Opinion: Project Q isn’t sure what question it is answering

Sony's commitment to niche hardware and accessories is commendable, but Project Q feels DOA

May 29th 2023

Kicking off the summer of showcases, festivals, and other E3 replacement fare, PlayStation’s recent Showcase event was well-placed to show us what’s coming up next for the Blue Team. Up to this point in PS5’s lifetime, Sony has got it’s expected stable of strong titles, with Ratchet & Clank, Horizon, God of War and even (soon) a new Final Fantasy getting an airing on the new hardware. Couple that with a few remasters (notably The Last of Us) and the core PS5 library has grown well, but their schedule has started to thin out with only the aforementioned Final Fantasy and the already-confirmed Spiderman 2 looking like the big blockbusters on the horizon.

Last week, then, was an opportunity for the team to show what their PlayStation studios were up to. And over an hour of stream, it was all a bit… Well. Meh. Sure, we had the confirmation of Metal Gear Solid 3 being remastered, and an extended look at Spiderman 2. But a lot of the exciting stuff that was in the rumour mill either didn’t come to pass or – you’d suspect – wasn’t ready for the big time yet, and the stuff that was there has been confirmed for other platforms too. While there was arguably something there for everyone, I definitely finished watching feeling underwhelmed compared to my normal reaction to a Showcase.

The big thing that did stand out for me, albeit not in a good way, was the reveal of Project Q.

PS5 Accessories Trailer

For me, it’s hard to get excited about this thing, and not just because of Jim Ryan’s delivery of the reveal. Project Q is essentially pitched as an 8-inch tablet welded into the middle of a Dualsense controller that plays PS5 games over WiFi. It’s a gadget that’s clearly drawn inspiration from the recent glut of handhelds – the Steam Deck in particular has shown that folks are happy to buy into less svelte form factors than the Switch in order to keep a higher-end gaming experience on hand. The problem is that Q promises to be none of the things that make other handhelds successful.

While it’s early days yet, the little we do know about Project Q suggests that it’ll be a dedicated Remote Play tool – which is PlayStation’s stream-over-WiFi set-up that allows you to play games on hardware other than the PS5, such as laptops and tablets. At a really basic level, therein lies the issue. You can already do what Project Q promises, but on arguably better devices given the bigger screens you can access. It relies on a strong WiFi connection, which isn’t always a given if you’re travelling or even at home – and on the games you want to play being installed on your PS5. Given these constraints, I’d be concerned about the experience I’d be getting in terms of visibility and latency, not to mention battery life and other drawbacks you get from portable kit.

I’ve used Remote Play myself from time to time, and while it’s a useful feature, it’s useful because it is just part of what I can use my laptop or phone for. Would I buy a dedicated device for just Remote Play? Probably not, unless it was at a competitive price point like some dedicated phone controllers (such as the Razer Kishi*, or even Sony’s own collaboration with Backbone* – both of which can be found around £50 on sale). Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but it’d be hard to justify over £100-150, and I can easily see a high-quality offering coming in north of that. The Dualsense controller on it’s own costs £60, and a decent 8-inch tablet can cost £80 upwards (albeit being a full tablet rather than part of this kit). Add in some list of desirable criteria like an OLED screen and decent battery life, and the cost could creep up quite quickly – particularly from a company that no longer seems to shy away from pricing their hardware on the premium side.

Project Q close-up – courtesy of Sony Interactive Entertainment

It’s a shame, really, that Sony revealed Project Q so early where a lot of these details weren’t ready to be shared. At a Showcase where the gaming offering was a little underwhelming, Q could’ve made a big splash if there had been more to share and get folks excited about. As it stands, I’m not really sure who this device is for, or what niche it’s looking to address. While I’d never be one to underestimate Sony’s ability to shift hardware, it did end up looking like filler for the show rather than a tool to fill a clear market gap. Cynically, it could also be a response to demonstrate a commitment to cloud gaming, concerns around which recently led to the CMA blocking the Xbox-Activision Blizzard merger. But for now at least, it just looks like Sony’s effort to keep up with the portables crowd by offering an answer to a question I’m not sure was being asked.

What do you think? Are you excited for Project Q? Will you be picking one up? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or join the discussion over on the Gaming.Buzz Community Discord!

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