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Sony’s Epitaph for the Vita and Handheld Gaming: “It’s a Business We’re no Longer in Now”

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December 3, 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the original PlayStation, and as such, there’s no shortage of retrospective content out there. Speaking with GameInformer for the anniversary, president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment Jim Ryan gave a brief eulogy for the Vita that suggests Sony sees itself as completely done with handhelds for the time being.

In GameInformer’s extensive oral history looking back on Sony’s family of PlayStation hardware, both the PS Vita and its predecessor the PSP only get short asides. The Vita’s is the smaller of the two. Ryan’s comment manages to be both complimentary and bluntly dismissive.

PlayStation Vita was brilliant in many ways, and the actual gaming experience was great, but clearly it’s a business that we’re no longer in now.

The end for the PS Vita itself came earlier this year when Sony ended production of the handheld in March, which coincided with the previously-announced end date for free Vita titles offered to PS Plus subscribers.

Former SIE president and CEO Andrew House also tells GameInformer that Ken Kutaragi “was notably reluctant” about entering the handheld market with the PSP. Acording to House, Kutaragi (then the chairman of Sony Computer Entertainment) accurately predicted how smartphones would upend the mobile gaming market:

I think was that he had genuinely foreseen the rise of smartphones before anyone had heard about the iPhone. I remember him talking about there was going to be a convergence between all forms of media and entertainment into a single communications device.

In 2017, House himself went on to cite the prevalence of smartphones as one reason why Sony wasn’t looking to compete with the Nintendo Switch by way of a new handheld or similar hybrid console.

With the PlayStation 5 on the horizon and Sony reconfiguring its streaming efforts with PlayStation Now, it likely comes as now surprise to hear that the company sees itself as withdrawn from the handheld business. The Vita itself wasn’t half bad, and perhaps some of those “many ways” Ryan says it was brilliant will go on to influence future additions to the PlayStation family.

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