Which came first: the chicken or the egg? The chicken seems like the most logical answer to that question (eggs are notoriously fragile, not great at taking care of themselves, and also delicious), but that is beside the point. What might be a more relevant question is asking which came first, the idea for the Nintendo Switch, or the idea for this very similar patent Sony filed that looks very Switch-like.
Nintendo announced before E3 2016 that the then codenamed NX would not make an appearance at the show out of fear of imitators. Interestingly, a Sony Patent that found its way onto NeoGaf showcases a very similar-looking device that was apparently filed in 2015, but just recently published. To view the entire published patent, visit here.
Of course, there’s no assurance that what looks like a split DualShock 4 controller on the sides of a tablet are in fact removable like the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers. Also, the Switch’s major selling point is that it is both a handheld and a system in one, which requires a special dock for the tablet portion of the system to play on the TV. Whether that is part of Sony’s intent with this patent is unclear.
If this patent ever does see the light of day as a real system/handheld/whatever it might be, it seems like a strange path for Sony given that as tablets and phones continue to advance, putting a lot of stock into a system-specific handheld might not be the best path of investment. The Switch, at least, offers a different take on the handheld. But, even though we ultimately liked the Switch, we are still skeptical of whether it is enough to carry Nintendo through to the next generation of systems as a competitor in the console market, or whether Nintendo will eventually go the way of Sega and start producing games as a third party.
The recent announcement that Sony would stop offering PlayStation Now support for the Vita is just another indication that it might be moving away from handhelds entirely. Then again, they are also removing Now services from PlayStation TV and virtually everything except the PS4 and Windows PC. So, there is still the possibility. For now, though, this is all speculation. After all, many patents never come to light as actual devices.
On the one hand, we hope Sony has something interesting up their sleeve that once fully understood will defy Switch comparisons. On the other hand, what more can we expect from the handheld market that hasn’t already been done? Is the market moving away from it altogether, and has Sony moved on since 2015 as well? We will definitely wait and see.