A Bloomberg report featuring an interview with Sony’s gaming chief Andrew House has been circulating, stating that House himself doesn’t see very much potential or viability when it comes to handheld gaming when everyone and their brother has a smartphone. That’s not a direct quote by any means, but that’s essentially the sentiment House is feeling, shared during an interview at Tokyo Game Show 2017.
“The Nintendo device is a hybrid device and that’s a different approach and strategy,” staid House when speaking to Bloomberg. “We have not seen that as being a huge market opportunity,” he continued. Obviously the “Nintendo device” being spoken on here is the Nintendo Switch, which has made major waves in the last few months as both a home and handheld system hybrid, which allows for play centered at home in the living room and on the go.
Sony’s portable viability has been virtually nonexistent ever since the company has slowly but surely buried the PS Vita, leaving it relegated to host several excellent Japanese role-playing games, anime to video game adaptations, and other quirky titles that feel right at home on the system. According to House, there just wasn’t a “huge demand” for the “Vita experience,” citing the public’s usage of smartphones as heralding what may as well be the end of handheld console play for the near future.
But while smartphones are of course always with us and capable of hosting several important gaming experiences, by and large they just can’t compete with some handheld experiences, namely those the PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS have been providing. The software is there, indeed, but when most major releases force players to rely on touch controls, in-game purchases, and watered-down experiences, it doesn’t engender player loyalty in every gamer. The casual populace and a good subset of hardcore gamers are fine with using smartphones as their primary gaming devices, but that doesn’t mean smartphones are the best platform to enjoy games on.
I know people still play handheld games on devices other than smartphones. The Nintendo 3DS is a smash hit, and yet the PS Vita was not, so it follows that the Vita must have had the wrong approach — but what certainly didn’t help was the fact that the system was essentially left to die and ignored for so long, receiving only RPGs and ports and the errant version of games that were also released on other platforms.
Sony states that its focus is to continue to create products to be used in the home, but the strategy of just no longer updating the Vita and sweeping it under the rug doesn’t exactly strike me as a smart measure, especially when Nintendo has proven time and time again how viable the dedicated handheld and hybrid actually is. With features like Remote Play and a fantastic business plan with the Switch, giving up on making something that could compete with Nintendo seems a little dim. But that’s just me, and I’m obviously not being paid the big bucks by Sony to figure out their business strategies. If it were me, personally? I’d rather not see the Vita be ignored and left out in the cold.