Let’s take a look at the evolution of handheld gaming consoles from Sony over the past 20 years almost. Time to cut straight to the chase.
Sony released the first PocketStation back in 1999, as a memory card peripheral for the original PlayStation, which doubled as a portable gaming system. It can be categorised as the company’s first ever handheld gaming console. The PocketStation could also be used as a personal digital assistant (PDA), which was extremely popular back then. Considering the device could do so much at the time, Sony should be commended on the feat they achieved. However, since then, the company has not stopped trying to push their proprietary memory options. To use the PocketStation, users had to get special software bundled on the CDs of PlayStation games. This software usually included enhancements to the main gameplay, or it would feature mini games that could only be played on the PocketStation. Many such mini games have been made available for the PocketStation, which are currently available for the PlayStation Vita through the PS Store. The device was so popular that Sony had to end its run, as they were unable to cope with the rising demand even though the company had released this console only for Japan.
PlayStation Portable (PSP)
The Sony PSP marked the company’s full fledged entry into the portable gaming console market, which at the time was dominated by Nintendo. Sony had actually crammed in a complete PlayStation 2 into a portable form factor, with the exception of a second joystick. This made PSP the most powerful gaming console of its time and for a few years to come. It became extremely popular despite it using the UMD disk format along with a proprietary memory format. Many competitors like the Nokia N-Gage tried to go up against it but failed. The device even connected to the internet via Wi-Fi which was a hard find in any other portable gaming console of that time.
Playing games on the PSP was extremely fun as it allowed users to immerse themselves in a good game with excellent graphics on the go. The battery life was also great making it what some would call the Nintendo DS killer. However, we won’t go as far as to say that, as both the devices catered to different categories of gamers. Even today, getting a second hand PSP in India along with a slew of second hand games will cost you around Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,000, which I personally find to be a great deal.
PlayStation Portable Go (PSP Go)
As time passed, the Nintendo DS started gaining ground back as people were unwilling to purchase the then overpriced UMDs. Sony then decided to claim back its throne with the PSP Go, a UMD-less device which worked totally upon game downloads from the PlayStation Store. The PSP Go had a lot going for it like a much more pocketable design, the ability to download and play games, and the solid hinge mechanism for unveiling controls. However, it wasn’t received well by the public, as the device had a ton of flaws that overpowered any pros it had going for it.
The first one being lack of backward compatibility, meaning if you owned a PSP with any games, they became useless on the PSP Go making the users buy them again to play. The M2 memory cards that it used were expensive, and of course, users had to pay more than the PSP to get their hands on the PSP Go. Sony managed to exceed expectations on the hardware front, but the above mentioned drawbacks and some more led to the PSP Go’s failure in the market.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Play
Though this cannot be considered as a dedicated gaming console, a gaming phone from Sony with a proper controller on the device does deserve to be on this list. The biggest thing this device had going for it was its ability to work as both, a smartphone and a portable handheld gaming console. The Xperia Play ran Google’s Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread. The device had a ton of game optimisations along with support for OnLive, an exclusive game streaming service. In the Google Play Store there was a separate section for games for the device, which played on an emulator of sorts called the PlayStation Mobile, that looked a lot like the PSP interface. It had a ton of PlayStation exclusive titles like ‘God of War’ and ‘Little Big Planet’ to name a few. It had a slide mechanism to reveal the keypad similar to the PSP Go.
PlayStation Vita (PS Vita)
PlayStation Vita is the latest and probably the last handheld console from Sony. Just like the original PSP which was a PS2 packed in a portable package, the PS Vita is the PlayStation 3 packed into a portable package. The PS Vita brings a lot to the table as it is a next generation console with amazing graphics and really great potential. Despite the storage requirement being extremely expensive when compared to a normal microSD card, the console has a lot of features that can satisfy any type of gamer. It has the dual analog sticks that users demand from Sony since the PSP. Also, it has a touch screen and back panel to add to the gameplay. The games compatible with it were amazing like the ‘God of War’ series. The device received support for indie games even when Sony stopped releasing AAA titles for it. It also worked as an additional controller or a remote play device for the PS4. Here are some reasons why we think it is still worth buying.