Sunday, May 11, 2014

The future of the PlayStation's handheld console.

The history of handhelds wouldn't be complete without mentioning Nintendo, one of the key factors in handheld gaming success. With their release of the Game Boy in 1989 Nintendo found its consumer base selling over 100 million between then and 2003. Sony hadn't truly found its handheld market yet as it was focusing on its home console from 1994-2005, but also reaching over 100 million sold creating a precedent for home consoles. Nintendo release many, many, other handhelds and upgrades over the years while Sony didn't hit its mark until 2005 with the PSP (PlayStation Portable). The console received general praise and sold about 5 million, the low numbers possibly being due to the UMD discs use along with some other issues. Between 1989 and 2013 Nintendo continued its line along with creating home consoles as well. meanwhile Sony focused on PS1, PS2 and PS3 home consoles, while revamping the PSP with the GO version (among others) and releasing the PS Vita in 2012. In 2014 Sony released the PS Vita slim, a sleeker more economic and ergonomic model. Note- The image below does not contain all iterations of either console, nor does it show all competing brands during the time period.

Now in 2014 we have the major competitors in the industry Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. With Sony and Nintendo in the handheld market we have seen some great innovations from great games, to streaming and apps, and much more. The Nintendo 3DS (to include it's variations) and the PS Vita (and variations) are direct competitors, both with great features and functionality. Nintendo has historically had more support with games however on their console due to all the IP's currently held by Nintendo. Sony on the other hand had focused on releasing PS1, PS2, PS3 titles and streaming to the vita somewhat lacking in direct console games for the Vita. This might have been what has hindered Sony in garnering a larger portion of the market that Nintendo has a hold over.Another problem could be the price of the console when released as well as games. While PS Plus is a great addition to owning the Vita, the console itself still feels somewhat lacking in a few departments it should have excelled in. Its games look amazing, the depth and color as well as the game designs that are compatible with the Vita are stellar. Sadly these games are also available on the PS3 or PS4 vie tha PSN. Making the Vita an optional accessory, a second controller, rather than its own powerhouse of a handheld that it could have been.

So where we are at now is that we have the PS Vita, 3DS, and to a smaller extent the NVIDIA Shield. We will stick to Sony and Nintendo's handhelds for the remainder however. So what does this mean for Vita? The 3DS has shipped over 42 million, while the Vita has slugged behind at just 4 million. One of the problems as mentioned above is that Nintendo owns so many IP's, so pushing out games for the system is a pretty simple process and a financial motivator. The Vita does have connectivity with the PS3 and PS4 which is great, and some versions offer 3G as well as Wifi. Things like this are integral in keeping the brand a "family" rather than creating an offshoot device that isn't much associated with the PlayStation brand.

So what Sony do? Well in the history of gaming we have seen that gaps in releasing consoles usually sits around the 7 year mark, being the average life span for a console cycle. So could we expect a new Vita in 2017-2019? It is possible, and also could be a great thing for Sony BUT must be done right.

Here are some things that I believe would help them excel with the new version:

