There was little doubt that the writing has been on the wall for the PlayStation Vita for quite some time. Outmatched by its competitors and forced to try and thrive off proprietary accessories, the PlayStation Vita has been unable to find the success of the preceding PlayStation Portable. While support for the system has dropped off significantly the past few years, it appears the final nail in the coffin has been placed for the inevitable death of the underachieving handheld.
News of the discontinuation for the PlayStation Vita comes via Gematsu, with confirmation of production ending for the handheld in Japan sometime in 2019. As far as the future of Sony's stake in the handheld market, it appears at the time there are no intentions for a successor, according to Sony Interactive Entertainment Senior VP Hiroyuki Oda.
"Currently, we do not have any plans regarding a new handheld device. In Japan, we will manufacture PlayStation Vita until 2019. From there, shipping will end."
While the news of production ending only pertains to the region of Japan, it's considered the only market that has given Sony a reason to continue manufacturing the system for this long. While there hasn't been any announcement in regards to production in the United States or Europe yet, it wouldn't be surprising if those markets followed suit.
Since its launch in Japan back in 2011 (2012 for other regions), the PlayStation Vita saw a massive drop in support just years after its release. In 2015, Sony announced they were ending their support for the Vita, leaving the handheld as an indie game machine for its diehard fan base. In the past year, the rise of the Nintendo Switch has seen the indie movement shift to the newer machine, leaving the library of new releases coming to Vita scarce at best.
From there, Sony also announced a major change to their plans for free PS Plus games starting next March, with the online subscription no longer providing free Vita or PS3 titles after that time. It's also worth noting that the majority of free games that come to Vita and PS3 already offer cross-buy options on PlayStation 4, essentially phasing out any reason to return to Sony's older systems.
Fans also don't have much longer to enjoy buying brand new physical Vita games either. The last call for developers to place orders on physical releases for PlayStation Vita is February 2019. After that, there will be no more physical releases for the few games still coming to the near-forgotten handheld.