Handheld gaming consoles have always occupied an awkward place in video gaming. They’re built for on-the-go play yet early efforts, like Sega’s Game Gear or Nintendo’s GameBoy, were troubled by nearly non-existent battery life and an inability to function in low light, respectively.
Fast forward to 2009, the PSP Go proved that innovation doesn’t always make sense. This WiFi-online platform couldn’t play the PSP’s UMD discs, making it a highly situational device that was scared of going outside.
The PSP Go, actually the fourth of five efforts to redesign Sony’s popular PSP, was eventually canned in 2011. The PS Vita would hit shelves the same year support for the PSP Go ended but found itself in the same landfill as its predecessor just eight years later. What follows is a story of Sony’s desire to be taken seriously as a handheld platform manufacturer. We look into its most recent failure: 2023’s PlayStation Portal.
Truly, there have only ever been two Sony handhelds – the PSP and the PSP Vita – but, as hinted at with the PSP Go, the many iterations of the two platforms (seven versions, believe it or not!) give the illusion of a much longer history.
Sony’s ongoing efforts to redesign both devices may hint at the Japanese company’s dissatisfaction with the PSP family. Alternatively, there may have been a need to stay in step with Nintendo’s DS system, which was rebuilt many times.
Of course, then, there’s mobile gaming, which was rapidly gaining a foothold in the handheld market following the launch of the first iPhone in 2007, two years before the PSP’s debut.
Most gaming companies have pivoted towards Android and iOS in recent times. For example, within the online casino industry, the casino online NJ operator PlayStar offers the option for fans to play popular slots like 3 Secret Cities, Wolf Ridge, and Cash Eruption on any smartphone or tablet.
With digital media of all types migrating to smartphones, it might seem like portable gaming in its traditional shape is the square peg that meets a round hole.
Sony’s new PlayStation Portal isn’t much of a handheld. It’s a surrogate PS5. It doesn’t have any native software, runs on WiFi, and only streams whatever is currently happening on the owner’s PS5. So, yes, you also require a PlayStation to run it, unlike the PSP.
Put another way, it’s more like the failed Google Stadia cloud gaming device than a PSP, only, it doesn’t support Sony’s cloud gaming network.
The need for an iron-clad internet connection will ultimately be the PS Portal’s downfall, in much the same way as it was the Stadia’s. Tech site Engadget noted its potential to become a “$200 doorstop” in its review of the device.
Sony seemingly has no interest in adding anything new to the world of handheld gaming, something that might have made sense in the mid-2010s.
With the Nintendo Switch, Steam Deck, ASUS ROG, Logitech G, Razer Edge, Orange Pi, etc. all on or approaching the market, this decision is difficult to justify.
The beloved PSP might become a bit of a footnote in gaming history because of its creator’s disinterest in the handheld medium. Yet, ironically, incredibly, Sony is still finding the time to beat the horse it dispatched with the Vita in 2019.
Overall, there are better ways to spend $200.