Sony have been part of the console market for over 2 decades and they’ve dominated the majority of it ever since, with 4 consoles launched, they captured the audience with some amazing IP’s and innovative features, people seem to wonder why don’t they try to expand on that further with new handheld today. Sony are no strangers when it come to the handheld market, they launched the PSP back in 2004, the handheld went on to sell a staggering 82 million, that’s pretty impressive numbers when you consider that it was their first attempt in the handheld market, we had some memorable titles like Crisis core: Final Fantasy VII, Kingdom Hearts Birth by sleep, Metal Gear Solid: Peace walker, Monster Hunter: Freedon unit and many more, We also had strong first party support with the God Of War spinoffs, Gran Turismo PSP, little big planet and much more, It felt like a complete handheld.
The PlayStation Vita launched in 2012 with beefier specs and it had a decent launch lineup with strong third party support, so what went wrong?, well first off it was kinda pricey at £229.99/$249.99 for the wifi model and £279.99/$299.99 for the 3G model, you were forced to buy expensive proprietary memory cards if you wanna download digital games which didn’t sit to well with the general public. Spending over £300 on a handheld and accessories would seem to much for the average consumer. It was made to try and compete with the Nintendo 3DS which launched a year before, the 3DS was starting to get strong third support with exclusive games like Kingdom Hearts 3D dream drop, Resident Evil revelations, it end up getting killer apps later on like Monster Hunter 4, Monster Hunter Generations along with some great great first party support, it seemed like the 3Ds was getting games that should be on the PS vita by default and we can clearly see that Nintendo were aggressive in the handheld market by cutting deals with certain publishers. The vita was clearly at a disadvantage since it came out a year later and it was expensive compared to it’s counterpart. You were able to use regular SD cards on your 3DS which worked to nintendo’s advantage.
The vita wasn’t weak on software by any means, for the first year we saw strong first party support with the release of Uncharted Golden Abyss, Unit 13, Wipeout 2048, Modnation Racers: Road trip and Little Big Planet. We saw some pro consumer moves from Sony in the years ahead when we were starting to see cross-buy titles like PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale, Ratchet And Clank: Q Force, The Sly Cooper games and many more. We had cross-buy games between PS3 and PS vita, PS4 and PS vita and sometimes we had cross-buy with all 3 platforms. Sony really pushed AAA first party content like Killzone Mercenary and it didn’t seem to do that well, the Vita was also getting strong support from Japanese publishers with some stellar JRPGs like Persona 4 Golden but the handheld just couldn’t fly off the shelves in the west, with a new slim version and price drop, it still didn’t show much progress. Sony eventually stopped producing first party games for the vita and turned their focus on AAA titles on PS4.
There were many poor decisions made by Sony when it came to the vita, thankfully the vita is still getting strong support by indie devs and many third party Japanese publishers, the handheld is still selling in Japan and it continues to get regular game releases, there are many titles released for the vita in Japan that didn’t make it to the west, the handheld was ahead of it’s time with a beautiful OLED screen and the games just looked gorgeous with console quality graphics. The one thing the Vita doesn’t get credit for is the support for PSone and PSP classics as digital downloads.
Nintendo launched the Switch as a hybrid console that can play on the go and it’s getting tremendous support in it’s first year. It’s come to that point where even western publishers like Bethesda, EA and Ubisoft are starting to pay close attention. I bought the switch day one and everytime I play it, it make me want a new Sony handheld even more. Sony filed a patent for a new handheld that looks a lot like a Nintendo Switch in 2015 but we haven’t seen anything come of it. This would be the perfect to time for Sony to plan a new handheld launch for 2019-2020.
Sony’s Gaming division head John Kodera has hinted that the next console may be closely integrated with portable devices, adding that it’s “not yet the right stage to discuss specific hardware plans.”
“In my opinion, rather than separating portable gaming from consoles, it’s necessary to continue thinking of it (portable gaming) as one method to deliver more gaming experiences and exploring what our customers want from portable, We want to think about many options.”
John kodera has given us hope that we may see a new Sony handheld or portable device in the future. Since the tech for a new Sony handheld is already available, they can give the handheld market another shot if it’s done right, cross-buy games on first party games should be a standard and with the API’s and tech they use, they can scale down a console game to suit the specs of the handheld they create. We clearly need competition for the switch and a successor for the Vita would be a right choice if it’s done right and if they don’t use proprietary memory cards. Playing games like persona 5 or Monster Hunter World in portable mode is a no brainer.