The PS Vita Takes Center Stage At Gamescom 2012

Sony tries to infuse life into its poor-selling handheld with an influx of alluring announcements at its Gamescom press event.

PlayStation Vita System Image

If you were to tell me that Gamescom 2012 was a mulligan (that’s golf-speak for “do-over”) for the PlayStation Vita, I’d believe you. June’s E3 2012 was practically a no-show for Sony’s fledgling handheld and did nothing to persuade the naysayers – i.e. Internet trolls – that the future looked bright for the young platform.

After Sony’s media briefing on Tuesday though, the doom-and-gloom forecast seems to be clearing up slowly, thanks to a sunny break of Vita-related announcements. The biggest of these being the reveal of Tearaway, Media Molecule’s latest game coming exclusively to the Vita in 2013. And boy, is it ever drat cute.

That’s not all, folks, as one famed speech-impediment-plagued pig would say. There were other important tidbits at Sony’s Gamescom presser that should be of great news to Vita users – regardless of how few there are of you in the wild -  including info on the future Vita firmware update 1.80.

Vita Apps Image

Dropping August 28, firmware 1.80 brings an assortment of welcomed new features: being able to access the Vita’s menu by using the system’s buttons, a highly requested add-on; the ability to fast rewind, fast-forward, and pick playback speed with the Video app; the support of importing playlists from PS3 or iTunes, and using the rear-touch to scroll and zoom while web browsing.

The firmware will also implement a new “Cross-Controller” icon in the Remote Play app, which will help users easily turn their Vita’s into PlayStation 3 controllers for use on certain games, LittleBigPlanet 2 for example. Hmm, that sounds about all there is to this update… OH WAIT, NO, PSONE CLASSICS!!!

You heard right amigos, PSOne Classics are finally coming to the PS Vita after much, much, MUCH, wait with firmware 1.80. Here’s the slightly bad news… The release of them will be gradually, says Sony. Dog buns, I know, but them the breaks. Hopefully, the rollout is plentiful with each sequential release and not just titles dangled out a few at a time. Yet this is Sony we’re talking about here, so who the heck knows?

Speaking of good Sony moves instead, let’s discuss the “Cross-Buy” program. What’s a cross-buy? Well, its Sony initiative to turn PlayStation 3 users into Vita ones without ever knowing it. Super sneaky, sis, indeed! Basically, starting with PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale and going forward, buying the PS3 version of a Sony first-party game will automatically grant you the Vita version for free. Nice!

PlayStation Vita crossbuy Gamescom Image

Other games immensely benefiting from the program include the Sly Cooper Collection and the upcoming digital release of Ratchet & Clank: Full-Frontal Assault, which is also getting a Vita version alongside its PS3 one. Of course, soon enough you might not even need to buy either once Sony extends PlayStation Plus to the Vita, another exciting announcement given by Sony during their Gamescom event on Tuesday.

There’s no nailed-down details as to what plans Sony has for including the Vita under its premium PSN subscription plan (heck, there’s no official date, either), but if its free Vita games and the use of the cloud to back game saves, count me totally in bros.

Lastly, Sony’s PlayStation Mobile service also received a big boost as a huge list of developers – Sega, Q? Entertainment, Vlambeer, etc. – have agreed to create content for the platform. This is certainly splendid news because the service allows developers big and small to port their software to Sony mobile devices running Android, like Xperia phones and Asus/Wikipad tablets.

PlayStation mobile Image

Yes, this means the Vita, too. Which is where potentially luck will also shine as a boon of content will hit the handheld alongside the batch of Sony-supported devices. And more content is always good. Especially, for a platform struggling to get potential buyers interested in its pricey hardware.

I mentioned it at the top, but again, I think Gamescom 2012 was a success for the PlayStation Vita. Maybe not enough to drag it out of its sales sinkhole, but enough to feel slightly better at its chances to survive on a hostile market going ku-ku for Coco-Puffs over 99 cent games. We at Walyou though, we’re rather ku-ku for all things geeky. I’m specifically ku-ku today for this R2-D2 drink dispenser and the new cyberpunk action-adventure game Remember Me.