If you were holding your breath for a follow-up to the PlayStation Vita, you might want to exhale now. Sony may yet make another handheld system, but it's unlikely to happen anytime soon. Or ever, if we're being honest with ourselves.
Asked by a fan whether Sony would make a successor to the Vita, Sony Computer Entertainment president of worldwide studios Shuhei Yoshida admitted that market conditions aren't favorable for a new dedicated handheld. "Touch-based games are fun - there are many games with really good design. But having sticks and buttons make things totally different. So I hope, like many of you, that this culture of playing portable games continues, but the climate is not healthy right now because of the huge dominance of mobile gaming."
Yoshida said that he was personally a "huge fan of the Vita," having also pushed for the development of the original PlayStation Portable. But he also admitted the question of a successor was a tough one: "People have mobile phones and it's so easy to play games on smartphones. And many games on smartphones are free, or free to start."
This won't come as a surprise to most gamers. The Nintendo 3DS has managed to keep rolling through 2015, with sales having increased by some 50 percent by July, but the Vita has struggled to build momentum ever since launch. It has had its moments - a small stream of Japanese RPGs and indie ports have endeared it to a cult following of gamers - but it has been off the mainstream radar for some time now.
Yoshida made his comments following an on-stage interview at EGX covering the past 20 years of the PlayStation's history, which touched on the development of the original PlayStation, his working relationship with Ken Kutaragi ("Ken is a really nice person now," Yoshida laughed), and the PlayStation 2's launch.
When the conversation turned to the original PlayStation Portable, Yoshida denied that its development was a risk for Sony, saying that he was one of the advocates for the handheld system. One point in its favor was that it would bridge the gap in the eventual transition to the PlayStation 3. When it finally came out, he said, "We were so excited to have a big LCD screen."
As Nintendo's strongest rival in the dedicated handheld space, Sony has had its share of success, with the PSP and to a lesser extent the Vita doing particularly well in Japan. But while Yoshida wouldn't outright say it, his comments imply that a successor is not in development, with the result being that Sony may be out of the dedicated handheld market sooner rather than later.
The Vita Keeps Chugging
For those who have stuck with the Vita, though, there's still plenty to like about Sony's rather underrated handheld. Persona 4 Golden, Gravity Rush, and Tearaway have all been very nice additions to the platform's library over the years, as have a raft of indie games.
The releases for Christmas 2015 include Persona 4: Dancing All Night, which Bob recently reviewed, and Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel - the sequel to the cult favorite RPG Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky. In Japan, the Vita continues to chug along, having become a popular alternative platform for some Japanese RPG developers.
If Sony is indeed ready to bow out of the dedicated handheld business, then Vita fans can at least take solace in the knowledge that the platform will probably keep going for at least a little while longer. And if you haven't picked up a Vita yet, there are more games for it than you think.