The PlayStation Vita was already on its last legs, but Nintendo just delivered a swift upper-cut to its bloodied jaw. The legendary manufacturer's new Switch hybrid – great name, but it's going to take some getting used to – feels like the final form of a concept that both it and Sony have been exploring for years; the latter has let its rival pull the trigger first.
If you think back to the way that the Vita was originally marketed, it was sold on the basis of being a console in your hands. The launch lineup included full-scale productions like Uncharted: Golden Abyss, and second-wave titles spanned Killzone: Mercenary and Assassin's Creed Liberation. And even when that didn't really work, the platform holder changed its tact.
When the PlayStation 4 launched, the Vita's console-on-the-go pledge was fulfilled by Remote Play; streaming technology allowed it to pledge support for every major blockbuster release on the diminutive device. Technical drawbacks – and control issues – prevented the functionality from working as flawlessly as we'd all have liked, but the idea was there.
And then we had stuff like cross-save and cross-play; the unification of both PS4 and Vita gave the handheld a greater purpose than it was able to carve out on its own. But now, four and a half years removed from the portable's original release, the Nintendo Switch is poised to hammer the final nail into the little console that could's coffin.
We shouldn't feel sad about that, as the Vita has been a great servant for almost half-a-decade, but the House of Mario's new machine has stolen its USP. It in itself, by fusing home console and portable play, is an iteration of the Wii U concept – but technology finally appears to have reached a point where there are no compromises in the transition.
It's a shame really, because it's clear that both Nintendo and Sony have been moving in the same direction for some time now – it's just the latter appears to have given up early. There probably won't be another PlayStation portable, especially now Nintendo's playing Sony at its own game, and it makes you wonder if Kaz Hirai and crew could have done more.
But then, the Nintendo Switch in itself is not a guaranteed knock out. In many ways, the Vita made us realise that we don't necessarily want home console experiences on-the-go, and it was the more bitesized titles that really worked. The House of Mario's new hardware will become the natural home for these types of experiences as well, but is the market really there?
It's going to be an interesting six months as Nintendo gears up for release: will the Switch satisfy those solely looking for a console; will it complement the smartphones of those who already play on-the-go? It's far too early to say, though it's safe to assume that this system is going to bang in Japan. And as for the Vita, its promise of console gaming on the go may be merely remembered as one of the stepping stones on the journey towards the Switch.
Is the PlayStation Vita finally being put out to pasture? Do you think that Sony will ever re-enter the handheld space? Will the portability of the Nintendo Switch make it your preference ahead of the PS4 – even if its technical specs don't measure up? Change things up in the comments section below.