I think it’s fair to say that Sony circa 2015-2016 pretty much killed support for the Vita, as focus was shifting to PS4 and, eventually, PSVR. Poor Vita sales outside of Japan were the main culprit, despite Playstation never acknowledging this officially. And I think the whole industry thought the handheld market was dead with the advent of smartphones. But then along came Nintendo, with a console that boasted portability as one of its main features, and it’s been selling like hotcakes: the Switch. Is the time ripe for Sony to reconsider a Vita 2?
A BIG GAMBLE
There’s no denying that a Vita 2 would be a big gamble, big gamble for Playstation, and anybody who’s into slot games would tell you to better wait until someone hits a jackpot on that particular machine. But the truth is, someone already has: Nintendo traded in power (which, admittedly, hasn’t been a priority for them since the SNES) for portability, and it paid off big time: over 35 million units sold so far in its two-year lifespan. The Playstation Vita, on the other hand, sold between 15 and 17 million units since 2013. That’s half the units, in a period of time that’s tripled. So, yes, it’s a scary thought, but
THE 2019 GAMING INDUSTRY ISN’T THE SAME AS IT WAS IN 2016
Right as Sony was shifting focus towards PS4 and PSVR as their main product line, it seemed to make sense that power an innovation would herald the way forward. But Playstation has tried, unsuccessfully, to create future-proof ecosystems: Playstation Now predates Google Stadia and Microsoft XCloud by several years, but the business model never took off. PSVR continues to be niche, as Virtual Reality in general fails to gain traction in the mainstream. Stadia seems destined for hard times as well due to an arguably noncompetitive business model. And again, the Switch showed there’s a hunger for real gaming hardware on the go. What should Playstation do, then?
THE HYBRID THAT VITA AND PSTV SHOULD HAVE BEEN
Why release two separate products, when a consolidated feature set would have been killer? That’s the story of the PSTV, a product that never stood a chance. But can you imagine if you could simply plug in your Vita to your TV and connect DualShock 4 controllers to it? I think that’d have been a game-changer for the console. And that’s why a lot of people say that the Switch is what the Vita should have been: a less-powerful but hybrid home-and-handheld product.
THE DANGER OF CANNIBALIZING THE PRODUCT LINE
The truth is, however, that Sony can’t make a hybrid console. The reason is quite simple: PS4 and PS5. They already have dedicated home consoles where the margin is much bigger for them, and they can’t risk their core market just to compete with the Switch. Nintendo was smart to not battle Sony and Microsoft on power, and sadly, it pretty much sounded the death knell for a Vita successor: Playstation cannot make a handheld-only device in the current market, and a hybrid would cannibalize PS4 and PS5 sales.
WHERE TO FROM HERE?
Well, actually, the future is bright: not only do we have many years of Switch to come, for those of us who love portable and modern gaming, but there are alternatives coming for retro fans as well. The EVERCADE is a prime example of that: a handheld console that uses officially-licensed cartridges to distribute classic retro games to people who want to play on the go. There’s always smartphone gaming as well, and the ecosystem there is changing, too: Nintendo released Super Mario Run as paid game, but even the big N is moving towards the free-to-play model, first with Pokemon Go, and now with Pokemon Masters, Mario Kart Tour, Fire Emblem Heroes and Dragalia Lost (which, by the way, is pretty darn awesome).
Sadly, I think it’s a safe bet to think that Sony will not be bringing out a portable Playstation anytime soon. But for those willing to look elsewhere, alternatives are aplenty. And who says you can’t just buy a good ol’ DMG Gameboy and play some Pokemon Red?