It’s fun to reminisce on the PlayStation Portable (PSP) and PlayStation Vita–both have cult followings with the latter even in The Last of Us Part 2. Still, there’s no denying Nintendo is the king of the portable market, with its Nintendo Switch picking up all of Sony’s slack.
What’s strange is both PlayStation Portable systems had a fantastic lineup. The PSP had Daxter, Lumines 2, Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters, and great ports of some Persona and Final Fantasy titles. Then came the Vita with Gravity Rush, Tearaway, Killzone: Mercenary, and its fair share of ports.
The PSP especially was quite ahead of its time. Sony’s first portable featured a web browser, an early iteration of the PSN store, and a video player. A portable console of this caliber was nonexistent, and the overall package isn’t that different from the current Nintendo Switch.
The graphics were way ahead of the Nintendo DS, too, but lackluster battery life, the PSP’s strange UMD format, and poor marketing kept it from hitting the big time.
The PSP was nowhere near a failure. The system sold 80 million units over eight years, but this was nothing compared to the DS’s 154 million. The Vita fared worse at just 10-15 million. Now we have the Nintendo Switch, which is at 55.7 million units just a few years into its lifespan.
So, what did Nintendo do better?
First is its fantastic marketing. Right out of the gate, the Nintendo Switch reveal trailer was upbeat and appealed to every single demographic.
Adults were playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in various spaces, and being the life of the party with multiplayer games and the detachable joycon. It also appealed to esports fans with Arms and Splatoon 2.
With every market covered, Nintendo then did what it does best: pander to nostalgia. It delivered the ultimate version of Super Smash Bros with every single playable character ever. It ported the best games from its lackluster Wii U alongside fantastic new versions of its best franchises from Mario to Zelda.
That’s not to mention the Switch is innovative. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are cool, but they’re just prettier versions of last-gen consoles.
Nintendo harnessed its experience in both the portable and home console markets to create a hybrid, unlike anything we’ve seen. The PSP may have been an on-the-go console, but the Nintendo Switch is literally both. If that isn’t reason enough, I don’t know what is.
Put simply, the PSP hit all the same notes as the Nintendo Switch, but it failed to match the big N in marketing, exclusives, and, quite simply, in its presentation. Unfortunately for Sony, those are the factors that matter most.