Monday, April 30, 2018

The great next-gen not-a-Vita2 rumour game begins again

When some YouTube random or designer spouts out a few ideas for a new Vita (below), the Internet mostly has a bit of chuckle, then moves on.

So-called proper tech sites only dutifully report what the companies tell them, aka "Vita is dead", or repeat whatever leaks spring from Chinese factories or obscure semiconductor sites. Naturally, they ignore any good gaming news.

However, in a rare display of clickbaity lateral thinking, T3 reports that Sony's persistence with smartphones is down to a need for 5G research which naturally, according to the tech site, equals a new portable gaming system.

All of which means the great tech fishbowl is about to run with this story many, many times (first examples up. Their thinking is based on a nugget in Sony's latest financials, the ones that refuse to recognise the Vita's existence. With the most likely use of the upcoming mobile network technology as the backbone for a HD game streaming service for some dim-distant successor to the PSP and Vita, obviously!

Cloudy the Future Is

That's dim-distant because 5G won't hit until 2019/2020 at the earliest. It won't be widespread in tier 1 countries for another year or two after that. And, in most parts of the world, it will be as ropey as your current 4G signal. Also, the density and costs of 5G infrastructure make it likely to only appear in big cities and along high-density commuter routes.

If you live in a village, then you're really screwed, although you know that as you stare sadly at the 3G/GPRS bar on your current-gen smartphone. As for 5G, the tinfoil hat brigade think it will give us all cancer (again). Also, the white papers I've read lay it out as potentially a really finicky technology when exposed to the real world packed with data-slurping 4K smartphones and billions of \IoT devices.

T3's logic follows that this phantom device will use low-spec components as streaming cloud tech will deliver all the games we need ala PlayStation Now. That's a service so successful, Sony pulled it from most devices, and only mentions it every time Donald Trump manages a whole day without looking like a lying perverted thief!

Let's Have a Launch Party Anyway

Yay, if all this works out book your party hats for 2023-25 when the rest of the world has some 5G, so Sony can do that big global launch thing! Of course, Sony could equip the absolutely-not-a-Vita-2 with a 4G/5G radio and badge it as a PlayStation 5 Portable/Remote Player earlier, say 2020 (sorry, Sony, I'm doing my hair that year!) but risks failing to have a single USP for the product.

Stacked up against this idea is the question, why would Sony want to make a less-than-premium device? For its time, the Vita was a pretty smart bit of silicon (apart from the shit WiFi performance and memory card thing), so why roll out something that will be useless for anyone outside downtown Tokyo or Seoul?

Taking the high-spec route, we end up again with an expensive box that Sony has repeatedly proven it has no idea how to market. Sony devs will come up with some shit 5G-abusing online demos, port beg for some scaled down exclusives, while flogging the remote play concept (badly) again!

Can anyone really see this happening? While its good of T3 to come up with a new take on the old story, it really looks like Sony has passed on the portable ship. It has burnt any bridges and goodwill with the portable gaming community and any middle-ranking developer, while Nintendo still has a good few years to sign up the most promising indie titles for the next generation.

Sony's Cunning Plans

Of course, technology moves on, and Sony probably has all kind of cool prototypes that we'll never see. It might also have a flawless streaming solution and a marketing department capable of joined-up writing. Mostly though, the company has proved repeatedly it lacks the will for a portable fight, which is evidence enough that this is another non-event in a long list of non-events.

Slightly more likely, but still remote, is a modern Android-spec device with a Vita core or emulation built in. Perhaps even a fully Sony Generations PlayStation device capable of playing any game (licensing aside) from any PS console through emulation, direct play or streaming!

Thoughts welcome! If you do want a straw to cling to for a not-Vita-2, the PSP launched in December 2004, Vita in December 2011, meaning a successor is definitely due in December 2018! And there's just over a month to go until E3!

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