Will the PS Vita Slim be Sony's final handheld games console?
30th Jan 2014 | 10:34
Long live the PlayStation Vita
To quote the cigarette-mumbling of Samuel L Jackson in Jurassic Park: hold on to your butts.
Even for January, it's been a slow month for the games industry. Sony teased PlayStation Now, Nintendo admitted the Wii U console is still performing terribly, and a fleet of YouTube personalities were caught endorsing Xbox One for cash. That's about it, really.
Still, there are positives to the downtime. The triple-A games release schedule, currently a barren wasteland, has allowed for several new indie games to dazzle in the spotlight. Trust me: you really should take a look at the likes of Nidhogg, OlliOlli, Broken Age, The Banner Saga and Don't Starve.
But the New Year hangover has now officially cleared - as far as those in the blue corner are concerned, anyway.
Yep, Sony has announced the launch of the PlayStation Vita Slim handheld console, the first major gaming hardware of the year. You can bet it'll be coming to other Western territories this year, too.
New PS Vita Slim specs
We'll get to why we think this could well be Sony's last ever handheld console, but first - what's different about this model?
Well for a start, compared to the original PS Vita which first launched over here in 2012, this system is about 20% thinner and 15% lighter.
Sony's new handheld comes in six colours (white, grey, yellow, pink, brown, and black) and, thank Christ, the original's proprietary charge input will be replaced with the common Micro-USB port.
Battery life is said to be noticeably better, though Sony's legal team can only guarantee it lasts an hour longer than the original model (in most cases, it'll run beyond that).
One of the key reasons for the extra battery life is that the PS Vita's gorgeous OLED display has been replaced by a more inexpensive and energy-efficient LCD. Sony insists this won't reduce image quality, though personally I find that hard to believe.
As a bonus, the PS Vita slim also carries 1GB of internal storage memory, meaning you won't have to pay for one of Sony's inexcusably expensive memory cards, at least for a little while.
Read more:PlayStation Vita review
Can Sony revive Vita?
The PS Vita is currently in a rare predicament. Its owners describe it as a wondrous, beautifully designed handheld with a growing list of amazing indie games (including, as mentioned above, the immensely addictive skateboard autorunner OlliOlli).
Along with this, it comes with the usual PlayStation Plus bonuses (including two free games per month) and the surprisingly functional Remote Play feature, which allows you to access PS4 games through the handheld via a Wi-Fi connection.
Yet, paradoxically, no one seems to be buying the Vita. In fact, you'd have to go all the way back to last January if you're looking for the system's most recently disclosed sales figures. Back then, Sony revealed that Vita had a paltry installed base of 4 million, and ever since, the corporation has willfully masked the sales figures in its investor reports.
It doesn't inspire confidence, but it's not much of a shock either. The very concept of handheld gaming has been endangered ever since Apple and Google began to offer an ocean of games on their app stores for a fraction of the cost.
Death by mobile devices
Shuhei Yoshida, who runs the PlayStation hardware division, recently admitted there is "no question" about whether mobiles have hurt handheld sales. Considering its predecessor, the PSP, sold 76 million units, it's not unreasonable to believe the whole business has fallen off a cliff.
In fact, unless there's a dramatic upsurge in sales, I wouldn't be surprised if Sony abandons its traditional handheld business by the time PS Vita comes to an end.
The numbers are simply unsustainable from an investment standpoint, and Sony probably shouldn't hold out for the explosive growth of mobile games to end anytime soon.
So the new PS Vita Slim could be the final dedicated Sony handheld ever. A marvelous system that has fallen victim to the merciless speed of change. A premium system in a run-of-the-mill age. The last of its kind.
Doesn't that kind of make you want one?