I've been following the recent unveilings of 5G-powered, cloud gaming handhelds with a lot of interest, as too PlayStation's ongoing woes when it comes round to matching Microsoft Xbox's cloud gaming technology and expertise.
I've been so interested as, years ago now, we predicted here at T3.com that cloud streaming was where console gaming was going and that streaming on a variety of handheld devices was going to be part of that. I also suggested that, in my opinion, Sony was perfectly positioned to tap into this with a new PSP 5G portable.
Back in 2018 I said that:
"Sony made a big mistake with the PS Vita in the sense that it spent big on stuffing it with, for the time, powerful internal hardware, and jacked it up with high-level features like PlayStation 4 Remote Play, which allowed owners to stream games from their PS4 over Wi-Fi directly to their handheld. But it didn't back it up with the varied and stable gaming ecosystem necessary for it to flourish.
"A new 5G-enabled PSP handheld console wouldn't have this problem as it would naturally sync with Sony's well-developed and growing PS Now streaming service of games, which sits perfectly in line with the streaming-heavy future of gaming in general, and would position the company perfectly to win big in the future console war."
To date, Sony has not released a PSP 5G portable and, actually, has seemingly come out and thrown cold water over the entire idea (opens in new tab). And it's done this while Microsoft has proceeded to totally corner and dominate the cloud game streaming market, with Xbox sitting on the best cloud gaming hardware infrastructure and offering the best cloud gaming service in Xbox Game Pass Ultimate with Xbox Cloud Gaming.
Meanwhile, the PS Now game streaming service has been merged and re-branded into its new PlayStation Plus subscription service, and Sony is having to strike deals with Microsoft due to its expertise when it comes round to cloud gaming infrastructure to fend off advances from other rivals.
Not only, that, though, but we're now starting to see multiple 5G streaming consoles announced. Just look at Logitech's new G Cloud console (opens in new tab), or the just announced this week Razer Edge (opens in new tab), two gaming handhelds purposely designed for cloud gaming over a 5G connection.
Finally, it seems, the technology has caught up with the dream of 5G cloud game streaming – gamers can now stream today's best AAA games on the go. The Logitech G Cloud, for example, works with both Xbox Game Pass and Nvidia GeForce Now, meaning that anyone with a subscription to either of those services can now play any streamable game on the go. That's really exciting.
Equally, the Android-powered Razer Edge comes loaded with pre-installed apps like Epic games, as well as Xbox Cloud gaming and Nvidia GeForce Now.
The idea of playing Halo Infinite on my Xbox Series X, say, and then transitioning onto a Logitech G Cloud to continue playing on a train ride is the stuff that gamer dreams are made of.
Now, yes, sure, I do totally recognize that this dream is still dependent on 5G network speeds being available, and that many gamers are not going to get these all the time due to 5G network coverage dark zones. But the fact that major gaming companies like Razer and Logitech are producing these 5G-powered cloud gaming consoles indicates to me that we could be about to see a big cloud gaming shift-change.
All of which leads me back to why Sony, who hasn't produced a 5G handheld streaming console of its own despite already having all the expertise within the company to do so (Sony makes all sorts of technology, including phones, which are basically 5G streaming consoles without any controller attached), more puzzling. Sony is losing badly in the cloud game streaming war and is purposely not deploying a weapon that could help it.
Here's the trick, though, the PSP 5G doesn't have to be made by Sony, or even be an actual console
Would I buy a physical streaming-focussed handheld console from Sony? Yes, as I am a huge PlayStation gamer and have a subscription to the top tier of PlayStation Plus. So as a PlayStation super fan, so to speak, I'd buy one.
The idea that the PlayStation ecosystem could include the PS5, PSVR 2 and a PSP 5G would mean Sony could offer gamers the full package – at-home gaming, on-the-go gaming, and virtual reality gaming. To me, that's a hell of a convincing reason to plump for PlayStation over Xbox.
However, I do recognize that Sony doesn't have infinite money to burn and probably has its hands full trying to launch the PSVR 2 successfully. Maybe Sony would make a PSP 5G if it could afford to but it has instead decided to invest its limited funds elsewhere, such as doubling down on the PSVR.
The thing is, though, I don't think Sony needs to go this far, it doesn't need to actually make a console. It just needs to offer gamers what Microsoft very clearly is right now, which is the ability to enjoy cloud game streaming easily on a smorgasbord of devices, from phones to tablets, laptops to Chromebooks, and onto TVs and dedicated handheld gaming systems.
What it needs to do is get PlayStation Plus onto other hardware, just like Xbox Game Pass has done, and make it far easier to enjoy playing PlayStation games through these devices. It needs to shout "We've got cloud game streaming at PlayStation! This is how easy it is to get gaming and here's the hardware you can do it on!"
Hear me out. Maybe the PSP 5G isn't even a console itself, maybe it's just a controller peripheral for 5G phones? We've seen plenty of these bolt-on joypads for mobile phones released over the years, such as the Razer Kishi (opens in new tab), and with most people now rocking a 5G phone (and essentially every new phone sold rocking a 5G modem), Sony could sell this accessory for, like, $50-70 and message it like – "buy this and you've got a 5G PSP capable of streaming today's best AAA PlayStation exclusives on the go."
The idea is that most people have a 5G phone already, so by buying this affordable peripheral you unlock PlayStation cloud gaming. Regardless of if PlayStation Plus gamers were available to play on phones, tablets, and computers, etc, Sony would effectively be using the PSP 5G peripheral as a very clear marketing device for its entire cloud game streaming project. A visual representation of cloud gaming on PlayStation this generation.
Heck, Sony could even bundle the peripheral in with its Sony Xperia phones, or as part of PS5 console bundles. It could be bundled with PlayStation Plus subscription deals, too, where you get the PSP 5G phone controller at a discount if you buy it with, say, a year or two of PlayStation Plus. Basically, use it as a marketing tool to really help show that the PlayStation ecosystem is a great place to play and invest your time and money, as it's got cloud game streaming on lock, as well as VR gaming. It's the full package, so to speak.
Whatever Sony does, I don't think it can totally walk away from cloud game streaming
While a PSP 5G should exist in my opinion in some form, regardless of what Sony does it cannot walk away from cloud gaming. I don't see Sony becoming dominant in this area as Microsoft literally has decades on the firm now in terms of a head start, but it does need to focus on communicating how PlayStation is a home for cloud gaming, too. In my opinion, it's losing this battle badly right now.
Sony needs to do this as, undoubtedly, game streaming is going to be a big part of the future of video games. It's not going to be the only way to play, at least not in my lifetime, but it is a way that many gamers - and specifically casual gamers - are going to look to increasingly play games, so getting Sony's cloud gaming house in order now seems like a task that simply can't be ignored any longer.
And maybe a PSP 5G, in whatever form that takes, is the best way to kick-start that.