The PlayStation Vita is struggling in Japan. It’s being outsold by the 3DS by a ratio of 5:1 and rarely manages to outsell its older brother, the ever popular PSP (well, in Japan at least). Why is that? Well, other than a lack of genuine AAA launch titles, the big hit has obviously come from the news that Capcom’s hugely popular Monster Hunter series has jumped ship to Nintendo, leaving the Vita without the franchise that all but defined its predecessor in the land of the rising sun.
In terms of a comparable event in the West, I was going to suggest the idea of the Halo franchise jumping ship to Sony, but honestly, it’s bigger than that. Imagine if you will, Call of Duty being a Sony exclusive on the PS3, only for Microsoft to nab the rights for the next generation of consoles……that’s how big an effect we’re talking about here. With Monster Hunter in the bag alongside its usual array of quality first party output, it’s hard to see the Vita catching the 3DS at all in Japan. I know it’s early doors, but it’s already starting to look like something pretty special would need to happen to dramatically change the Vita’s fortunes in the East.
Looking to the West however, well, that’s where things could be very different indeed. While I don’t expect the Vita to fly of the shelves at launch in the West, I do think that it will get off to a better start than it has in Japan. What could potentially turn the Vita from a solid seller into a cash printing uber handheld however will be the introduction of the stupidly popular Call of Duty series. Don’t get me wrong, the 3DS, with its somewhat unique demographic and consistently brilliant first party support will always put up decent numbers over here, but if Activision deliver a true console quality Call of Duty port, well, that’s where the Vita could truly steal the show and subsequently change handheld gaming culture in the West forever.
You see, our friends in Japan have a very different approach to handheld gaming. Maybe it’s the lack of pikey bastards roaming the streets, but over there, social handheld gaming is a way of life. Be it on the Tokyo subway line or in the playground with friends, handheld gaming is something to be experienced with others (hence the wild popularity of Monster Hunter’s team based gameplay). Over here, handheld gaming is still something of a taboo for many people. Sure, we all play consoles at home, but on the bus to work? Not a chance. Call of Duty though, that could change everything.
Imagine being able to take your online stats from the PS3 version out on the road, racking up further kills as you continue to play online with friends when out on the move. If any game is going to make social handheld gaming a truly viable prospect in the West, Call of Duty has to be it. If Activision and Sony can truly create a console comparable Call of Duty title for Vita with cross platform stats, the Vita might just steal the handheld crown away from Nintendo……well, in the West at least.