When the PlayStation Vita was first announced back in 2011, gamers were excited. The device’s technology was the most powerful ever seen in a handheld gaming console at that point, with its potential power being described by Sony engineers as somewhere between the PSP and PS3. Franchises like Uncharted and Wipeout were visible on the console, and its PS4 Remote Play feature was intriguing, if slightly undersold.
To put it simply, the PlayStation Vita (“Vita” being Latin for “life”) was a wonderful console. On launch in 2011 (2012 in non-Japanese territories), the Vita initially performed fantastically, selling over 300,000 units in week one in Japan and 200,000 in the US. These sales were bolstered by quality titles like Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Rayman Origins, as well as the console’s novelty factor and relative power compared to Nintendo’s competing system, the 3DS.
Unfortunately, the PS Vita couldn’t sustain its numbers or its initial popularity. Over 2012, the console received several excellent games such as the perennially underrated Gravity Rush, a definitive port of Persona 4, Assassin’s Creed: Liberation and many more besides. Still, sales of the system stalled, and major publishers like Activision and Ubisoft began to phase out support of the console.
The Vita’s predecessor, the PlayStation Portable, did very respectable numbers indeed, settling on lifetime sales of around 80 million shortly before its 2014 discontinuation. The PSP was a more powerful system than the Nintendo DS, its direct competitor, although its appeal to casual gamers and alternate demographics was significantly lower. It’s worth bearing that in mind when we consider the potential of a successor.
What happened to the PS Vita? Why did its sales decline, and why did it initially perform so well only to slip so quickly? There are a number of theories about this. Some suggest that smartphone gaming did for the console; the immediacy and popularity of smartphone gaming made handheld consoles obsolete. That doesn’t account for the runaway success of the Nintendo 3DS, though.
Another theory could be that the Vita simply didn’t manage to find a niche. It was too powerful, and didn’t have enough of a casual library, to entice less serious gamers, but its price point and somewhat obscure feature list put off those who might otherwise have been interested. Whatever happened to the Vita, Sony’s PS4 swiftly picked up the slack for the company commercially, and they largely abandoned their handheld to its fate.
In March 2019, Sony’s underrated handheld will be discontinued, and no more games will be produced for the system. With that in mind, we thought it was a good idea to take a look at the possibility of a new PS Vita system; whether or not it’s likely that Sony will produce another version of their handheld, and what it might look like if they do.
Although it looks initially unlikely that Sony might be interested in a move like this, let’s consider one of the biggest financial and critical successes of 2017 and 2018: the Nintendo Switch. The Switch is a hybrid handheld and home console that allows gamers to play the exact same games in both a handheld and home TV setting; it’s arguably what Sony was attempting with the Vita’s remote play function.
If Sony wants to get in on Nintendo’s lot, they might be looking to produce a Vita 2 along the same lines. They’d need to refine and hone the remote play function, because the way it worked on the original Vita was unclear and poorly-defined by the company. Still, the Switch’s success shows that gamers are hungry for home-handheld hybrid experiences and that handheld gaming isn’t going anywhere in a hurry.
In addition, the PS5 could be seen by many to need a strong, obvious gimmick in order to sell the system. There will be many Sony diehards who will purchase the PS5 no matter what form it takes, but Sony will be hoping to win over some of the undecided middle-grounders with something unique. Pairing their console with a handheld companion would certainly do that, although the price point would need to be right.
The final word on this, though, should probably go to Sony themselves. Sony’s head of global game development, Shawn Layden, has strongly suggested that a PS Vita 2 is extremely unlikely due to the lacklustre performance of the original PS Vita. The Vita ended up at around 10 million units sold by 2015, meaning it performed worse over a 3-year period than Nintendo’s Switch did in its first year of release alone.
With that ringing in our ears, it seems unlikely to us that a PlayStation Vita 2 will be created. This is a shame; some of our favourite games over the years have been for the system, and experiences like Monster Hunter and Gravity Rush, despite being available on PS4, just don’t feel the same as on their handheld counterpart. The PS Vita had a genuinely beautiful screen; it was a great environment on which to watch movies, and its PSP emulation was crisp and well-realised.
What do you think? Will there be a PS Vita 2? What features would you like to see if there is?