3DS, Wii U, or Vita: Which System Has the Most Ports?

Handhelds Featured

Handhelds Featured

If you’ve participated in any conversations about the latest consoles and handhelds, then you’ve likely run into people suggesting that one system has “no games”. If nothing else, these systems in question are nothing but bringing out port after port instead of new titles. But all of these assumptions are reliant upon personal observation. If you don’t really care for the Vita, for example, then you’ll only notice things which agree with your previously held ideas.

But what if someone were to actually look at three of the latest systems right now in a means to either validate or invalidate these common complaints? Well, of course, that’s just what I did. Some may not consider the 3DS, Wii U, or Vita as “next gen” devices, but they will likely be classified as part of that generation broadly alongside PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It’s not about power, but the time frame in which they launch.

With that said, my goal was to create lists of all North American retail game releases between the devices. Then, I went through and looked up each title to determine whether or not it was a port or enhanced port or a brand new game developed for that system. The term “port” is not best used for handheld consoles sometimes when a portable version is a completely different game, but we seem to mostly be beyond that point technologically for it not to be a massive consideration. Basically, by “port” I am suggesting that the game in question is available on multiple systems. I was looking to see how many titles are not exclusive to their systems!

Finally, I decided to also check out Metacritic scores (where available) to see if any system is batting out continuous amounts of excellent titles, shovelware, or are basically average. As it turns out, it seems that most consoles probably fall somewhere in the 60s for scores, but we’ll get to that later.

The Legend of Zelda Screenshot

Nintendo 3DS – March 27, 2011

During my research period, there were 174 retail games available on the 3DS. This is the device with most physical titles available so far, but that makes sense considering it was released first. Also, much like the DS, it is already swarmed by third parties anxious to get their “casual” games out to market. 86 games ended up being defined as port, or non-exclusive, which means that approximately 49% of the 3DS’s current library can be found on other platforms. Some games were available between it and the Vita, but only few such as Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward. A strange amount just happened to be outright ports from the earlier DS.

As is common with Nintendo, their most loved titles tend to be exclusives. Those which received highest Metacritic ratings were The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Fire Emblem: Awakening, and Super Mario 3D Land. So far, it seems no new series are really making it big – yet. All of the lowest ranking games were film adaptations that were likely quickly made and ported to as many systems as possible.

Mass Effect 3 Screenshot

Nintendo Wii U – November 18, 2012

The Wii U has been out less than a year at this point and has currently accumulated 58 retail games, with a few more big names coming this holiday season. But for right now, we can only judge based off current availability. As such, during my research I found that 42 of the 58 games for Wii U are ports. That gives this platform the dubious honor of having the highest port to not port ratio of any machine. A whopping 72% of its games are not exclusives.

Of course, the word usage port is especially challenging to use with the Wii U system. After all, many of these things I have classified as ports may be more aptly described as “enhanced ports”. For example, Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition could be considered the best version of the game with various additions to control scheme due to the GamePad. Again, my main intention is to classify games as exclusive or not, and even if the best version is available here, it is still primarily the same game that is available elsewhere. I applied these same considerations to the other systems as well, so do not think of this as unfair targeting of Nintendo’s latest home console.

In any case, the Wii U also has the unique distinction of being a rare Nintendo platform that does not lead in review scores via its exclusive games. As of right now, the highest ranking games are Mass Effect 3: Special Edition, Pikmin 3, and Need for Speed: Most Wanted U. It takes a handful of other games to get down to another Nintendo exclusive. Of course, Nintendo specifically chose renowned multi platform games to serve their audience best. Regardless, I hope the system will see many more exclusives in the future to keep it from losing steam against its competitors.

Persona 4 Golden Screenshot

Sony PlayStation Vita – February 22, 2012

With a handful of months over the Wii U, one would assume the Vita has already amassed a huge library. However, there are currently only 60 retail games available so far. Any Vita fan would know that they are instead pinning their focus primarily on PlayStation Store content instead. When looking at their physical releases though we see 33 out of the games are ports. That means 55% of the library is not exclusive. Although I did not pursue digital releases, there are certainly a great deal of non-exclusives there as well (primarily in the indie realm).

Right now, we also see an interesting lack of true exclusives in the most highly rated games for Vita thus far. These games are Persona 4 Golden, Dragon’s Crown, and Rayman Origins. Dragon’s Crown is at least Sony exclusive – both available on Vita and PS3. Rayman Origins however was previously found on all three big consoles. As for Persona 4 Golden, it certainly adds tons of content into the PS2 original, but is still the “same” game at its core. If nothing else, its massive popularity only proves that PS2 games are still wholly enthralling (of course, continued attempts at PS2 era HD Collections prove the same).

Between the three systems, none are a completely stellar device filled only with excellent games. However, each has a handful of very good games so far (regardless of exclusivity) alongside the expected shovelware. 3DS’s overall Metacritic score is at 66 out of 100. Wii U is slightly higher with 67, and Vita is higher still with 69. However, even this assessment is not perfect because every game has not been given a Metascore on the site. In either case, it also helps dispel rumors that one device is vastly superior to other in regards to content.

What does this information on physical releases mean? If nothing else, it shows that there is a higher reliance on selling a game on multiple systems whenever possible. An age where one system has vastly “superior” exclusives is all but over. When watching press conferences for PS4 and Xbox One, it’s easy to see this trend when all they can parrot off is that a title is “available first” on one system, or comes with an exclusive mission or DLC.

How is it that game systems will distinguish themselves from each other to lure consumers? It seems that is dependent upon brand image and exclusive media features. That, and possible console/handheld exclusive versions of indie games. It’s already been quite apparent that people go gaga over indie game releases on Vita and 3DS both, although it appears the 3DS has a higher amount of actual exclusive game content. Regardless, the upcoming console war will be interesting because (aside from Wii U) there is very little difference between the PS4 and Xbox One.

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