Without a Sony Handheld, Nintendo Goes (Almost) Unchallenged

The gaming industry has changed quite significantly since the PSP debuted in 2004 – and even since its successor, the PS Vita, entered the graveyard with the PlayStation 3 in 2019. However, some things have stayed the same. While mobile gaming has filled the niche once occupied by Sony’s handheld, there’s evidence that the public’s fondness for portable consoles endures even now.

A Short-form Pastime

Mobile gaming is always going to be a difficult opponent for a new handheld, simply because every niche of the hobby is represented on phones in some way or another. That includes board games, AAA titles, and casino games. In fact, some of the biggest names in gaming have counterparts on the App Store and Play Store, including Dead Space, FIFA, Runescape, and Final Fantasy.

However, mobile gaming is largely a short-form pastime, with games that can be experienced over a few minutes. This is why the casino industry has found success on the platform, too. The PlayStar website offers a range of slots that can be played in bursts of just a few seconds. Just like conventional mobile gaming, this licensed New Jersey casino also has games branded with pop culture treasures, like Jumanji and Narcos.

Longer form gaming, like the type championed by PC and consoles, is still largely underserved by mobiles, although, apps such as Minecraft, Terraria, and plenty of others have made the transition to the small screen. This means that true handheld gaming is now largely the domain of Nintendo, where it goes almost unchallenged. It wasn’t always meant to be like this, though.


Back in 2017, just one month before the Nintendo Switch launched, Sony ‘announced’ a continuation of its line of handhelds, via a patent application. Coincidence or not, the design resembled Nintendo’s hugely popular platform. However, it’s probably fair to say that just about every handheld that has even been on the market has some similarity to its competitors. Just look at the newly-released Steam Deck.

Sony has since abandoned this idea in favour of renting out the PlayStation license to the Backbone company, which offers PS Remote Play via a frame that plugs into an iPhone. Unfortunately, this does make the concept of a portable PlayStation a rather exclusive thing, as the device doesn’t support Android. In essence, without a true handheld, Sony seems to be gatekeeping its products with exclusive third-party licenses.

Sony did place an advert for a Head of Mobile early in 2022 and, while this inevitably reignited the debate about a PS Vita successor, the manufacturer doesn’t seem to care about handheld devices anymore. After all, Sony bought mobile developer Savage Game Studios in August specifically to expand its offering on (presumably) iOS. This reduces the likelihood of a new portable console to almost zero.

Still, both Valve (Steam) and Nintendo are running with a two-console approach to gaming, offering content on both portable and stationary consoles. Whether this will inspire Sony going forward is anybody’s guess.

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