Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Vicious Cycle of Broken Game Industry Logic

I have been a game enthusiast for the vast majority of my life, excepting the few years when I was too young to actually play the games, and one of the newer trends of the last decade in gaming that has driven me up the wall is the circular logic of game production companies and consumer interest.

What do I mean by that?  Well, let's take a look at the most recent (and, to me, irksome) example of a game creator using circular logic to justify his refusal to localize two games for Western audiences:

In a recent interview with Kotaku, the Tales of... series creator, Hideo Baba, informed the world that there were no plans to localize Tales of Hearts R or Tales of Innocence R:

"Unfortunately, at this present time we don't have any plans to release any of the Vita titles," Baba said. "One of the main reasons is, unfortunately the PlayStation Vita is doing relatively poorly in North America, so it's one of those things that if the numbers increased considerably, then it's something we could consider."

Really?  That is maddeningly stupid.

So, the PlayStation Vita is Sony's latest attempting to beat out Nintendo in the handheld gaming market, and a little more than a year out the gate, it's very clear that this is unlikely to happen.  

Now, don't get me wrong - I'm a big fan of early adoption when it comes to new systems, especially if they show promise - and the PS Vita does a lot of things right; but, for everything it does right in terms of design and output, it makes up for by doing something wrong:

The graphics output is admittedly better than that of the PSP...which would be more apparent if those graphics got the chance to shine in the form of games.

You see, it's great to boast that your system has the potential for amazing graphics, but when the games released for the system are really only a bit better than their PSP counterparts, it's just not enough to pique the interest of anyone other than the most hardcore of game enthusiasts who will notice those differences.

Granted, it's very early in the system's lifespan, and graphics don't generally get noticeably better until later in a console's lifespan, but that's no excuse for certain gaming studios to simply port PSP versions of games to the Vita when it has better graphics capacity.

The LEGO games, for example, are a prime example of games that could have been better made to take advantage of the Vita's higher graphics capacity.  It wouldn't have been that hard to scale back the resolution on the graphics from the PS3 version and make it playable on the Vita; instead, we get the PSP version with slightly upscaled graphics.


The Vita has a great touchscreen...but, it also has an entirely worthless backside touchscreen.

Not to sound like a Luddite (or like Dolores Umbridge), but innovation for the sake of innovation should be discouraged.  

I'm not certain what Sony was thinking, but who on earth felt the need to include a touchscreen on the back of a handheld console?  Who thought this was going to be either useful or useable?  Not only does the addition make it annoying to hold the console, but it makes the thing a bitch to store and transport without scratching the back of it.

And there really haven't been a whole lot of games that make a lot of use for the damned thing.


Which brings us to the next few things on the list of reasons why the Vita isn't popular...well, anywhere:

It's too expensive in every market, at every price point, for both versions.  After a price drop in Japan, sales of the system soared, but prior to that, it sold fewer consoles than the XBOX in Japan.  And this is what makes Baba's statement about popularity even more infuriating - to say that they won't localize games in the West because the system isn't that popular, here, is ridiculous; the Vita isn't popular in Japan, either, and yet, they remade not one, but two games in the series for an unpopular, overpriced system.

In addition to the exorbitant price point, there just aren't very many games for the system that are either interesting or worth buying in the NA and EU markets.  Don't believe me?  Take a trip to your local video game retailer, and count the number of available titles for the Vita.

Go ahead...I'll give you a moment.


Okay, I'm impatient, so I did it for you.

I went to the Gamestop website and did a search for Vita games with the following parameters: All Games; New

This is what I found: 64 games

Of those, 32 are "Currently Unavailable Online," 9 are "Pre-Release," and several of those games are different versions of the same game.

It's been over a year, and there are barely any damned games out for your system in America.  How do you expect people to be interested in your system if you don't release any games for it?

Which leads us back to Hideo Baba's argument about not localizing games.  Why would you argue that a system isn't popular enough to localize when part of the problem is that there aren't enough games out to make the system popular?

It's that circular logic that prevents the Vita from being a truly great handheld console.


And so, we're here, a year later, and really no better off than we were a year ago.  The system's not popular, so they don't release more games in the West, so the system doesn't become more popular.