The Playstation Vita’s reveal was met with much speculation. We knew that the system was powerful and potentially capable of replicating console gaming experiences. But how far could it go? Would we literally be playing our Playstation 3 games on the go? Or would we be getting slightly watered down console games that are similar but not identical? Six months beyond the American launch, well, we’ve kinda gotten a little of both.
At the Vita’s launch, we were treated to WipEout 2048. While not identical to the downloadable PS3 game WipEout HD, it did manage to pack in basically everything that we were expecting it to, along with an all-new campaign. But more importantly it was the first to feature “Cross-Play”, the ability to play multiplayer between the handheld and console versions of the game. And it did so to great effect- an omen of great things to come. Games that have arrived in the last few months, like Foosball 2012, have also featured the ability to play multiplayer between the two systems. Sound Shapes also allows the player to access user-created levels from both platforms.
Other flagship Sony franchises, such as Uncharted and Resistance, also made their way to Vita this year. While they did a good job of mimicking the “console experience” on the handheld, the product that we got was not a “console game”. Unlike WipEout, these titles were not produced by their original console studios. The recent reveal of Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified was also met with disappointment from fans hoping that they would get the console version of Black Ops II on the go. None of these games featured “Cross-Play” either. For all intents and purposes, these are not “console” games at all, but instead good handheld games based on console franchises. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, but certainly disappointing for those who want the console experience in their hands.
Those of you hoping to play actual PS3 games on your Vita, fret not! The console games are coming. This year alone will see the release of new Ratchet & Clank and Sly games on the PS3 that will, as far as we know, be playable in full form on the Vita. And don’t forget about Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale, which will be playable on both systems and will feature “Cross-Play” multiplayer between the two systems. All-Stars in particular can be played with virtually any combination of four players using Vita’s or PS3’s. Official information on Ratchet says that the game has online multiplayer and is a “Cross-Play” title, so we assume that you’ll be able to do the same there.
So is the Vita a PS3 in the palm of your hand? It can be, certainly. I suspect that we will see a big push from Sony’s own studios on the “Cross-Play” front in the next couple of years, but it may be a while before third parties jump on board. Some third party publishers may be content to continue farming their franchises out to other developers for the handheld installments, just as they have for generations. Will the Vita version of Call of Duty ever be identical to the console version? No one can say for sure. But we can rest assured that at least some games will be seamless across the two platforms, including at least three retail titles this year.
Even if we don’t get identical games on both platforms, it would be great if developers continued to support “Cross-Play”. The ability to play multiplayer matches with friends whether you are at your house, your aunt’s house, a coffee shop, or even a place where only one PS3 controller is available, is truly an amazing thing. I for one would be willing to put money down on games that were just the multiplayer mode of a PS3 games- a la Killzone 3‘s recent multiplayer-only release on PSN- if they supported “Cross-Play”. Would you?
The future of “Cross-Play” looks bright. Even more so, with the recent introduction of the “Cross-Buy” initiative, which we will get into with part two of this discussion. Stay tuned!