Every few weeks I dig out my gadget graveyard under my bed. I look at my iPods, old phones and some other stuff. Most of it doesn’t get to me anymore, but the PS Vita is a different story. It’s the device I pull out most often, to charge it, well, just to feel like it’s part of the modern world.
I keep mine in a sleek Waterfield Designs soft case that removes fingerprints when it goes in so it’s smudge-free when I pull it out, revealing design details I apparently have an unshakable affinity for seeing over and over: gorgeous translucent shoulder buttons ; the big (but not too big) screen; and the sturdy yet elegant build quality. Almost everything going on with the Vita’s appearance is still usable, even if it’s boldly small compared to the size of say the Nintendo Switch.
You’ve probably heard this a million times, but the Vita, announced in mid-2011, was Sony’s competitor-with-everything device, unenviably ready to take on cell phones. and Nintendo’s 3DS with console-style controls and graphics, as well as forward-thinking (though ultimately ill-advised) features such as 3G support, proprietary apps, and a rear touchpad intended to be a playground for gameplay innovation.
Ten years later, the Vita terribly dead outside of a lively homebrew scene which I am continuously impressed by. It only took a fraction of those 10 years to seal its fate, and it deserved it. Or rather, parts of Sony’s vision for the Vita did. Remember his godforsaken proprietary memory card that cost a fortune and his micro USB port? Yes goodbye. But there’s plenty about the Vita that could be reimagined for 2022; I like to pretend that the handheld concept isn’t so dead to Sony.
I have, um, specific desires.
A new Vita shouldn’t have a brand new ecosystem for exclusive games and apps around it, nor should it deliver high-end performance. Really, I’d just like a modernized Vita with USB-C charging and a lightweight OS built to complement Sony’s PlayStation Plus plans, with cloud streaming and all. Remove some fringes from the hardware and ship it. Just give me one reason not to obsess over this dead gadget anymore.
What more could I want in a next-gen PS Vita? I’m so glad you asked. With the late 2013 Vita revision as my reference, I’d be willing to accept a slightly wider and taller handheld for more buttons (just to display what’s on the PS5’s DualSense controller). I really like the thickness of this Vita, which is about as thick as a deck of cards, although I’d think it would be cool if it took a few extra millimeters to accommodate a good set of L2 and R2 triggers. Otherwise, leave the rest of the design alone – I still love it.
As for the operating system, hit Android on it for everything that interests me. Keep the sparkly UI, or just make it Android. The latter would make it more practical for me to use it for other forms of entertainment, and I’m sure a mid-range Snapdragon chipset could get the job done. You can take or leave the slot for the game cartridge, but a microSD card slot, headphone jack and OLED screen would be nice. I mean, it has to be modern, right? Even the debut Vita model had an OLED. Sony switched it to LCD in the second iteration.
Holding the Vita in my hands makes me feel like a revised version would find a wider audience today than it did in the early 2010s. Sony seems to agree in a way that handhelds are an inevitable part of today’s game. the company, as it plans to create its own phone games based on its popular franchises. I mean, Sony even teamed up with Backbone, a third-party accessory manufacturer, to create an officially licensed PlayStation controller that wraps around an iPhone. As for what Sony does internally in terms of handheld hardware, it makes niche gaming accessories for its niche Xperia phones.
The last five years in technology have delivered more handhelds than I (and apparently Sony) could ever have predicted. Several products have benefited from the Switch’s dominance in their own way, including Aya Neo multi-flavored consoles, the Steam Deck, the Analogue Pocket, and soon (if the rumors are true), Logitech’s very own handheld. A reimagining of the Vita seems like an obvious idea. It belongs in the here and now with all other portable consoles, even if Sony doesn’t see it that way.