In recent days, rumors of a new PlayStation handheld console have been swirling. At first, it sounded like Sony might be working on the PS Vita 2 — a follow-up to its beloved but poorly-supported handheld. Our hopes were subsequently dashed by a report from Insider Gaming. According to the report, the rumored PlayStation handheld (codenamed Q Lite) will need a PS5 to operate and will play games via Remote Play.
If this is true, then Sony is wasting a prime opportunity to dominate the market.
What does the “PS Vita 2” look like?
The report from Insider Gaming claims that early prototypes of the unannounced device “look a lot like a PlayStation 5 controller, but with a massive 8-inch LCD touchscreen in the center.” They feature volume buttons, speakers, and an audio input jack. The Q Lite also requires a constant internet connection for adaptive streaming up to 1080p and 60FPS.
Given how ergonomic the DualSense controller has proven to be, I’m personally thrilled about this design. Sony has made some of the most comfortable handheld consoles of all time, and pairing that expertise with the look and feel of the DualSense should be a home run.
But it’s not the design that I’m worried about. It’s the functionality.
We’re currently living in the golden age of portable video games. Nintendo paved the way with the Switch back in 2017, Valve flipped the industry upside-down with the Steam Deck in 2022, and in between, countless third-party manufacturers have flooded the market with affordable retro handhelds that can play any classic game you can throw at them.
For less than $100, you can get a retro handheld that can play every PS1 game ever made. If you load your Steam Deck up with emulators and roms, it’s entirely possible to work your way through most of the PS2 and PS3 library from anywhere on the planet as well.
Then consider how crazy everyone went for Nintendo’s Classic Edition consoles in 2016 and 2018. There is a real and growing market for these classic games, but the best that Sony can offer right now is a subscription to PlayStation Plus Premium. And by the way, if you want to use that service, you’ll need to shell out $499 for a PS5 first.
Sony could launch its own Steam Deck
I don’t want or need an always-online, streaming-only handheld. I already use Remote Play to stream my PS5 games on my laptop, my tablet, my phone, and my Steam Deck with no issue. My DualSense controller connects to all those devices flawlessly. Why would I pay hundreds for a dedicated device that does the same thing?
Here’s what I’d be hopelessly tempted to spend money on: A dedicated PlayStation handheld that plays all of my favorite PlayStation games from consoles past.
One of the PSP’s greatest assets was a library of PSOne Classics. Not only did PSP owners have access to the handheld’s huge library of exclusive games, but they could also download dozens of classic PS1 games from the PlayStation Store, like Crash Bandicoot, Syphon Filter, Tekken 2, Wild Arms, Suikoden, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Tomb Raider.
Why not release an official handheld device with access to the complete libraries of the PS1, PS2, and PS3? Of course, licensing issues will impact availability and there are some games Sony might not want to touch, but if thousands of gamers are going to find the games online for free anyway, why not give them a convenient way to pay for them?
Nintendo has effectively turned the Switch into a portable NES, SNES, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, and N64 with Nintendo Switch Online. Switch owners are paying $49.99 a year for access to a rather limited selection of retro games. I have little doubt that PlayStation fans would do the same with a retro-focused PlayStation handheld.
One obvious solution: Combine the two ideas. The Q Lite probably won’t be powerful enough to play PS5 games natively on the go, but PS5 owners could stream them with Remote Play. Meanwhile, when the console isn’t online, Q Lite owners could play dozens of PS1, PS2, and PS3 games that they bought from the PlayStation Store.
The Steam Deck has been an overwhelming success for Valve, giving PC gamers a relatively affordable and convenient way to play less demanding PC games anywhere. I have a feeling that Sony would have a hit on its hands if it did the same for PlayStation games.