Rumors of a Sony PSP 5G have been circulating for years now, with T3 first reporting on the possibility of a new PlayStation Portable back in May 2018.
Since then whispers of an out-of-left-field rival to the Nintendo Switch family of handhelds, rumored to be joined in the next financial year by a Nintendo Switch Pro, have not stopped either, and only escalated in light of the Sony PlayStation 5 launching in late 2020.
Right now the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite are completely unchecked in the handheld gaming console market, and running away in terms of sales, with more than 70 million consoles sold (opens in new tab).
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Despite the commercial failure of Sony's last foray into the realm of handheld consoles, with the PS Vita nowhere near matching the popularity of the original PlayStation Portable, and Sony big wigs actively pouring cold water on (opens in new tab) the possibility of a PS Vita 2, there has remained whispers that Sony is in fact currently engaged in a deep-cover Skunk Works (opens in new tab)-style operation to produce a new handheld gaming console.
The core motive behind these whispers? Sony's mastery over 5G networking technology, which it now utilises in many aspects of its business (opens in new tab), ranging from movie cameras to mobile phones. The theory goes that Sony is now perfectly positioned to release a new handheld gaming device the like of which the world has never seen – one that is made feasible by 5G technology.
The PSP 5G tantalising glimpsed in the wisps of rumor smoke is a cloud-based game streaming console that uses WiFi and 5G to actively stream games on the fly, either from a gamer's game library or from a Netflix-for-games service like PlayStation Now.
This system would not rely on expensive local internal hardware like the costly PlayStation Vita, but would instead really just consist of a screen, controls, and a WiFi / 5G modem.
There would be no need for cartridge slot or physical games to be produced at all, and gamers would be able to pick up the system cheaper as they would not be buying proprietary games for the system. As the console's power was remote, AAA games released on PS5 could be simply streamed directly to the PSP 5G, with cloud saves meaning gamers could swap between PS5 and PSP 5G seamlessly.
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This sort of system does, on paper make sense, too. Sony already has an entire gaming ecosystem already built, it already has a massive library of games (including retro games from past home and handheld consoles), has a deep mastery of 5G technology, and even still dabbles in the smartphone market, which involves producing a handheld device with 5G modem and screen.
Sony has both the knowledge and manufacturing capabilities already to hand to make a PSP 5G a reality. And considering the system would, actually, be really just a dumb terminal, the cost of the system would no doubt be notably lower than the silicon stuffed PS Vita.
Right now, though, nothing is confirmed. And we think it fair to say that just because something appears to make sense on paper, doesn't mean it will ever become a reality off of it. But, tantalisingly, in a long-buried official Sony manuscript from 2019 that records the speakers at a 'Sony x 5G' event, there is a line that might just hint at that secret Skunk Works PSP 5G project.
Speaking on the applications that 5G technology will be used in within Sony's business, and specifically in terms of product incorporation, Chen Sun of Sony's Wireless Network Research Department added this:
"And one more thing I’d like to add is gaming. We can enjoy many advantages from 5G’s characteristic, ultra-reliable low latency."
There we have it, Sun directly links Sony's gaming business with 5G technology. And, what's more, he specifically mentions it in terms of latency, which is the key aspect behind successful game streaming. Could these comments be directed toward gaming on mobile phone? It's possible. But mobile games aren't streamed as much as downloaded first and, two, Sony has been dialling back its phone business for years now.
Sony's gaming business has been one of its most successful departments over the last half decade, with the PS4 absolutely smoking the Xbox One in terms of sales and now the PS5 holding the honor as the most sought after product on the planet, so when Chen was talking back in 2019 it makes sense that any 5G capabilities would be maximised best over at Sony Interactive Entertainment.
Now, in 2021, 5G technology is also coming of age in terms of network coverage in many countries worldwide, and you only have to take a look at how affordable unlimited data 5G plans are now to see that running a handheld console off 5G is totally feasible for countless gamers today.
A PlayStation Portable 5G would also help Sony complete its armory of products to fend off both the Nintendo Switch Pro and Microsoft's Xbox Series X and S consoles. Combined with a PlayStation VR 2 launch, which has been heavily rumored to be incoming, Sony would cover all bases, entertaining PlayStation gamers at home, on the road and in virtual reality.
Here's hoping we hear more about both the Nintendo Switch Pro and the PlayStation Portable 5G soon, as the concept of playing AAA games on the go is truly mouth-watering. Just imagine booting up Horizon Forbidden West on PS5, playing for a few hours, and then picking up the adventure the next day on a PSP 5G on a commute to work.
🤤 [drooling noises]