What Pisses Us Off About the Vita, Timed Exclusives and PSN Downtime

With the annoying Olympics nearby, a rainy summer and no new games to play, we’re not in the best of moods as it is. But Sony’s ineptitude, Microsoft’s love of timed exclusives and Sony’s ineptitude again have completely pissed us off. Join D&A‘s Cameron Teague and me as we let off a bit of steam by ranting about what’s wrong with the gaming world (again).

Seb: The Vita and Sony’s handling of the Vita just baffles me. It launched with a bang lineup wise but fell flat fiscally, and then went downhill further from there – and, what’s worst, it’s Sony’s own fault. Why is the release schedule so sparse? They should have reduced the number of launch titles and kept some for the rest of this year. Uncharted, for example, launched too close to 3 anyway and could have done with multiplayer.

It’s also stupid for Activision and Ubisoft to be releasing their COD and AC games on the same day as the bigger, better marketed and likely better developed (a secret developer and Ubisoft Sofia?) console games. All hype, all press, all attention, all sales will be focused the bigger titles. Plus, as much as I like AC, why would I buy both games at once? I can only play one at a time anyway, and I’m going to go for the better looking one. Sure, I understand wanting to get in on the hype of the main games, but at least release them a week or so before to give them some air. Finally, and this might not be down to Sony but they have some influence, but don’t call them Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation and Call of Duty Black Ops 2: Declassified. Call them them Assassin’s Creed: Liberation and Call of Duty Declassified – these sub-names make them sound like the sub-par, tacky add-ons that they probably are.

Cam: What’s worse than the lack of quantity when it comes to titles is the lack of quality. Outside of Uncharted, there are no system sellers in the entire Vita lineup. Sure there are some nice games in Gravity Rush and Sound Shapes, but where are the games that are going to push hardware? Even worse, Sony has done absolutely nothing to promote the system and educate people on exactly what it is, something that has always been a problem with Sony consoles in past.

Seb: Totally agree. And here’s the thing – before the Vita came out they knew the release schedule, they knew they’d have no system sellers, they knew they’d have less marketing than my local café, but they told their investors – who they are supposed to be honest with – that they thought it’d sell 10 million this year. Now, after it has sold less in its entire life than the iPad in an hour, they’ve had to embarrassingly tell investors that it’s selling well below expectations. How on earth did they think it’d sell more? They have absolutely no idea what they are doing with the platform.

And yeah, I get it potential site commenters, “they don’t have much money to advertise, they are poor”. So that means every ad counts. It doesn’t mean release a terrible series of ads that look like they are for PSP, do little to show any of the handheld’s special features and promptly stop showing 3 days after the product launched.

Oh and don’t even get me started about the memory cards again…

Cam: Not to beat it into the ground any more, because I am sure we could go forever on this topic, but when was the last time Sony properly advertised anything? I look over at Microsoft and the Xbox 360, and you see a company that knows how to sell games. Every multiplatform game shown on TV ends with a big 360 logo at the end of it. It just astounds me at how clueless Sony is when it comes to reaching their audience. The Kevin Butler videos were a good start but never really went anywhere, and the Michael ad was beyond pointless. It’s all about putting your logo behind the TV ad and making people think that the PS3 or Vita is the system to own it on.

Seb: Yeah, definitely. And, along with putting their logo at the end of ads, MS has taken to buying timed exclusive DLC on a huge number of multiplatform games. I hate timed exclusives – and this counts for the few DLC deals that Sony has done as well – they are just anti-consumerist. Proper exclusives like The Last of Us and Beyond take advantage of ‘The Cell’, just as Halo 4 and Gears makes use of more RAM, so there’s a benefit to their exclusivity. Timed exclusives don’t do this as they’re based on the same multiplatform development. All they do is disadvantage a consumer on one platform through no fault of their own – they’ve paid the same amount for the product but are being treated like second class citizens due to dirty fighting between the platform holders. Screw you Microsoft, screw you Sony and, in light of recent events, screw you Bethesda.

Cam: I mostly agree with you, though timed-exclusive games can sometimes be a benefit for the console that gets the game second, as you usually get a more polished version of the game, courtesy of beta-testing from the other side. Timed-exclusive DLC however bugs the crap out of me and this whole Bethesda situation has just made it worse. I don’t know what is wrong here but for some reason, they are extremely slow and not very good at bringing the DLC from 360 to PS3. In fact, most of their games are almost unplayable at points on the PS3 and I keep hearing that the system is hard to develop for but what the hell, Bethesda has only been developing for it for 4 or 5 games now and they still can’t figure out how to properly do it? I find that a bit strange and it amazes me even more about how they are giving a pass by a lot of media on their average and buggy games.

Seb: The only time I can forgive timed exclusivity is where the game might not have been made without Microsoft/Sony’s help – BioShock was such a risky idea, so who knows what would have happened there. So yeah, mainly my hate is directed at the guys like Bethesda and Activision who don’t need that money.

But yeah, speaking of bugs, what’s up with the PSN lately? It’s down several times a week, week in, week out, sometimes officially, sometimes unofficially. How many times do they need to do maintenance? And when are we actually going to see changes? They just spent an incredible $380 million on a cloud gaming company but I can’t see that going anywhere if they can’t keep a network up for a month straight. If PlayStation Cloud is anything like PSN for reliability, they just wasted enough money to develop 19 AAA games or 3-4 games with the scale of GTA. Sony, please stop making the PSN a joke, stop being so secretive about what you’re doing, be open like you promised and get your act together.

Cam: Heck, that $380 million could have been used to properly promote some of their game releases. The PSN has come a long way since its inception but until they can find a way to make it stable, the argument will always be that you get what you pay for and that Xbox Live is better because you pay for the service. PlayStation Cloud has a chance to be something great but every time we think that about something new from Sony, they disappoint us. If they can somehow get their shit straight, this new Cloud service could be extremely great. However, with a network as strong as a supermodel, it is hard to think that Sony can handle the stress that would come with a Cloud service.

Seb: Yeah, Cloud has a strong chance at being the future. Sony, however, has a strong chance at messing up their chance at being a part of that future. It does make me wonder if their purchase of Gaikai was so smart after all – did we just watch MS buy Rare all over again? A good, promising company destroyed by a stupid owner. Oh, and here’s another way of putting $380 million into perspective – in 2010, the year Apple launched the iPad, they spent $322 million on marketing the tablet as well as the iPhone. And you see Apple adverts absolutely everywhere. With $380 million, Sony could have advertised their games and their platforms to an incredible amount, immediately causing a rise in sales. Let’s just hope we’re wrong, Sony can work out that people don’t like to have to pray they can get online, and they can actually make their investment worth every penny.