  1. The most important thing in my opinion, it MUST have its own games. Exclusives for the console.
  2. It must be compatible in some way with PS3, PS4.
  3. It must support PS Vita games, with it being between either game ports or a physical slot for Vita games.
  4. It should focus on Wifi only, creating 3g/4g only increases costs and disparity between teh console. It should not be competing with itself.
  5. It should have colors, many of the past iterations really lacked colors. Focusing mainly on simply black or white.
  6. It should use SD(and the variations of) cards, non proprietary memory cards for game saves. While it would cut out Sony's memory cards, it would also allow consumers to get massive cards at a fair price. This is something Vita owners have wanted for years, and in my opinion deserve with a new iteration.
  7. Keep the new charging port as it is more universal and easier to get. This also allows accessory creators to make interesting cases and charging docks.
  8. Sony needs to focus on the console and let outside parties develop the accessories for it, much like Nintendo has done. Releasing official accessories and things for the device is still a great idea, but making them proprietary takes away from the creativity of other companies.
  9. Sony might want to keep the OLED screen or use a newer technology (by 2017-2019 there could be newer technology and advancements) because many owners of the console enjoy the crisp colors and depth.
  10. Its battery life should be somewhere between 5-8+ hours if possible. The average 3DS runs about 3-5 hours average, so extending that would help make it relevant.
  11. The processor should at least be quad core, possibly higher because by 2017 6-8 core processors may almost be a standard among computers and devices.
  12. It needs to be a comfortable handheld. Despite having all these features it needs to remain comfortable and stylish.
  13. Internal memory will be vital in handling previous games as well as the new games that would be exclusive to the console. So this should be considered, I however do not know what a good amount would be because of how quickly technology changes.
  14. Price will be essential in initial sales and a good price point of between $199 and $299 would keep it affordable to the average gamer.
  15. Launch titles, launch titles, launch titles. Sony needs to release the console with launch titles 100% ready to be shipped, included in bundles, or via digital download. One of the main downfalls of every single console launch is lack of games. Having a prepared amount of exclusive and non exclusives alike will truly help the console take hold.
  16. Optional compatibility with Sony phones might be helpful.
  17. It should "probably" include NFC for current and future plans as the technology has really taken off with things like Skylanders, Disney Infinity, and outside of gaming Payment Options.
  18. A good camera. Handhelds have really had issues putting a decent camera in the device, while companies liek Samsung and Nokia have shown that a great camera can be put in a small device. Probably something along the lines of a 20mp+ camera with its own app and share functions.
  19. It really needs share functions like the PS4 such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and other social media.
  20. Power saving is something the new system could make use of, allowing it to save battery is a vital part of any device.
  21. Allow but don't focus on VR, unless VR really takes off by then the system might want to just use it as an option. Streaming games from the "Vita 2" to your Morpheus headset might be a nice option, possibly incorporating the PS4 as well with its camera if needed.
  22. It should change how many consoles PSN allows per user to allow for registering enough devices comfortably.
  23. Sony might want to either incorporate an L2/R2 and share button, either through the device itself or an accessory. This is something that has made crossplay difficult for most.
  24. While this is not related to a function of the new vita console, the PS Vita/Slim should continue to be supported.
  25. Voice commands is an option, but not a necessity. Though it could help set it apart from other handhelds.
  26. Touchscreen, this is a given. 
  27. Motion sensing, also a given. Vibration an option but not a necessity, possibly too gimmicky for most.
  28. It should have pretty much everything the current Vita has, improved if possible.
  29. Linking to other PS Vitas and PS4's, possibly PS3's as well if possible. This would allow to play multiplayer on 2 screens within range using Wifi and NFC/Bluetooth.
  30. Ability to play games from the device to the tv and/or the device to the PS4. This could be done through the Vita TV or through the console. A note however, it may bulk up the size of the Vita 2 to include this internally, so Vita TV may be best.
  31. The ability to use the PS4 controller as a controller for the Vita 2 would be a novel idea, this also could work well in combination with if they use generic charging ports.
  32. As for game cartridges I believe the PS Vita style has worked well as those cards can hold large amounts of information, and the technology has gotten even cheaper in recent times.
  33. Promotion is key to success in business, Sony needs to release this info at an E3 with a good amount of details. Afterwards keeping the public in the know until the release date arrives. We have already seen with the Wii U how poor marketing can ruin sales for a console, Sony will need to keep on top of this.
  34. Possibly add some fun gimmicks like fingerprint security or facial recognition.
  35. Include common video apps, a given as well. Also may be helpful to allow streaming but could be difficult to do.
That is all the ideas currently that I personally have, I may add more at a later date. I see a bright future for PlayStation thanks to the simplicity of PS4 architecture and innovations they have had in recent years. I believe we could hear about a new console in the coming years and I wish them luck, and look forward to trying it out.