Sony’s presence in the handheld console market is about to come to an end. In an official announcement released via Sony Japan, the company has revealed that they will officially be ceasing production of the PS Vita in Japanese markets, with production expected to cease completely in all markets by April 2019. This comes on the heels of a previous announcement that Sony will be phasing out support for the Vita over the course of the next fiscal year. With no plans to launch a successor device, this move signals that Sony will be leaving the handheld console market for good.
The Vita’s end began with the announcement that Sony would no longer be releasing free games for the console via PlayStation Plus. The most recent announcement reveals that there will be no new shipments of the device going forward. New PS Vita titles will continue to be released over the course of the coming year, albeit on a much more limited scale.
Following much success and critical praise during its initial rollout, the PS Vita was eventually overshadowed by other, more successful handhelds. In particular, the Nintendo Switch has dominated the handheld market since its release, drawing gamers away from competitors such as the Vita. Sony’s exit from the handheld market precipitates a shift in focus to their other products, in particular, the PlayStation and PlayStation VR systems.
The announcement that Sony has officially begun phasing out the Vita comes hand in hand with speculation that development of the PlayStation 5 has begun in earnest. Most sources point to the PS5 being paired with PlayStation VR support as a standard feature, and VR will be much more integrated into Sony’s next generation of consoles.
Speculation has also pointed towards backward compatibility being included with the PS5. This speculation is based on a Japanese patent filed by Sony Interactive Entertainment under the name of Mark Cerny, a lead PlayStation developer. When translated to English, the patent is titled “Simulation of legacy bus operation for backward compatibility.” Though no specific reference is made to the PS5, it seems exceedingly likely when taken together with other patents filed by Sony over the past year. At this point, it is almost certain that backward compatibility will be standard on the PS5. Whether this will only include PS4 games or will extend further to older systems like the PS3 or PS2 remains to be seen.
Sony has yet to make any official announcements with regard to the PS5’s release date or price point. That said, industry insiders seem certain that the console will be released at some point in 2020.