How Sony could build on the PS Vita and the PSP

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Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

If Sony’s world-beating PlayStation brand doesn’t compete with the Nintendo Switch in the portable space, it’s not for lack of trying. Between 2004 and 2019, the company shipped three separate handhelds: the PSP, PSP Go, and PlayStation Vita. There were also a number of smaller variants, but none of them were able to dislodge Nintendo. In the case of the Vita, the Switch was just the last nail in its coffin – the Vita’s specs were last updated in 2013.

Just catching up with the Switch would require a lot of changes, not to mention hitting the cutting edge games seen on phones, PCs, tablets, and home consoles. But there are things Sony could do to build on the legacy of the Vita, and maybe even justify a new, dedicated portable PlayStation in the 2020s.

See also: PlayStation history – all consoles so far

1. Offer access to all PS4 and PS5 games – and PlayStation Now

god of war best ps4 games

When Sony was active in the portable space, one thing it liked was the small fallout from major PlayStation franchises. This included portable versions of God of War and Uncharted, as well as third-party franchises like Grand Theft Auto and Metal Gear Solid. Some of them were legitimately awesome, but as Sony’s history seems to show, flagship game branches aren’t a huge draw. All other things being equal, you would probably prefer to play the version of a game with better graphics, controls, and (often) content.

What could make the machine a killer is pairing it with an improved version of PlayStation Now.

That’s why a successor to Vita should support as many PS4 and PS5 games as possible. Smaller screen and texture resolutions could help make this possible on chips and mobile screens, as even 1080p would look very crisp on a 7-inch screen.

What could make the machine a killer is pairing it with an upgraded version of PlayStation Now, a subscription service with downloads and streaming. On paper, PlayStation Now should already be superior to Xbox’s Game Pass and Cloud Gaming, as it includes a larger library of titles – some dating back to the PS2 era. In practice, this is a low sale as it doesn’t offer any current gen games or day one versions like the popular Xbox service. Fixing this issue would primarily be a business matter, and since Now is not available on Android or iOS, the upgrade could help push people towards Sony hardware in general, including any new PlayStation laptops. potential.

2. Internal storage (and not proprietary)

SanDisk Extreme 256 GB MicroSD Card

One of the oldest aspects of the Vita – both now and at launch – is its storage system. The product initially came with zero internal storage, and when it got it with the 2013 revision it stuck with 1GB. In reality, you had to buy a Vita-specific memory card with a size between 4GB and 64 GB.

This was a consequence of Sony’s infamous preference for proprietary formats – the company used to push technologies like Betamax, MiniDisc, and MemoryStick far beyond their actual utility. From Sony’s perspective, this offered maximum control with the potential to become an industry standard. Consumers, of course, only cared about features, compatibility, and price. He was also the last of those who really stung. Vita memory cards were exorbitantly expensive compared to regular SD cards.

See also: 5 things we would like to see in an Xbox portable console

To stay relevant to modern gaming, a new portable PlayStation would need to feature internal NVMe storage like that of the top levels in Valve’s Steam Deck. It should also support non-proprietary SD cards in order to keep up with the expansion of libraries. These, in turn, should probably be based on the SD Express standard – anything less could cripple compatibility with PS5 games, which exploit the console’s high SSD speeds.

3. Convert the rear touchpad to a forward-facing trackpad

Could Sony compete with the Steam Deck with a new PlayStation handheld console?

La Vita was arguably ahead of its time in terms of various control options. It not only comes with a touchscreen and two analog sticks, but also motion sensors and a rear-facing “touchpad” for more precise typing. The most comparable device is the still-unreleased Steam Deck (above).

As anyone who has used a Vita can attest, however, the touchpad was poorly rated. Few developers saw a reason to exploit it and even fewer rear touch controls improved the experience (Tearaway being the clear exception). It should never have been on the back of the product. It was impossible to see where your fingers were going and far too easy to tap the tampon by accident.

However, a forward-facing trackpad would be of value, primarily for strategy games and first-person shooters. The Steam Deck doesn’t have one but two, and can combine them with motion detection for precise aim and movement in FPS titles. Even a single trackpad would improve any next-gen Sony product.

4. Bring DualSense haptics to handhelds

dualsense controller and PlayStation 5.

Sarah Chaney / Android Authority

Haptics aren’t normally a selling point in games, but in the case of DualSense, they could make a dedicated handheld a bit sexier than phones and tablets. Immersion is difficult to achieve with mobile devices, and good haptics is one of the few solutions.

Sony should, of course, pair it with sufficient battery for the motors, as well as general improvements to the Vita’s control scheme – for example, mirroring the buttons and triggers available to PS5 gamers. It might also offer bigger, more rugged analog sticks right off the bat – over the years a cottage industry has grown around Vita stick upgrades, which is telling.

5. Any multiplatform

Cyberpunk 2077 on Playstation 5

Adamya Sharma / Android Authority

If a handheld can play the same games as a PS4 or PS5, it should also be able to transfer accounts, saves, and settings. Synchronization between devices is becoming more and more common in the PC / Xbox world, so for Sony, dividing consoles and handhelds again would seem arbitrary.

Where Sony might need a boost is in cross-buy and cross-play. Rival Microsoft increasingly recognizes that sales are sales and that people are not eager to buy the same thing twice. While many games were cross-buy compatible, Sony wasn’t quite into this philosophy in the Vita era and could quickly doom itself by asking gamers to pay extra for two platforms on one computer. modern pocket. People are already unhappy with having to pay publishers for PS5 upgrades to some PS4 games.

Related: The best portable consoles

Sony has a checkered history of allowing cross-play with other platforms, but its notoriously stubborn attitude has eased in recent years. Allowing its portable players to mix with PC, Xbox and Switch players would be a must.

An unlikely but mind-blowing feature would be Game State Sync. The PS5 can preserve the state of its last active game while in idle mode – imagine being able to push that data to a handheld and pick up right where you left off. stopped. It would take some work on the operating system, but would have a distinct advantage over mobile games.

Will we see a new PlayStation portable console?

Playstation vita

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

At this point in Sony’s history, a new PlayStation handheld console seems unlikely. The company is undoubtedly jealous of the Switch’s success, but with multiple failures recorded, it would have to find a drastically different approach to justify trying again (maybe a PlayStation phone?). It might involve many of the ideas mentioned here, but maybe not. Iteration isn’t always the best answer – if Nintendo had simply iterated over the Wii U, for example, we wouldn’t have had the Switch.

Sony is probably happy with its situation. The PS5 has set sales records and remains difficult to win without paying the scalpers. Going back to handhelds could mean jeopardizing profits and attacking not only Nintendo and Valve, but games on phones and tablets as well.


Would you like to see another portable PlayStation? Let us know in the poll above and in the comments.


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