortgage your house to pay for extra Vita storage space, having a lot of indie games out there helps the gaming industry, and convinces Sony that the console isn’t a lost cause.

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