Ever since Nintendo announced their plans for a dual-screen console at last year’s E3, PlayStation fans have fantasized about a similar feature using the more than capable combination of the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation Vita. Now that this year’s E3 is behind us, any chance that Sony had to make an announcement about something similar coming to PlayStation has come and gone. Why did Sony completely ignore asymmetrical gameplay at this year’s E3? And why should it be considered their biggest missed opportunity of the show?
Even Xbox came out of the gate swinging with SmartGlass — a second screen functionality that promises to add a more engaging experience to Xbox games (and the platform) in the future. Sure, some of the tech demos shown during their presentation were either hit or miss, and I’m still not certain exactly what purpose the conceptual Halo demo would even serve. But the point is that Xbox recognized what the competition was doing and they adjusted and realigned their offering accordingly by providing a similar experience without forcing end users to conform or buy any particular product to take advantage of it.
Then you have Sony who, if you blinked during their press conference, you might have missed the sizzle trailer that displayed their upcoming Vita lineup. Besides the emphasis on cross platform play in the upcoming PlayStation All Stars: Battle Royale or the fact that the handheld will soon support PS One classics, Sony left owners of the Vita (myself included) with not much to look forward to for the handheld in the coming year. Even worse, not much for potential owners to want to buy into the platform.
What I’m having trouble understanding is how with the PlayStation Move — a much more obvious “me too” peripheral — Sony insisted on forcing it in across their brands. Hell, just take a look at Wonderbook and it’s obvious that they still believe in the glowing wand. Yet with the Vita still in it’s infancy and buzzwords like “asymmetrical gameplay” becoming a thing at this year’s show, we see nothing about that kind of function becoming a reality on the PlayStation platform. Instead, what we get is “look, more cloud saves” in hopes that we can be duped into buying two copies of the same game.
I’ll admit that I was among those skeptical on how dual-screen gaming would work in the living room. After spending time with the Wii U last week, I can definitely see some experiences benefiting from this new style of play. Roleplaying and adventure titles are likely to be the ones receiving the biggest boost in gameplay, if it were to happen. Unlike the Move, I wouldn’t expect it to be forced and thrown into every first party title. Instead, only applying the feature into games where it would make sense.
This isn’t an attempt of trying to stir the pot in regards to Sony treating the Vita like a stepchild either. That’s another talk for another time. This is more about how something so obvious (and likely easy to implement) is being completely ignored. As an aside, when the Wii U was just being announced last year, I remember it felt as though the entire gaming community went to Twitter and Facebook to say “So what? The Vita can pull that off.” Yet here we are, another E3 later, and there’s nothing to indicate that two screen asymmetrical gaming will come to the platform anytime soon.
While the “core” audience likely can’t care less about such a feature coming to the Vita and PS3, even they can understand that we live in a time where it’s all about how much value your product brings to the table in regards to services and functionality. If Sony wants the Vita to be successful, at least enough to keep consumers and developers happy, they need to add as many bullet points as they possibly can to the back of the Vita’s box. With the Move, Sony had to play catch up at a time when motion gaming had, for the most part, reached its peak. With the combination of the PS3 and the Vita — along with a one year lead in development time to boot — Sony could have had something tangible before Nintendo even shipped later this year.
Sony’s E3 lineup was incredible, and if anyone was keeping score of “winners” and “losers” at E3, they certainly came out on top in that regard. It’s just a shame to see that when they have the potential to make the Vita a much more enticing and viable product, they allow that same potential to slip in between their fingers. The same week that a former Sony exec is quoted saying that “the Vita is almost DOA,” Sony does him the service of helping to further validate that claim.