PlayStation is reportedly preparing to re-enter the portable gaming market with a new handheld device, according to an exclusive scoop from Tom Henderson of Insider Gaming.
The industry insider claims that the next PlayStation handheld is in active development and codenamed the Q Lite. His latest report states that the device will not be a standalone piece of hardware but will instead require a PS5 to function, similar to the recently released PSVR 2 headset.
Henderson states that the handheld is slated to launch in 2024 alongside various other bits of Sony hardware including a redesigned PS5 console with a detachable disc drive, as well as additional accessories such as wireless earphones and a new PlayStation branded headset. The report also states these will all launch ahead of the PS5 Pro, which is aiming for a launch date sometime in the holiday 2024 period.
It should go without saying that this news should be considered a rumor at this stage. There has been no official word from Sony regarding a new PlayStation handheld device and it’s entirely possible this device never sees the light of day. Consider this all speculation until something concrete comes directly from Sony.
New PlayStation handheld — what we know so far
This report from Insider Gaming notes that the next PlayStation handheld will not be functionality similar to the company’s previous portable devices, the PlayStation Portable and its successor the PlayStation Vita. Rather than natively running games, this rumored handheld will make use of the PS5 Remote Play features
It’s important to note that this technology is different from cloud streaming, in which a game is streamed from a central server. Instead, Remote Play involves running the game on a PS5 console and then streaming the console display to a secondary device such as a smartphone, or in this case, a PlayStation-branded portable machine.
Henderson suggests that the handheld device would support adaptive streaming up to 1080p and 60fps, and naturally, will require a persistent internet connection to function. The report doesn’t include a mockup of the device, but does state the early prototypes look “a lot like a PlayStation 5 controller but with a massive 8-inch LCD touchscreen in the center.”
This rumor also suggests that the handheld device will include adaptive triggers, akin to those seen on the DualSense controller, and will also pack all the expected bits like volume buttons, speakers and an audio input jack.
Henderson does not comment on how much the device is expected to cost, but considering that Sony wasn’t afraid to pitch the PSVR 2 or the DualSense Edge controller at a premium price tag, we expect it will cost as least as much as the Nintendo Switch OLED which retails for $349.
Analysis: Do we really need a new PlayStation handheld?
At face value, the idea of a new PlayStation handheld is fairly exciting. Sure, it’s no PS Vita 2, but we’re always excited by the prospect of new gaming tech, especially portable devices that can make early morning commutes and lengthy flights more bearable. However, based on the rumored specs, it’s hard not to conclude that this new PlayStation device sounds a bit…pointless.
PlayStation Remote Play is not a new feature. The original PS Vita offered the functionality with the PS4, and Sony has subsequently expanded the reach of Remote Play to iOS and Android smartphones via a dedicated app. Right now, I can boot up my iPhone 12, and be playing some of the best PS5 games on my phone in just a matter of seconds.
The below tutorial video was released just last week, demonstrating how easy it is to access Remote Play on devices you likely already own. If you can already use Remote Play on third-party smartphones, tablets and laptops, it's hard to see a particularly large group of people being interested in purchasing an entirely separate device that does the same thing.
You could argue the selling point is the device’s form factor. There’s no denying that lengthy play sessions of blockbuster games such as Horizon Forbidden West or God of War Ragnarök on a cramped phone aren’t especially appealing. But accessories such as the Backbone One already turn your smartphone isn’t a portable gaming device, and only cost around $99.
There is also the question of whether the handheld market can support another competitor. In the more casual space, the Nintendo Switch rules supreme, offering both a portable machine and a home console in one package. As well as a library of games that is seriously deep (and boasts Mario!). And for serious gamers, the Steam Deck is a powerful device that can play top-tier PC games and offers a degree of customization that many enthusiasts crave. Plus, competitors such as the Asus ROG Ally are on the horizon to make the market even more competitive.
Personally, I’m concerned that Sony is making the wrong device at the wrong time. If this was a fully-fledged PS Vita 2, then I’d perhaps be more interested, but the fact I can already Remote Play on my smartphone makes the prospect of shelling out potentially hundreds of dollars for a dedicated handheld far from enticing.
Of course, until Sony officially announces something, we cannot cast a firm judgment on the potential of a new PlayStation handheld. For now, we’ll just have to sit tight and see if this leak is eventually corroborated by additional sources or winds up being another rumored gaming device that never comes to fruition.