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Why The Sony PSP Had To “Go”

A lot of controversy has been brewing since the announcement of the Sony PSP Go. Some of it valid, most of it skepticism and retailer anguish, but there’s some truth to both sides. It wasn’t an easy decision but something had to be done. The UMD is for all intents and purposes dead, defeated, vanquished, extinct, inanimate, no longer alive.  For anyone who doesn’t think so contact me for my Paypal so you can make an “investment” in my used wares. The fact of the matter is Sony dragged this out a bit longer than you can let things run, and so now everyone is appalled by an internally intelligent decision, however unsacrificing it may be. The fact of the matter is no one is really asking if this decision is going to debilitate the undermining issue the PSP had/has. For those of you asking “What one thing was it?” there’s really more to it than that.

It wasn’t poised to outsell the competition

That’s the problem with marketing based on a brand. You naturally get it into your brain that if it’s big everywhere else it will immediately translate into success anywhere. The Playstation brand helped the PSP to a certain point, but in a space Nintendo has dominated for years, people just realized it wasn’t its own.

The PSP’s rather diluted game library comes from its big brother’s cache. Ports, remakes, or any game that would play better on a bigger console. Tailored more for the Japanese commuter than anyone else. Not to mention the mature content in most games. With Nintendo aiming more for the same audience it always has, its cutesy aesthetics are looking more lucrative everyday.

What this is leading to is that it wasn’t making Sony enough money, hence they needed to retool their approach.

The UMD wasn’t working out

We already established this, but it behooves me to point out why. The games just weren’t moving. Don’t believe me? From the span of April 2008 to August 2009 only two titles were in the NPD Group’s Top 20 sales list. Hint: they were both Final Fantasy games. When your competition is outselling media on your platform 20:1 it just doesn’t pay to be the sole backer of your format when it costs so much. Granted if you’re being outsold 20:1 your :1 can’t be costing so much to produce. Burn.

As a format the UMD was holding the entire platform back. Few people (if anyone) bought into the UMD movie hype Sony attempted to thrust back in 2005. Very soon after that people realized they could rip their DVDs to a memory stick with the same quality. It’s ironic how as the price of Sony Memory Stick Pro Duo dropped and size increased that PSP UMD sales decreased along with it.

It doesn’t take too many Howard Stringers to figure out what the problem was.

“Homebrew” was killing it

Hardware has that little “do not tamper with” sticker on it for a reason. Console manufacturers attempt to discourage you from altering the product’s intended use through messing with the mechanical aspects, but they really have no way of stopping you from rewriting its software. Homebrew is a dark messenger for anyone. Not merely because piracy is right behind it, but because when there’s a way for you to use the product for an unintended purpose, its intended purpose has to become a lot more appealing.

Sony PS3/PSP cross compatibility with PS1 games lacked support. Through hacked firmware users could transfer their PS1 game discs to the PSP making it a portable PS1. This raises a large complaint as to why Sony allowed some games but denied others when there was the potential for all games to be accessible on the platform.

With the hardware selling over 100k units a month, what could users be doing with it? Playing ROMs, surfing the web, or just stacking the empty boxes to the moon? In any case Sony knew it had to do something to either eliminate this or tool it to their advantage. Hence the UMD was the first casualty on the list.

Revenge on the retailers

Now if you’d been following what I’ve been saying so far and either agreeing or disagreeing prepare to write the longest snidest comment you can think of or have it click. Used game retailers have been accused of cutting into game companies’ bottom lines for years. Recently this has been met sternly with the argument of deals from online retailers offsetting the statistics, but used game sales isn’t what I’m getting at. It is entirely plausible that retailers like Gamestop who also sell used hardware have been unwittingly leading to the rise of homebrew.

With the PSP firmware updates Sony had a slim shot at controlling the population of users with access to its features. The latest firmware always disabled the security holes on the previous until a group of coders could release a hacked version. With used PSP sales, the older versions were available to everyone. Although there are firmware downgrading applications, using a previous version made it easier to hack, and some cases the OS was hacked already.

Cutting out the middle man with the Playstation store would instantly improve security for Sony.  Like the Playstation 3, Go owners who have not updated to the latest official update could find themselves unable to access their titles. With DRM managed games users will be required to digitally sign their games instead of having free access to them from whatever device they use. As a bonus, retailers would be left to peddle the hardware and send users out the door they would potentially never see again. It’s easy to see why retailers would be so happy.

What this means to the consumer?

If the PSP Go takes off as the future of the Playstation Portable then this means it is an entirely new product altogether. It’s not directly backwards compatible, costs $90 more, and has a separately accessed library of games. I don’t see why Sony couldn’t have waited to issue in its new design and infrastructure for a PSP 2. It would have met with a more positive reception and more significant revisions could have been made.

