It’s hard to believe that less than a decade ago, Sony was a major player in the handheld console market. With the success of the PSP in the 2000s, Sony aimed to build on its momentum with the release of the PlayStation Vita in 2012. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned.
The PlayStation Vita turned out to be a commercial failure for Sony, leading the company to pull its first-party support for the handheld as early as 2014. Despite having a dedicated fanbase and some exceptional exclusive titles, it became evident that Sony had lost faith in the Vita.
In light of this, Sony may never release another dedicated handheld gaming device. However, Valve’s Steam Deck has emerged as a true successor to the Vita. This is all possible thanks to Sony’s newfound support for the PC platform. With select PlayStation 4 titles already available on PC and more coming soon, the Steam Deck is poised to deliver console-quality gaming on the go, fulfilling the long-standing goals Sony had for the Vita.
Past Successes of the Vita
The Vita boasted blockbuster exclusives, such as Uncharted Golden Abyss and Killzone Mercenary. The ability to play an Uncharted game on the go with stunning graphics was a major selling point for the handheld. Killzone Mercenary offered an incredible first-person shooter experience that perfectly complemented the system’s pick-up-and-play nature.
However, when Sony withdrew support for the Vita, they stopped creating handheld experiences like these. Since then, Sony has primarily focused on its console games. However, with PlayStation’s foray into the PC space, the Vita’s handheld vision has been revived, albeit unintentionally.
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PlayStation Studios has already released several games on Steam, including God of War, Days Gone, and Horizon Zero Dawn. Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered and Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection are also set to launch on Steam this year. Additionally, non-first-party PlayStation console exclusives like Death Stranding and Detroit: Become Human have made their way to Steam. As a result, all of these games can now be enjoyed on the accidental portable powerhouse that is the Steam Deck.
Cloud Save Takes Over
The Vita supported cross-save functionality between many of its games, allowing players to seamlessly transition between their home console and the handheld. The Vita’s cloud-based save system made this possible. However, not all games supported cross-save, leading to a less-than-ideal experience. Some games required manual syncing, which undermined the Vita’s cross-save potential.
On the other hand, Valve has fully embraced the concept of cloud saving with the Steam Deck. Steam automatically updates your cloud saves whenever you close a game, making the transition from PC to Steam Deck effortless. Additionally, almost all games on Steam support cloud saves, eliminating the limitations of the Vita’s cross-save feature.
While cross-save functionality was once a defining feature of the Vita, Steam’s approach to cloud saving handles the concept much better and feels like a natural step forward.
The Japanese Game Connection
When Sony ended support for the Vita, Japanese developers stepped up to keep the system alive. The handheld boasted exclusive Japanese games like Freedom Wars, Tales of Hearts R, and Soul Sacrifice: Delta. Surprisingly, these games have yet to be ported to any other system and remain exclusive to the Vita.
The critically acclaimed Persona 4 Golden, which was a Vita exclusive for eight years, was eventually ported to Steam in 2020. Similarly, other Japanese franchises like Hatsune Miku saw multiple entries on the Vita and continue to be released on PC. With many Japanese games now getting PC releases, the Steam Deck picks up where the Vita left off as a dream machine for fans of Japanese games.
Streaming Makes It Perfect
One of the Vita’s standout features was the ability to stream PS4 and PS3 games to the handheld via Remote Play. This meant that you could enjoy your favorite PlayStation games on the go, even if you were miles away from your consoles. Sony has since expanded this concept to include iOS and Android devices as compatible platforms.
Thanks to the versatility of the Steam Deck, you can easily replicate this Vita function with almost any PlayStation game. Sony’s New PlayStation Plus service allows players to stream a catalog of games to their consoles as well as their PCs. Steam Deck users have found ways to stream this service, effectively turning the device into a true PlayStation handheld.
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The entire catalog of games available on PlayStation’s streaming service can be played on the Steam Deck, including titles that haven’t received official PC releases yet. This includes first-party games like inFamous, Ghost of Tsushima, and Gravity Rush, as well as PS5 exclusives like Demon’s Souls and Returnal.
With the Steam Deck, there are no limitations. In addition to running PlayStation games, the handheld can also install Xbox Game Pass and play games from the Epic Games Store launcher. The technology, combined with cloud saves, provides a much smoother experience compared to the Vita’s cross-save function. Even graphically intensive AAA games like Elden Ring and Halo Infinite can be enjoyed on the Steam Deck.
The Steam Deck has realized the potential that Sony never fully achieved with the Vita. Sony didn’t need to follow up on the handheld. It simply needed a company like Valve to pick up where it left off.
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