In Brief

PS Vita discontinued: can handheld gaming survive?

Sony withdraws its last portable system from sale

Sony has confirmed that it will no longer produce its PS Vita console, bringing an end to the handheld device’s seven-year lifespan. 

The final two editions of the games system were taken down from Sony’s online store on Monday, “signalling the death of the console”, The Independent reports.

The PS Vita “ran into competition from smartphone companies and the games on their platforms” almost immediately after launching in December 2011, the news site says. Indeed, the Sony system never came close to replicating the success of its predecessor, the PlayStation Portable (PSP).

The Japanese tech giant stopped publicising its device sales in 2013, but industry experts estimate that the PS Vita sold no more than 15 million units, says Polygon

Shawn Layden, head of Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios, told the games news site in 2017 that the PS Vita “just didn’t reach that critical mass with the audience”.

“And thereby, the development community doesn’t get behind it, and thereby, the audience doesn’t come, and it’s a quick negative spiral effect,” Layden said.

Are handheld games consoles a dying technology?

Not necessarily. Although the market isn’t as competitive as it was in the 1990s, Nintendo is keeping the handheld space alive with its line-up of 3DS and 2DS consoles. 

The games giant’s all-in-one Switch system, a home console that can also be used on the go, is also proving popular with gamers and is widely considered to be the future of handheld gaming. 

Nintendo has sold around 32 million units of the Switch over the past two years, more than double the number of PS Vita systems shifted over its seven-year lifespan, according to the BBC.

Smartphone games have improved significantly over the past decade, too, with mobile companies producing handsets that are “powerful enough to run graphically intensive apps”, the broadcaster adds.  

In fact, the success of the Switch and the rise of mobile games may be the reason why there will not be a successor to the PS Vita, says tech news site Tom’s Guide

Ultimately, the portable games market appears to be in rude heath - but the bad news for Sony is that it’s dominated by Nintendo and smartphone companies.

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