As anyone in the industry can probably tell you, the Nintendo 3DS has demolished Sony’s PSVita, at least if we’re looking at sales figures. The 3DS has sold over 50 million units whereas the PSVita trails behind with a meager 12 million. The 3DS is clearly the handheld with the larger life expectancy and install base, ensuring there will be no shortage of first and third party games for prospective buyers. Afterall, Sony has stopped supporting the Vita with first party titles.
With that in mind, why would anyone buy a Vita when the 3DS exists? On the surface, that seems like a legitimate question. The PSVita has been all but condemned by the mainstream gaming press and fanfare for Sony’s little handheld is relegated to forum posts and lesser known publications and YouTuber’s. Appreciation of the Vita comes down to a very specific audience.
The 3DS’s biggest success lies within its strong library of titles from first and third party developers, both big and small. Its library is incredibly diverse and there’s something there for everyone from the mainstream Smash Bros. and Animal Crossing to lesser known titles such as the Shin Megami Tensei series and Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven. We could sit here all day and talk of the design and the hardware of the vita and 3ds, but that would draw attention away from what this discussion is about. At the end of the day any system’s success relies on games. The 3DS dug itself out of its own grave from a universally accepted horrible launch(with many people ignoring the often underrated launch title, Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars) and became a force to be reckoned with in the handheld space.
Some might even consider the 3DS along with its simple no frills DS backwards compatibility to be one of the best handhelds Nintendo has ever made and that is no small feat considering the company’s legendary legacy. Hardware and aesthetics play second fiddle to the meat and bones of any system. What good will advanced hardware and an aesthetically pleasing design do if the system has no good games?
The Vita will certainly make a case for that point. Its hardware outclasses the 3DS by a significant margin and yet to anyone that isn’t a hardcore gamer, the library is slimmer than its competitor. The Vita in its first two years received quite a few excellent first and third party games. It was poised to be a real competitor to the 3DS and then it kind of just stopped. Since its initial two years, the Vita has been the home for indie titles and JRPG’s. Name just about any indie game like Binding of Isaac, Hotline Miami, and Spelunky and it likely exists on the Vita. A lot of these indie titles with a smaller scope designed to be played in shorter bursts fit perfectly on the Vita.
It’s not just indie developers that love the Vita. It is also very popular overseas, receiving tons of support from smaller Japanese studios. This may mean nothing to some, but for those that love Japanese RPG’s, the Vita is an absolute goldmine. There is no shortage of jrpg’s to sift through from the critically and commercially successful Persona 4 Golden to more niche affairs like Dungeon Travelers 2 and the Hyper Dimension Neptunia franchise. The Vita has its fair share of bigger budget console quality experiences and those that exist are mostly great games worthy of your attention, however in the long term, its relevance hinges upon your love of the jrpg genre.
The 3DS and Vita are often unfairly pit against each other in fanboy wars. Why make these two worthy handhelds duke it out when they can live in perfect harmony with each other? As a gamer with a diverse taste in games, I can appreciate what both systems do. They appeal to different audiences and have vastly different libraries on the whole, but if you just love games, there is merit to owning both. The 3DS may be the winner in the traditional sense with the most units sold and the most support, but the real winner is the gamer that doesn’t pick and choose sides.
This is isn’t about which device is superior. This is about enjoying both for what different needs they satiate. Am I ever going to get an experience quite like Etrian Odyssey on the vita with its lack of a second screen? No. Am I going to ever get a shooter of the same caliber as Killzone Mercenary on the 3DS with its limited hardware and less than stellar c-stick standard on the new 3DS model? Probably not. The Vita and 3DS are essential purchases for handheld enthusiasts that aren’t too picky with their genres and as anyone that owns both can attest to, dedicated gaming handhelds are still going strong despite the rise of mobile gaming. In the end, supporting both systems is a win-win.