Why Microsoft and Sony won’t make a “Switch”

So I’ve seen it suggested that Microsoft and Sony should make handheld consoles, perhaps as powerful as their regular consoles, or perhaps Nintendo make the Switch as powerful.

Unfortunately, I’ve got some bad news: The chance of the recent versions of the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 going portable are virtually nil. Microsoft or Sony may push new mobile devices, but they won’t (and probably can’t) be their mainline systems in a tablet form factor.

The reason for this is simple: With current technology, they can’t make a mobile form factor like that dissipate heat fast enough for their powerhouse main systems. Maybe in a few years they can reduce the heat requirements of their components, but not today. Nintendo can get away with it because the Wii and Wii U weren’t really powerhouse systems to begin with, so matching their power without major heat problems was possible.

It might be possible for older versions of the Xbox and Playstation to be put into a mobile form factor. But since they can’t play the newest games, that would put Microsoft or Sony into the awkward position of making something similar to the Switch, but not really being able to compete with it directly.

Interestingly enough – Sony actually has something similar. Remember the Vita? The concept is similar, but flipped: Instead of outputting to the TV, it becomes like a TV when used with a PlayStation 4. Although I seem to recall reading somewhere that the Vita was initially meant to output to a TV (or PS4), but that was dropped.

Either way, it appears Sony saw the opportunity long before Nintendo did. But unlike Nintendo, they just couldn’t make it work for a mainstream audience and it remained rather niche. Maybe Sony can make a “Vita 2.0” with beefed up capabilities and output to the TV.

I can see Sony doing something like that. Since the Switch nailed its market surprisingly well, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Sony is taking notes, and we might see a refresh of the Vita line. My guess is that they would refresh the internals to something at least as beefy as the Switch, and include some way to output to a TV. They’d probably market it as a handheld rather than a console replacement, though. And it probably won’t have removable controllers like the Switch does.

An important part of a “Vita 2.0” would have to be a solid lineup of first party games. The Switch didn’t just sell because of its unique hybrid approach: It sold because it has a solid lineup of games. Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey really knocked it out of the park. They are award winning critical successes that are really hard to beat. Not to mention other games like Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8, solid third party games like Mario + Rabbids, Rocket League, Skyrim, etc. And of course solid indie titles like Stardew Valley, Overcooked, and Shovel Knight.

The launch lineup of the Switch was weak, but the sheer number of excellent titles for the system has completely exploded. Being able to get so many great titles on a console that also works great as a mobile device – is pretty amazing. A “Vita 2.0” wouldn’t just be competing against the Switch – it would be competing against the Switch’s ecosystem of games. Sony would have to make sure it has a solid lineup of games ready if it were to release a “Vita 2.0.”

It would be a pretty uphill battle for Sony if they were to try such a thing: Nintendo set the bar very high in a market they practically created. But I don’t see it as something impossible for them to at least try to do.

Microsoft, on the other hand, hasn’t made any attempts to enter any sort of mobile gaming market. I don’t think they really see that as the future of Xbox. The Switch is surely something that they’re paying attention to, but I don’t know if they’d want to enter that market. They might instead go with beefing up their support for games that play on both the Xbox and PC, and perhaps doing something with smart phone apps.

When it comes to their hardware, Nintendo took advantage of a hugely unique situation. The capabilities of their competitor’s systems simply can’t be put into a tablet form factor without a few more years of progress. But since Nintendo’s systems weren’t powerhouses to begin with – they actually found themselves in a situation where they could make a system more capable than their previous systems and put it into a tablet. I seriously doubt Microsoft and Sony could pull off the same trick.

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