It is going on four years since PlayStation released its flagship gaming system, the PS4. Since then, PlayStation has taken Sony back to dominating heights in the gaming industry. The console sits atop worldwide charts with many games in the works and a plethora of support from studios around the world. It’s fair to say, PS4 is king. But kings should never rule alone.
In 2004, Sony released the PlayStation Portable (PSP). The PSP was a companion of sorts to the PS2 era of gaming – a time when Sony was again at the top of the hill. Although the handheld, a first for the company, gained great popularity and lived on through a portion of the PS3 era, it was eventually succeeded by the less popular PlayStation Vita in 2011.
Vita, though seen in a positive light by critics and gamers around the world as a piece of hardware, did not fare as well as the PSP. The device, now discontinued in Western regions, barely saw four years on the market. It was marred by poor handling and support by PlayStation. But now that it has started to fade from people’s memory and the shelves of retailers, it’s about time for a new companion to the currently reigning king.
With the PS4 cruising along with great support and a lineup of games that could carry it for the next two years and beyond, maybe Sony can shift focus a little bit back to a new handheld. Maybe it’s finally time to put those lessons learned to use.
Rumors have surfaced of a PS5 in the works to be released in 2018. I find this highly unlikely as the PS4 is going as strong as ever and PlayStation has built a model for longevity. While I don’t doubt revisions and slight upgrades to the PS4 may be released, don’t hold your breath for a PS5 for a few more years. On the other hand, 2018 would be a great year for a new PlayStation handheld to be released.
As Sony already has its PS4 and PS VR on the market, the next void to fill is the handheld market. Not expecting any other hardware releases from companies like Xbox or Nintendo who are getting their latest systems out of the way in 2017 with Scorpio and Switch, PlayStation can have 2018 all to itself with a brand new handheld. All eyes can be on a new handheld in 2018 as the hype from the competition will have calmed down at least by Summer 2018 and surely by Holiday 2018 – a great time for releasing a new handheld.
As long as Sony listens to the fans, uses common sense, and learns from its mistakes with the Vita, a new handheld could take the company to even greater heights. What kind of handheld should it be? Well, to be quite frank, it doesn’t have to change much from the Vita. While I would definitely rebrand it so as to discard the stigmas associated with the Vita, keeping things like the touch screen, the game cartridges, analog sticks, buttons, cameras, and touch pad it currently has (while hopefully improved) would be advantageous. Making the system backwards compatible with Vita and PSN games (including PSP, PS One) would not hurt. An addition of triggers to the shoulder buttons a la Nintendo’s Switch (and the Vita trigger grip accessory), microSD cards (non proprietary memory), direct connection to TV’s (whether HDMI, Screen Cast, both or by other means), clickable analog sticks, better connectivity with the PS4, and future proofing for any other PlayStation console that might surface in a few years, could make the new handheld a force to be reckoned with.
PlayStation should not be afraid to market the system to both kids and adults; not just one demographic. Take a page out of Nintendo’s very successful handheld book. While Sony might not have the household name IP’s like Nintendo, they could use other strategies that Nintendo has employed, which includes making kids a large target but not the only target. Market it as a handheld and not an accessory. And make sure it’s supported with first party games.
With the Switch and 3DS on the market, Nintendo almost monopolizes the dedicated handheld gaming market. A little competition is always beneficial. I think if Sony takes the right steps, a new handheld, along with the PS4, in 2018 could take Sony back to the PSP/PS2 days and surpass even that success.
So here’s hoping, Sony, release a successor to the Vita in 2018. I’m ready.