Written by Rick Warren / Gfn2112
The PlayStation Vita was a failure. As tough as that is to admit, it's an undeniable fact when you look at what's coming out (or what isn't) for the device in the future. Undertale appears to be the last gasp of life from the ill-fated portable system, and as an early adopter of the Vita, this is a shame to see. Despite this, I actually do want Sony to try making a handheld again. Sure, maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment, but I truly believe that if they learn from their mistakes they can deliver.
Step 1: Prioritizing Gaming
While this step may be obvious, Sony failed on this front completely after only the first year of the Vita's short lifespan. The platform may have some great exclusives like Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Severed, Killzone: Mercenary and LittleBigPlanet Vita, but it's hard to find many others. Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified was nothing more than a cheap cash grab, and Resistance Burning Skies wasn't as good as it could have been. Instead of building on their exclusive lineup, Sony chose to go the route of ports. Virtually every classic PlayStation series came to the Vita, from Metal Gear to Jak and Daxter (even a Bioshock port was planned, but was cancelled due to the Vita's poor sales numbers). While most of these collections ran well and were great to play again, they quickly outnumbered the new games coming to the Vita. Soon enough, the releases died off entirely. Nothing else came out (other than the occasional indie game that I had already played on my PS4), and I stopped having a reason to use my Vita altogether. The Vita went from being an exciting device filled with potential, to being nothing more than an expensive companion device for the PlayStation 4. The saddest thing is that this lack of games could have been avoided completely. All that was lacking was one, simple thing: a good price point at launch.
Step 2: A Fair Launch Price
Make no mistake: this step completely determines the future of any device. Sony should know this, as with the PlayStation 3, they chose to launch at a hefty $600. This risky decision did not pay off; it ultimately led to the Xbox 360 dominating the console generation in sales, and the two didn't come close to each other until that generation's end. Though they learned from their mistake when it came to the PlayStation 4, they still repeated it with the Vita. A $300 asking price for a portable device was simply too much, and it showed. Units did not sell, which meant that games did not sell. Gravity Rush, Assassin's Creed Liberation, Tearaway and the Danganronpa series all came to PlayStation consoles due to poor sales. Critics applauded these games, and they deserved to reach a larger audience. It's truly a shame that they couldn't find that audience on the platform they launched on. The Vita's problem had nothing to do with the quality of the device itself, because it truly was well-made. The lack of games was the dagger in the Vita's back, and it came because of that brutal $300 launch price. It's illogical to make more games for a dead platform, and at $300, the Vita was dead on arrival. By the time a price cut finally came, gamers had moved on.
Step 3: Creating A PlayStation-Phone Hybrid (again)
If Sony were to take another crack at making a handheld, they should try to forge an entirely new path. Further, for inspiration, they can look in the mirror. Did you have an Xperia Play? If not, I totally don't blame you (if you did... wow, I'm so sorry). Initially advertised as the PlayStation Phone, the Xperia Play was one of the first big steps toward incorporating gaming into cell phones. Like many Sony products, it failed to catch on. This doesn't mean the idea was bad, though. I would argue that it was just ahead of its time, and today, a similar product could thrive. With mobile gaming as huge as it is right now, what incentive is there to buy a device that only plays games? The answer would normally be exclusive titles that could only run on such a system, but in the case of the Vita, that failed to work out. A PlayStation phone/handheld hybrid would allow Sony to capitalize on the wildly successful world of mobile gaming. They'd be able to create higher quality mobile games that feel like full-on PlayStation titles, as well as offer all the advantages of a modern cell phone. Mobile gaming would grow to become better, and PlayStation fans would no longer be inconvenienced by having to carry around both a PSP/Vita and their mobile phone.
Step 4: Profit
Even now, as I put my PlayStation Vita away for what will likely be the last time, I can't help but think of what could have been. With free mobile games like Candy Crush and Pokémon Go taking the world by storm, a regular PlayStation handheld like this no longer makes sense. A hybrid device has potential, though. If it were to launch at a fair price and garner full support from some of Sony's skilled first party studios, the PlayStation Phone could find success where the Vita failed. It's an unlikely route to go, but if Sony were to take it, they might avenge the unnecessary death of the handheld that I once had such high hopes for.
During a particularly boring day, I began to do what I always do: think about video games. Eventually I remembered the PS Vita, and I felt the need to write something about it. What you just read is the result of that writing. While I know the likelihood of a PlayStation Phone becoming reality is extremely low, I still had a great time theorizing about what it would be like. Plus, who knows? If Knack 2 can happen, anything can!