Update, 29 November 12PM: It appears the patent application is merely for Sony’s existing product, the Sony Toio – a “toy platform” for kids. Well, it seems like the dream of a new handheld from Sony isn’t as close as we think it is.
Our original article follows, and although the patent isn’t for a new Sony handheld console, we’re going to discuss if Sony should venture back into the handheld market.
Recently, a patent application granted to Sony surfaced on the internet. The filing’s details were released by the Korean Intellectual Property Right Information Service (KIPRIS), which shows a patent for an electronic game cartridge.
It’s not known exactly what Sony plans to do with the patent, but there is a chance – a marginal one, perhaps – the Japanese company is planning to release a new handheld console; a successor to the ill-fated PlayStation Vita. But let’s assume Sony is doing just that: do we really need a new handheld from PlayStation?
If Sony does plan to release a successor to the PS Vita, it has a lot on its shoulders. I’m all for a new PlayStation handheld console, but Sony cannot repeat what it did with the Vita. Most importantly, the company has to figure out how a new handheld system will co-exist with its home console.
It will be tough to balance the two types of console, and it’s made even harder with the existence of the Nintendo Switch. It’s unique in the sense that it is both a handheld and home console, and if the Switch’s sales figure is anything to go by, consumers love it. There’s no denying the fact that it’s a hugely successful product for Nintendo.
And it’s not like Sony can release a competing product, not when the PlayStation 4 is still around. It’s one of Sony’s most valuable assets right now, and it is easily one of the best (if not the best) home consoles in the market now. Any new hardware release that will affect the home console in any way will be risky.
So is it viable for Sony to release a new handheld console? Even with the PS Vita’s lacklustre reception? Definitely. I’d argue Sony shouldn’t compete with the Switch head-on. Rather, it should focus on providing a better handheld gaming experience than what the Switch offers. On top of that, the new handheld can even fill the void left by the Nintendo 3DS, now that Nintendo is putting its focus on the Switch.
For Sony to go against Nintendo in the handheld market, good hardware should be prioritised, and Sony is more than capable at accomplishing this. Not only does it have experience with manufacturing smartphones, Sony also did a very good job with the PS Vita’s hardware. When the handheld was initially released back in 2011, it had cutting-edge specifications and solid build quality. I reckon it won’t be a problem for Sony to replicate this with a new handheld.
But there are a couple of areas where Sony can still improve upon in the hardware department. More specifically, there should be no proprietary storage or ports, which are some of the Vita’s pain points. Not only is it impossible to charge the device if you lost the original charger, the proprietary memory cards are also very expensive. A microSD card and a microUSB (or preferably, USB Type-C) port would’ve made a world of difference to the PS Vita’s reception.
Another thing that is even more crucial – and one of the reasons why the Vita isn’t seeing much success – is offering a wider array of games that are not just from indie developers. After all, what’s the use of good hardware if there are no games worth playing? Software is every bit as important as hardware.
Considering the sheer number of exclusive titles available on the PS4, it’s not impossible for Sony to do the same thing with a new handheld console. Not only will it encourage consumers to pick up the system over any other product in the same category, it’s one way for Sony to get the upper hand when competing against hugely popular mobile games.
I can’t speak on behalf of what consumers what, but I do think a full-fledged, elaborate game with good replay value is much more enjoyable than the majority of mobile games. Yes, mobile games have come a long way, but they still don’t offer the same kind of immersion and experience of a proper console title. Of course, this is my own personal opinion.
There is certainly room for a new handheld console in the market, especially for a company as established and experienced as Sony. But this is assuming Sony is in fact planning to release a new PlayStation handheld console.
Personally, I do think Sony should release a successor to the PlayStation Vita, especially if the company has a solid game plan. Until that happens, I’ll continue using my Vita to play PlayStation Classic titles.