Sony looks set to step away from the handheld gaming market, as production of the PlayStation Vita winds down in Japan.
As initially reported by Gametsu, the news appeared on Sony’s official Japanese PlayStation website. Presently only black and ‘aqua blue’ coloured Vitas are manufactured in Japan; and they are now marked to note that “shipments are scheduled to end soon”. PlayStation had already confirmed Vita production would end in 2019, but it is now clear the discontinuation may come relatively soon. Gametsu points out that that a similar PlayStation Japan website announcement arrived at this time of year in 2017, around two months before PlayStation 3 production was halted in May.
Released in 2011, the Vita replaced the PlayStation Portable, known as the ‘PSP’. At the point of the Vita’s arrival, smartphone gaming was well and truly on the rise; and devoted portable gaming hardware suddenly offered few advantages over the mobiles people were already carrying.
The Vita was beloved by many, and packed with cutting-edge features with regard to its screen, computing power, and inputs. It truly was a hardcore gamer’s device, but it arrived in an era when that once-dominate demographic had become relatively modest in size compared to the thriving casual market. Only a few consumers were prepared to invest in portable gaming hardware on top of a smartphone. While the Vita did bring physical buttons, thumbsticks, and more core gaming functionality, the handheld never made the impact of Nintendo’s more accessible, more affordable DS family of handhelds.
The 3DS was also released in 2011, and in 2018 still shifted a relatively impressive 6.4 million units. While 3DS sales are in decline year-on-year, according to Engadget, overall 70 million of the Nintendo handhelds have been sold, compared to just 16 million Vitas total.
And Nintendo has no plans of abandoning devoted handheld gaming hardware, even though its current-gen Switch console is effectively portable, thanks to a built-in screen and battery supply. As reported by Mashable, Nintendo is currently planning the 3DS’ successor.
There are no such hopes for a new PlayStation portable, though. We, for one, will greatly miss the Vita. Its star may have faded in recent years, but it was a fantastic piece of hardware with some wonderful games in its library. We’ll still be taking ours on plane flights and long rail journeys for years to come. Though we’ll have our mobile with us too, of course.