Could the PlayStation Portal Find New Life Outside Streaming?

    Sony’s PlayStation Portal handheld system launched to mixed reviews in November 2023, and opinions on the system remain debated. Rather than returning to the self-contained handheld market last explored by Sony with the Vita in 2011, the Portal is an entirely streaming-based device that requires a connection to the PS5. To many players, this seemed like a missed opportunity, and thanks to some ingenious workarounds, we now know the system is capable of much more.

    The Fan Workaround

    The new development to Sony’s Portal comes courtesy of two Google engineers named Andy Nguyen and Calle Svensson. While more of a proof of concept than anything designed for the public, the work performed by this pair provided them deep access to the Portal’s Android firmware. This allowed the insertion of custom code, which in this case, was a series of different Sony system emulators.

    As a result of this work, the busy team revealed that, even though the Portal is built for streaming, it has enough power to run many older games natively. As noted by The Verge, this includes an emulator for PSP, giving the portal the ability to run titles from Sony’s first official handheld.

    Possibility as a Standalone Platform

    The processing power of the Portal provides it the strength to emulate PS1 and PSP games, with possibilities in PS2 and PS Vita emulation on the horizon. This means the platform could, in theory, serve as a kind of refresh on Sony’s classic console and handheld hardware. Given the high-quality screen and controller of the Portal, it could even offer a superior experience to the originals.

    The library of titles possible on a modified portal include, at least, the full PS1 and PSP collection of games. These include roughly 8,000 and 2,200 titles, respectively, each of which could be upscaled and offer faster loading thanks to solid-state memory. As experiments with the PlayStation Classic reviewed in reviews like this one at TechRadar, there’s a lot of potential and excitement here, should Sony follow through.

    PS Vita” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Sergiy Galyonkin

    A handheld that connects to the internet could also provide access to regular streaming and online browsing content, something that Sony often overlooks on consoles. A basic Android-based web browser would open up options in experiences like digital betting, for example. Services like Freebet Casino have offered comparisons of bonuses like deposit matches and free spins for years on PC and mobile platforms. Websites like Betfair Casino and Paddy Power aren’t available at all on Sony’s current systems, and an open Portal could overcome this limitation. HTML5 and better Android support would similarly improve the integration of features and apps like Hulu, Netflix, and music platforms.

    The Ball in Sony’s Court

    The question on everybody’s lips is what Sony could choose to do with the Portal now that everyone knows what it’s capable of. By all accounts, the Portal sold better than Sony expected, and there is immense hope for an open gaming platform, but such a process isn’t simple. The Portal was never officially designed to host games natively, and changing the firmware to support this feat wouldn’t be easy. Even if Sony leapt, the limited 6GB of storage with no upgradability would be an issue with the current models.

    Still, longtime fans of Sony’s handhelds and classic gaming can’t help but hope that Sony has taken the Portal’s developments and reception to heart. Opening the platform is a much safer bet than developing an entirely new system, and it would find a lot of goodwill from players. Even if it just lets us play FF7 and Crash Bandicoot on the go, we’d be happy with that opportunity.

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