Project Q
Image via Sony

Sony’s Project Q is the wrong handheld for the wrong time

A match made in Hell

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The DualSense is my favorite current-generation default controller. I am a huge fan of handheld gaming. By rights, Sony’s just-announced Project Q, a handheld console that appears to have all the same features as the DualSense, should be right at the top of my hardware wishlist. And yet I feel no warmth towards that little machine at all.

Wild Hearts Steam Deck
Images via EA, Koei Tecmo, and Valve

That’s because Project Q is not actually a handheld console. It’s the latest and worst in a long line of “kinda handhelds,” a trend that I feel pretty lukewarm towards that started with the Nintendo Switch. These are “handheld consoles” that primarily or exclusively exist to play home console games. They’re neat. I love my Nintendo Switch. I’m sure I would love my Steam Deck if I owned one. But they don’t fill the same space as real handhelds in my mind. And Project Q is the worst offender yet.

Portable, kinda

Project Q is a streaming-only handheld. Out of the box, it will use the PS5’s remote play feature to stream games. In case you haven’t caught on to the problem yet, it’s this: the Project Q is being developed not as a console but as an accessory for the PS5. And it’s not even an especially useful accessory.

Because PS5 remote play requires a constant internet connection, its away-from-home applications are pretty limited. Sure, you could bust it out at the coffee shop for some quick Returnal sessions, but if you’re looking for something to leave in your bag and grab whenever you’ve got some downtime in your day, you’re probably out of luck. You will also look like a massive dork using it anywhere outside of your own home because of its garish and gamerly DualSense handles (I like them, but they do not scream “things I want other people to see me using”). Beyond that, there’s also the apparent 8-inch screen, which is a full inch larger than the Nintendo Switch OLED and Steam Deck. Those devices are both already stretching the definition of “portable” considerably, so Project Q may as well have left it behind entirely.

Image via Apple

The largest elephant in the room here is that a PS5 remote play handheld already exists. A whole bunch of them exist, actually, and there’s a non-zero chance that you’re reading this on one of them right now. Yes, of course smartphones already have PS5 remote play. And it’s quite good! There are also already a ton of mobile-ready controllers – as a matter of fact, the DualSense is compatible with iOS and Android devices. It’s hard to figure out who the target audience for Project Q actually is, even before considering the still-secret price point.

Why should I care?

To be clear, I’m not a Sony shareholder. The good folks at Sony can make whatever bad business decisions they want. But I am someone who desperately misses the halcyon days of portable handhelds. If Sony insists on dedicating tons of resources to products that general consumers aren’t really clamoring for, then I’d really prefer if they made a new Vita.

BioShock Vita
Screenshot via That Retro Video Gamer’s YouTube Channel and IGN

Frankly, I just miss real handheld games. Consoles that actually fit in pockets and games that are designed to be played on the go. I know those games are still out there – in the time since I last wrote on the topic, I’ve come to appreciate that there really are quite a few 3DS-ish games on the Switch and Switch Lite, and that the App Store is not as much of a wasteland as I had assumed. But at this point, handhelds that exist to put home games in your “pocket” (or, more realistically, your purse or backpack) are so popular that even the worst version of that concept takes priority over a new dedicated handheld. It bums me out!

I don’t really like the idea of Project Q. I don’t see the point of it. But more than that, I don’t like what it represents. Hardware companies have been hammering home the idea that the dedicated handheld is dead for more than half a decade, and it feels like Sony is finally putting the last nail in that coffin. In the place of the PSP or PS Vita, we now have a tablet for nobody designed to play the exact games you can already play at home, but worse. Instead of honing handheld design philosophy, it feels like the industry at large just wants to get rid of it.

I am into the PlayStation earbuds though. I’ll wear those.

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Image of Sorrel Kerr-Jung
Sorrel Kerr-Jung
Freelancer - Sorrel Kerr-Jung has been playing video games for as long as she's been capable of pressing buttons. She's been writing news and features all over the internet for just over a year, and she started throwing words at Destructoid in late 2022. Find her on Twitter: @sorrelkj.