So, the PlayStation Vita is officially done. With production ending on March 1, 2019, Sony’s second (and evidently, last) handheld is not much longer for this world. Despite a small but loyal fanbase, the Vita was sadly Sony’s least successful console. Things eventually got to a point where Sony even stopped giving the handheld a platform at shows like E3. Despite seemingly being treated like the red-headed stepchild, the Vita kept chugging along, continuing to persist against all odds. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and it looks like Sony is officially out of the handheld business.
But could Sony benefit from making another handheld system? Sure, we’re in an era where handheld gaming is seemingly in decline. However, we’re also in an era where Nintendo is absolutely crushing it with a handheld system of its own. Handheld gaming isn’t entirely dead, and while the Vita may have been a commercial misfire (at least in some parts of the world), there is still some promise to be found.
The Switch Factor
There’s no doubt that the Nintendo Switch has been a tremendous success. Its success isn’t purely aimed at it being a handheld, of course; however, part of the goodwill can be pointed to that fact. How many people have you heard asking for whatever game on the Switch? There’s just something so, for a lack of a better term, nice about the convenience of playing a game anytime, anywhere.
The Vita was promised as a console-level handheld, but it was the Switch that truly made the idea viable. It was the ultimate form of what both the Vita and the Wii U attempted to do: play console-quality games on the go. The efforts of both were admirable, but each had its faults. The Wii U was tethered to the box while the Vita needed a stable internet connection to take advantage of remote play. With the Switch, the idea of taking a console on the go was finally realized.
And it’s an idea people quickly bought into, as evidenced by the strong (to put it mildly) sales of the Switch. With the success the Switch is seeing in only its second year, you have to wonder if Sony dropped the ball on its handheld aspirations.
There’s Just One Issue
While it seems that the Switch is played as a handheld by a majority of owners, it does need to be restated that the Switch isn’t strictly a handheld, of course. It’s a hybrid of console and handheld systems, able to be played both on the TV and on the go. So, while the Switch can be used to play a 90-plus hour RPG like Octopath Traveler on your daily commute, it can also be used to play Mario Party on the big screen at your annual Christmas party.
The beauty of the Switch is that the handheld is the system; it simply needs to be plugged into a dock to be blown up on the TV. It’s the true crossover of both Nintendo’s handheld and console efforts. The true “all in one” system, able to accomplish almost any desire any gamer has.
It’s highly unlikely for Sony to find success with another dedicated handheld; rather, a hybrid system a la the Switch is the way to go. Considering Sony’s handheld systems have never achieved the success of its home consoles (even when systems like the PlayStation 3 struggled), it maybe doesn’t make a ton of financial sense for Sony to put its effort towards a new handheld system. But would Sony find it viable to pull a Nintendo and make a hybrid system?
A History of Flattery
Then again, Sony hasn’t shied away from drawing from Nintendo before. Of course, we’re all familiar with the ill-fated PlayStation Move. And you could make the argument that the PlayStation Portable was a response to Nintendo’s success in the handheld field. No one would be honestly surprised to see Sony put its own spin on the Nintendo Switch formula.
But would it be worth it for Sony to completely try and make a Switch-like system of its own? There already is a Nintendo Switch, after all. The PlayStation Switch, let’s call it, would have to do something completely off-the-wall in order to truly make a case for itself.
True, the trump card is the absolutely insane library of PlayStation exclusives. The prospect of playing games like Marvel’s Spider-Man, God of War, and Horizon Zero Dawn on the go is tantalizing. But honestly, it may not even be possible. The Switch is not as powerful as its contemporaries, and will not be as powerful as the next crop of systems. To have a system that can be a hybrid console/handheld, it would either have to be much less powerful than the PS4 (which will never happen), or be absurdly expensive. Neither option is necessarily viable.
Problem Number Five
In addition, the PlayStation 5 is very much on its way, seemingly set for a 2020 release. With a reveal reportedly happening in 2019, Sony has its designs for its newest system locked down to a degree. While many things can change from 2019 to 2020, the fundamental function of the console cannot. Unless Sony had planned a hybrid-style console from the start, the PlayStation 5 will ostensibly be a traditional home console.
A portable conduit for the PS5 would fall into the same traps that the Vita did. With that, the only realistic option for the next half decade-plus would be a dedicated handheld. But considering the relative lack of success of that system, plus Sony’s ultimate abandonment of it, it doesn’t seem like a dedicated handheld is the most viable option.
This isn’t meant to put a complete damper on things, as I would love to see Sony take another shot at a handheld. However, it seems like the best route in this day and age would be to go for a Switch-esque hybrid system. Unfortunately, based on everything we know so far of the next generation of consoles, it doesn’t seem like this is something that can realistically come to fruition anytime soon.
Would you like to see Sony tackle the handheld world once again? What about a hybrid system? Let us know!