Sony have announced that their PlayStation gaming division will no longer support handheld gaming, discontinuing the PSVita in 2019. Two factors appear to have influenced the decision, the popularity of the PS4 and Nintendo’s dominance of the handheld market.
Sony Interactive Entertainment senior vice president Hiroyuki Oda told Japanese video game magazine Famitsu, “in Japan, we will manufacture PlayStation Vita until 2019. From there, shipping will end.” While they have not publicly announced an official exit from the handheld market, Business Insider is reporting that a representative has confirmed it. This is a safe assumption has there are no plans to replace the PSVita with a new device.
“Currently, we do not have any plans regarding a new handheld device,” Oda told Famitsu.
This leaves Nintendo as the only major gaming company in the handheld market. However, this does not include the growing popularity and importance of mobile gaming, making handhelds increasingly obsolete.
While the PSVita and PSP were relative failures compared to the Nintendo DS and 3DS, as well as their console counterparts, Sony’s handhelds have delivered some absolute gems over the years. Entering the market in 2004 with the PSP, Sony’s first attempt was hindered by a high price tag and the inefficient UMD game discs. Despite this, the PSP still delivered some fantastic titles. God of War: Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta put the GOW experience on the go, Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core introduced the FF7 world to a new generation and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker was such a high quality game it was later ported to consoles and the combat mechanics adapted into Metal Gear Solid V. The PSP was also instrumental in developing Sony’s virtual console, which has led to the current digital library of PS1 and PS2 games.
The PSVita didn’t receive the same love as its predecessor, but delivered some amazing titles. Games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Gravity Rush and Persona 4 Golden offered the full console experience in players hands. More importantly, the PSVita was crucial to establishing Sony’s strong connection to independent developers through smaller indie games. Indie titles like Guacamelee!, Don’t Starve, Spelunky, Rogue Legacy, Hotline Miama and Terraria opened the door for independent developers. With cross-buy giving Vita owners a copy of these games on PS3 and PS4, Sony had finally caught up to Microsoft in regards to their support for indie games.
While it is sad that Sony is giving up on the handheld market, it is also an indication of the modern gaming landscape. Nintendo has survived by fusing both consoles and handhelds in the Switch, but portable gaming is becoming increasing reliant on mobile phones. This trend is likely to continue, as phones get more powerful and consoles like the PS4 carve out their own corner of the gaming market.