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The Case For Sony To Return To The HandHeld Gaming Market

In recent years, the gaming industry has been abuzz with speculation about whether or not Sony, one of the world's leading tech giants, could make a triumphant return to the handheld market. With the runaway success of Nintendo Switch, it's clear that there's still a strong demand for portable gaming experiences. Drawing on insights from industry experts and a recent article published on GamesIndustry.biz, I'll explore the likelihood of Sony's return to handheld gaming and how it could shake up the video game market as we presently know it.


A (Very) Brief History of Sony's Handheld Gaming

Sony's first foray into handheld gaming came in 2004 with the launch of the PlayStation Portable (PSP). The PSP was a groundbreaking device that boasted impressive hardware and an extensive library of games. However, its successor, the PlayStation Vita, released in 2011, failed to live up to the PSP's success. Despite a loyal fan base, the Vita struggled against fierce competition from Nintendo's 3DS and the rise of mobile gaming, leading Sony to ultimately discontinue the device in 2019... and while I haven't jailbroken mine (yet), there is currently a very large scene encaptivated by the PSP in the depths of the internet.

I don't even care to acknowledge the existence of the PlayStation TV. A device with various promises and potential uses that was seemingly instantly forgotten about by Sony, right out of the gate.


The Market Conditions and Industry Opinions

The GamesIndustry.biz article highlights that the gaming landscape has changed significantly since the days of the PSP and Vita. The rise of cloud gaming, cross-platform play, and the ever-increasing power of mobile devices have altered the way we consume and play games.


In contrast, Jim Ryan, President and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, had an interview with GameInformer at the end of 2019. In the interview, he discussed Sony NOT having any desire (at that time) in returning to the handheld gaming market:


"'PlayStation Vita was brilliant in many ways, and the actual gaming experience was great, but clearly it’s a business that we’re no longer in now".



Sony's Potential Strategy

Even though Jim Ryan was quoted back in 2019 as someone who wasn't immediately interested in the idea of returning to portable gaming, changing times can lead to changed business stances.


To make a successful return to the handheld market, Sony would need to adopt a unique approach that sets it apart from its competitors. One possibility is to leverage its cloud gaming service, PlayStation Now, by integrating it into a handheld device, allowing users to stream games on the go. Additionally, Sony could capitalize on its strong relationships with developers and its extensive library of iconic franchises to create exclusive, high-quality titles for its new handheld platform. In fact, let's dive into a few more strats Sony could utilize...

A Vision for Sony's Next Portable System: Features, Compatibility, and Concepts Given the rapid advancements in technology and the changing landscape of the gaming industry, it's interesting to imagine what a new Sony handheld device could potentially offer. Based on recent trends, consumer demands, and even some patents, here are some features, compatibility options, and concepts that could be integrated into Sony's next portable system.

Features and Compatibility

  1. Hybrid Functionality: Taking a page out of Nintendo Switch's playbook (just like Steam did with the Steamdeck), Sony's next portable system could adopt a hybrid design, allowing players to seamlessly switch between handheld and home console gaming. The device could come with a docking station that enables users to connect it to their TVs for an immersive big-screen experience.

  2. 5G Connectivity: As 5G networks become more widespread, Sony could incorporate 5G connectivity into its new handheld device to enable fast, low-latency gaming on the go. This could facilitate seamless multiplayer experiences, cloud gaming, and even game streaming with PlayStation Now.

  3. Backward Compatibility: To attract both new and existing PlayStation fans, the device could offer backward compatibility with previous PlayStation titles, including digital versions of PSP and Vita games. This would allow users to access a vast library of classic games, while also enjoying new, exclusive content.

  4. Integration with PlayStation Ecosystem: The new handheld system could be designed to work seamlessly with other PlayStation products, such as the PS5, PlayStation VR, and the upcoming PlayStation VR 2. This would enable cross-platform play, shared game libraries, and the ability to use the handheld as a secondary screen or controller for certain games.

  5. Advanced Haptic Feedback: Sony could leverage the success of its DualSense controller by incorporating advanced haptic feedback technology into the new handheld device. This would provide players with a more immersive gaming experience through realistic touch sensations.


Patents and Concepts According to IGN, another patent filed by Sony in 2017 showcased a controller design that could be used with a portable gaming device. The patent described a controller with a touch-sensitive surface that could provide haptic feedback, potentially offering an innovative control scheme for the new handheld system.

While patents don't always translate into actual products, they do provide a glimpse into the potential features and concepts that Sony could be exploring for its next portable gaming system. With a combination of cutting-edge technology, compatibility with existing PlayStation products, and an innovative design, Sony's return to the handheld market could be a MAJOR game-changer (heh, see what I did there).

Meanwhile...

While there is (currently) no official confirmation of Sony's plans to re-enter the handheld market, the possibility is undoubtedly intriguing. A successful return could offer gamers an alternative to Nintendo's dominance in the portable gaming space and potentially reshape the market. With its history, resources, and commitment to innovation, Sony might just have what it takes to make a triumphant return to handheld gaming.


What do you think about the potential return to handheld from Sony? Are you already satisfied with the current options out there, or do you feel like more competition is better? Sound off below, Smashers!


~Smash

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