Third time is the charm for Sony in the portable market?
The Nintendo Switch is a huge success right now, but that has to be bittersweet for Sony- bitter, because their major competitor is doing well again, but sweet, because the Switch is the ultimate realization, and vindication, of a philosophy that Sony themselves attempted to pioneer multiple times over the last decade and a half. The idea of taking your console games with you on the go is what Sony was gunning for with the PSP, the PS Vita, with Cross Buy, and with Remote Play- it’s just that Sony was never able to achieve it as well as Nintendo did with the Switch, and its efforts never gained as much traction with the market as the Switch already has.
But now that the Switch is a success, and there is evidence of not just the market for such a system existing, but also the technology, is this something that Sony should be looking into? Should Sony be looking into a handheld of its own, a Switch like system for this new segment of the market, and for Japan, where portable systems reign supreme? After all, Sony is currently the company least suited to the ‘play anywhere’ future– would a Switch like handheld of their own not cover that base, too?
As tempting as it might be to wish for Sony to make a Switch like handheld of their own, the fact of the matter is that it would be a really bad idea for them to do so. History is against Sony, and they have repeatedly show themselves to be incapable of handing handhelds. The PSP managed to become a reasonable success, but it was completely dwarfed by the DS, and the success that it did get, it got thanks to third parties bailing it out (especially Capcom with Monster Hunter). The PS Vita, on the other hand, was a total embarrassment, and remains the only PlayStation system to be an unqualified failure. Both systems failed because Sony could not and did not commit to them, leaving them out to die, not supporting them with major games from their flagship studios, and simply treating them as second class citizens next to their home consoles. There is no reason to suspect that a new handheld by Sony would be any different- as accomplished as the company is with consoles, it is completely clueless when it comes to handhelds.
"Now that the Switch is a success, and there is evidence of not just the market for such a system existing, but also the technology, is this something that Sony should be looking into?"
There is also the simple fact that it is very difficult to support two systems at once- Sony flat out has been unable to do it with the PS3 and PSP, and PS4 and PS Vita, and again, there is no reason to suppose that they would divert resources away from the insanely successful PS4 to give support to a new handheld that they put out. In fact, Sony already has two formats on the market it is currently trying to actively support, the PS4 and the PSVR- and with the latter, it is failing utterly to muster up any reasonable support.
This actually segues right into just why the Nintendo Switch is such a uniquely well suited proposition for Nintendo and where it is in the market- you see, the Switch represents a unification of Nintendo’s historically successful line of handheld systems, and of its less stellar home console line. Portability, however, comes at a cost, and a portable system can never be as well specced as a stationary one- for Nintendo, this is not a problem, given that it is a company that always trails current generation hardware on the market. It can, therefore, make a powerful portable that is also a console, and which still represents a step up from its previous home console. If Sony were to make a PlayStation Switch, it would either not be a unification of their hardware lines – in which case, there is literally no point to it – or if it was, for PlayStation home console owners, it would be a regression from the PS4 in terms of power and capability. PlayStation has always prided itself on delivering high end home console experiences- why would it gut that identity to chase gold in the portable market, where it has always failed?
The fact of the matter is, Sony has its niche- it delivers high end gaming experiences. That’s what Sony does, that’s what it is doing right now, and it is very successful at that. Its games are all centered around that positioning- it makes high end, photorealistic home console games. This is Sony’s niche, and it is doing incredibly well in it, with the PS4 en route to becoming one of the most successful home consoles of all time. What reason does Sony have to abandon this proven formula for success, and go chasing Nintendo in a market that has been historically stacked against them?
"What reason does Sony have to abandon this proven formula for success, and go chasing Nintendo in a market that has been historically stacked against them?"
Look, Nintendo has its own niche, too. Nintendo excels with portable systems, and it prides itself on delivering unforgettable games that are inventive and unique- and its hardware and software is geared towards this philosophy, just like S0ny’s is to its philosophy. Just like Nintendo couldn’t do well trying to take Sony on head on with a PS4 like console and lineup, Sony cannot do well taking on Nintendo on Nintendo’s turf. It’s a bad idea for both of them to step out of what are now very clearly defined and delineated niches for the two of them to dominate.
In the end, Sony and Nintendo can both do incredibly well and co-exist comfortably in the market- it’s not like the PS4’s success has dampened the Switch’s, or that the Switch’s success has caused a slowdown for the PS4. Both can do well, both can dominate, and both companies can do what they do, best. There is no point wishing for either to go after the other, when history has shown us repeatedly that that is just not something that they are good at.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to GamingBolt as an organization.