Lead image: Sony’s new handheld, Project Q next to the PlayStation 5. Source: USA Today
The PlayStation Vita was a console that was praised by critics, had a few solid first-party games such as Uncharted: Golden Abyss and still to this day has a dedicated fanbase.
The handheld device, however, was doomed from the start with the high price tag for the console itself and memory cards, high competition with the Nintendo 3DS, and the rise in popularity of mobile gaming. If history is anything to go by, then it looks like Sony is going to make another mistake with their next handheld console.
Table of Contents
- Breaking Down Project Q
- Project Q Specs
- Why the Next PlayStation Handheld is a Mistake
- Final Thoughts
Breaking Down Project Q
At this year’s Playstation Showcase Jim Ryan (President and CEO of Sony Interactive) revealed Project Q.
The device will require a PlayStation 5 for it to work. It will utilize the platform’s remote play features so that you can stream your PS5 games onto your device. Technically this means that the console won’t be a cloud streaming device. This is because you will have to use a PlayStation 5 to connect the device. With remote play and the gaming market, especially with Microsoft investing heavily into cloud gaming, it seems likely that the way the market is going that Project Q will eventually turn into more of a cloud gaming device.
The PlayStation Vita, towards the end of its life cycle, eventually became more of a console just for remote play with the PlayStation 4. It seems very strange that Sony is essentially working on a device with fewer features than their previous handheld.
As things stand, the next Sony handheld will need a constant internet connection for it to work, as cloud gaming devices do.
Project Q Specs
The device will support streaming up to 1080p at 60FPS which is certainly an upgrade from the Vita which had a qHD display and was capped at 30FPS.
The screen is rumoured to have an 8-inch screen which is much bigger than the Vita’s 5-inch, however, the screen will only be LCD, not OLED which was a feature of the original PlayStation Vita.
From what we saw at PlayStation Showcase, the console looks much like a Dual Sense controller and will feature haptic feedback just like the PS5’s controller does. Project Q will come in a white finish to have that same sleek look as the PlayStation 5 and is due to be released at the end of the year.
Why the Next PlayStation Handheld is a Mistake
Based on what we know, I believe that Project Q has many flaws. First up is the fact that it will always require an internet connection. What is one of the reasons why the Nintendo Switch is so popular and the Steam Deck is doing well? Because they are what handheld devices should be. They are portable. You can take them anywhere and play fantastic games, the games that you love.
This goes hand in hand with accessibility and ease of access. With the Switch, you turn it on and you are pretty much straight into a game, it is quick and easy to access what you need and want for your play session. Imagine having to turn on the next PlayStation handheld and having to mess with finding an internet connection to just play a game, more importantly, that game would also have to be installed on your PS5 to utilize the remote play feature. Internet connections aren’t always stable and we are not at a technical level where every location has superfast broadband. This is going to cut consumers out of accessing the device and have players hit multiple issues such as potentially losing progress in their games because their internet cuts out.
This is because of the remote play feature. The PS5 is only just starting to become regularly available after nearly 3 years of a shortage on the market, so there are still a high number of consumers who haven’t got the entry point into the Project Q.
Many countries are in a financial crisis, such as the UK which is currently suffering a cost of living crisis. On top of that, Sony has increased the price of the PlayStation 5 in some regions. In the UK, the price has gone up from £449.99 to £479.99 for the model with the disc drive and £359.99 to £389.99 for the diskless model. This will not only block out gamers who do not have a PlayStation 5 but will also have a high price point of entry for handheld gamers who will have to pay for the PS5 and Project Q itself on top of that.
The design of the next handheld is also slightly dated already. Although the screen will be the biggest compared to the Nintendo Switch and Steam Deck, the screen will only be LCD, whereas for the past two years already Nintendo has had an OLED Switch on the market.
Nintendo Switch OLED Model
Graphics are pushing now towards Raytracing, and 4K graphics. It would make more sense for Sony to push the handheld gaming market forward in terms of tech and make a device that would support 4K ray tracing graphics on a handheld device, although the technology may not quite be there yet. The device would be more attractive to the consumer if it was pushing boundaries.
It is also vital to look at the competition. Microsoft has been investing heavily into Cloud Gaming, bundling the ability to stream games to most devices in their game pass subscription and signing multiple 10-year agreements to bring Xbox games to Cloud Gaming platforms should the Activision Blizzard acquisition go through. This means that Sony already has a steep hill to climb to compete with Microsoft which has already got a massive head start in cloud gaming through accessibility and the Azure tech they use to house their servers and use for consumers to stream games.
PlayStation Vita failed, PlayStation VR 2 hasn’t gotten off to a good start and Project Q,
based on the rumours and points I’ve made, looks destined to fall right into the ground. The next PlayStation handheld can’t be a remote play/cloud gaming device.
The infrastructure isn’t ready in terms of internet capability to support an always-connected console on the market. The price entry in my opinion will likely be far too high for consumers, especially with the state that the economy is in, in many countries, people don’t have as much disposable income to spend, especially on a device that isn’t pushing technology forward and there are already better and more accessible handheld gaming devices on the market. There are also far more consumer-friendly Cloud Gaming options available for gamers such as Xbox Game Pass, there are now also controllers you can buy to turn your mobile or tablet into a cloud gaming console which is a much cheaper option than Q would be. It will also be near impossible for Sony to keep up with Microsoft with how heavily they have invested in the Cloud Gaming space, especially if the Activision Blizzard deal goes through.
The answer to this is to make a Playstation Vita 2. Yes the Vita was not commercially successful, but Sony can’t tiptoe with a handheld console. They must go all in or not enter the space at all.
Where the Vita failed, technology has advanced and so has Sony’s first-party titles and this can make the Vita 2 its unique selling point. Sony has the power to make a great portable device and has the power to potentially drive that gaming space forward with a better frame rate, screen and potential 4K or close to 4K capabilities.
The Nintendo Switch is in dire need of a next-gen upgrade and if done right, Sony could fill in that space. We are in a position now where current-gen games can be played on handheld portable consoles like the SteamDeck for example. Sony has a fantastic slate of first-party franchises such as SpiderMan, God Of War, Ratchet and Clank and The Last Of Us and it will be very appealing to play those games and series on a new PlayStation portable console. Sony now also has a relatively new gaming mascot, Astrobot, which could easily be PlayStation’s answer to Nintendo’s Mario. Imagine an Astrobot game on a new Playstation Vita 2.
Nintendo is quiet. Xbox isn’t looking into the handheld gaming space, and there is a market for portable consoles. Sony can’t simply invest and make Q a Cloud Gaming console, It won’t work, it won’t sell. Sony needs to be better. They need to be stronger and take a risk. They need to make the PlayStation Vita 2.
This article was originally published by Alex Brown on Hackernoon.