Thanks to patents recently filed by Sony, rumors have been swirling that the company is working on a new portable PlayStation console that would compete with Nintendo’s Switch platform. While it’s very tempting to imagine a follow up to the legendary PSP and wildly underrated Vita, executives at Sony would have to be completely out of their minds to do this.
The Nintendo Switch has been a massive hit partly because it has been Nintendo’s entire focus as a company for several years now. It’s a solid console that focuses on gaming with a barebones feature set, an all-star lineup of Nintendo exclusives, and the lowest cost to entry of any major gaming platform — except for mobile. Already, we see two problems for Sony, or anyone, trying to market another portable game system in 2021 and beyond: The lack of the focus necessitated to produce a library of exclusive games for a new platform while also pushing a separate home console. This was the very issue that choked the Vita out and Sony is not dumb enough to run the same play twice. There's also the pace at which mobile phones could make the entire category obsolete sooner rather than later.
The rumors have persisted regardless, with many claiming that Sony plans to overcome that first obstacle via a 5G cloud-based streaming service, through which gamers can access their PS5 libraries. But, if you think about that for more than five thrilling seconds, you see how this solution only compounds the second barrier to entry that the company would face: Cell phones.
Be moved — Cell phones have become quite capable gaming platforms all their own and, when used in conjunction with a solid mobile controller like the Razer Kishi, already offer robust gaming experiences via PS5 and Xbox’s remote play features. Why would anyone throw down for a pricey portable console that requires an enormous amount of 5G data usage when one can just throw two thumb sticks and some buttons on the mobile phone they already paid for? It just seems like an enormous waste of resources.
There's an app for that — It may have taken a decade and a half, but mobile phones are likely going to cannibalize the gaming market just as they did the digital camera market and the MP3 player market and the GPS navigation system market. It’s only a matter of time. Sony knows this.
Silver lining — What the company should be focusing on is building up their cloud streaming capabilities and their PlayStation Now subscription service, much like Microsoft has been doing. While gamers are unlikely to drop real, physical, home consoles entirely for quite some time, a robust streaming offering would make them competitive with Nintendo in the mobile gaming industry precisely the way they spent decades trying — but never quite succeeding — to.
I am an avid portable gamer and I’d rejoice to see Nintendo finally get some competition. It just won’t, and shouldn’t, look like another PSP.