Unless you must for some reason have any of the exclusive content available for it, you won’t get your dollar’s worth of PSP gaming. If you haven’t jumped down off the fence I would suggest you wait. Things are going to get a lot cheaper before they get better for Sony’s PSP.

10 comments
Reader
Reader

I don't know about you, but I think that the author of this article needs to pull their head out of their rear end over homebrew. Sure, there are a lot of people who use homebrew modifications to pirate games, but there are also a lot of people who use it for perfectly legal purposes. Often to allow devices to do things that the manufacturers refuse to allow you to do in case they interfere with the sale of their other products. It should be illegal to block homebrewing. Blocking it essentially turns a purchased product into a rented one, and that's not just on. I'm not going to pay hundreds of dollars for something only to be told how I can and cannot use it by some jumped up corporation looking to rip me off by selling me so-called official memory cards that cost twice as much as the generic ones, or telling me that the game that I can't legally purchase a game from another country and play it on whatever console it is that I own (Globalization, anybody) because of some stupid region locking that is mostly an excuse to charge me $50 for something that I could buy from another country for $30, or because I want a Japanese game that has not been released over here and probably never will. Wake up congress, protect the people's right to own tech. If I wanted to lease I would do it, but once something's in my hands it should be mine and mine alone, and there shouldn't be anything on board to stop me using it as I please.

Monty
Monty

I am upset that they didn't make a true successor than nobody can complain about PSP games being downgradable and UMDs not being transferrable. I just can't get over the idea of paying more for something that does nothing more. If not improved graphics or a second analog, a simple thing like a touchscreen would have added new functionability to compete more directly with the DS and iphone and gave another incentive to jump on the Go by gaving us games to fully functionable on the current PSP. They seem to do everything possible to make it as cheap as they can profit a lot out of it.

Josh van Hulst
Josh van Hulst

Oh really now... how sad that this is the case- Josh

Phaethon
Phaethon

That is resoundingly true. As I stated the PSP is trying to translate its console success by porting and remaking its popular titles on a platform they weren't designed for. More importantly the hardcore late teen mid 30s crowd that are attracted to these games on PS2/PS3 don't particularly want handhelds, so they're marketing to no one. I think their PSP Go commercial says it all. They show the lifestyle of people who use the PSP Go, and half of the people in those spots probably wouldn't recognize it if they saw it, or understanding what it was choose it. Sony doesn't know who they're making it for, or what to do with it now that it has been made. It's a pretty big oversight considering the amount of money they're wasting here.

toomanyairmiles
toomanyairmiles

I agree with pretty much everything you say but I think that there are some bigger problems with PSP's; demographics, internet access and mobile gaming.My god children have been asking for DS/DSi's since the age of 5, other kid's their age want the Nintendo's, they're getting them, upgrading to new models and staying with the Nintendo brand post teens (looking at my niece and nephew and their friends). Amazingly enough they're still playing the gameboy games I gave them years ago (you should see what brain training and the like have done for the younger one's numeracy skills).Five years ago I was seeing a lot of people play PSP on the morning commute and the long distance rail trips I take for business - almost all of those PSPers have disappeared having replaced the PSP with laptops, netbooks and iPod/iPhone. I hardly see them now. It strikes me that this replacement mirrors fairly well the availability of mobile broadband. Overall - Sony isn't capturing young consumers and keeping them as they did with the PS. Additionally the handheld gaming console market is shrinking dramatically as smartphones become more capable, and mobile internet access becomes more readily available in a budget crunch you'll take a phone that does more than play games over the handheld every time.

Aimy
Aimy

Thank you for stating what so many Game retailer (cough*Gamestop*EB Games*cough) sales employees have been thinking about the PSP GO. Unfortunately, now our PSP sections will grow even more layers of dust.

dessimat0r
dessimat0r

Once again, Sony screws up; consumers suffer.

deftangel
deftangel

Ironic that Sony would launch a console that helps to address their issues with homebrew, piracy and firmware upgrades but then makes the games the same price as retail. Have they not been telling people these were factors in game pricing for years?Even with the caveat that notionally at least, retailers are still selling those games on UMD and Sony can't wilfully be seen to be undercutting them, this half-hearted approach isn't helping their retail relations either. Let the game retailers drop it if they wish, sell it as a consumer electronics device and embrace digital fully by going direct to the customers with a deal that works for them. Even so, it would still be a tepid reaction to the iPhone but it would be more satisfactory for everyone concerned.