This was originally a article published September 16th on my Edge Blog on the lead up to the PSPgo launch. Most of what I wrote here still stands, and the sales figures of the PSPgo speak for themselves.
Having already handled the PSPgo the first thing I thought was that it is a thing of beauty (as far as gadgets go anyway), you slid the screen up and it wakes the console to the XMB which most PSP users will no doubt be familiar with, from there you can go about all your gaming needs in much the same way the PSP did. However, even navigating the menus (with the Sony Rep’s eagle eyes watching over me – they were eagle eyes, he defiantly noticed when I slipped it into my pocket) it became clear that any prolonged use would most probably cause muscle and tendon issues. The PSP 3000 wasn’t fantastically designed for large hands – known for creating “claw” like hands after prolonged use of the L and R buttons, but it seemed that the PSPgo must have been designed by some magical creatures with double jointed thumbs and index fingers; the moment you reach across to use the “nub” (I refuse to call it a joy-stick any more, it only is a nub) and press the L button you can already feel the strain. I suspect the “official” response to this would be “the PSPgo is meant to be used on the move and therefore wasn’t designed for prolonged gaming”, ergo if you don’t play it too much it won’t hurt you. Even though this is a purely hypothetical (yet, not that unrealistic) response from Sony, it may be fair to say that paying £224.99 for something which you can’t play for long periods for fear of crippling RSI is pretty lousy, sadly this is only the first of many issues I have with it.
I known I’ve mentioned the price, buy my god how on earth is anywhere going to shift these things when they’re £25 off the PS3 price?! The Sony rep’s response for this (actual, not made up) was that it was challenging the iPhone market and therefore was priced within the same range. Whilst the PSPgo and the iPhone share a number of traits – they look nice, they both play games, music, films etc – there are some crucial differences. The “advantages” of the PSPgo over the iPhone as told to me, are the ability to view comic books on it (as of later this year) and the expandable memory. But when considered against the advantages the iPhone has over the PSPgo puts it Sony’s new machine to shame slightly; the iPhone includes a phone (hint is in the name really), it can go online without being in a Wifi hotspot, it has a built in camera and a decent web browser, not to mention the App store with its thousands of apps ready for downloading. Okay, I imagine the PSPgo is far superior at playing games than the iPhone – I love my PSP and the games I have – but wouldn’t it be better the pitch the PSPgo at the iPod Touch market (which’d be made tricky now Apple have slashed the price significantly)?
None of these problems is really the crucial one though. Something which some people have only just started to realise is that each PSPgo a shop sells, probably then looses them future sales amounting to more than money made selling it in the first place. Thinking about it, this is a problem of biblical proportions really, Dutch retailers (and maybe Spanish ones also) have announced that they’re not supporting the PSPgo as it’ll probably destroy software sales. Even with the £224.99 price point, most retailers aren’t going to make much money from the sales of the PSPgo, and without the software to sell to the customer afterwards what money – if any – are retailers going to make? Selling memory cards and cases? Some how I don’t think that if the PSPgo really takes off many retailers would really want to support it after it causes a crippling drop in software sales during an already tough economic climate. The fact that major retailers are supporting the PSPgo is probably only due to “loyalty” to Sony – how will anyone get the juicy Christmas bundle deals on PS3s if they’ve annoyed big S? – and the perhaps because they’re desperate for something else to help bring cash in over what is predicted to be another quiet Christmas on the high street. Realistically, no shop would stock the PSPgo if they felt it would do really well, it’d be a stupid thing to do.
Its obvious that the trend within the games industry is moving towards digital sales over physical ones. Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo now all have stores where users can by games, new and old, each one being pushed harder and harder to get sales – the new Xbox 360 update included “new” games available on demand, the PSN store is having hundreds of titles added for the PSPgo’s launch and WiiWare for Wii and DsiWare for Dsi have been swelling recently as more developers get behind them. Also free-to-play and on-demand gaming for PC is on the rise and with in game micro transactions a proven method for gaining revenue it appears that the industry is edging away from physical sales – the piracy and pre-owned issues which are associated with them – and towards a more monopolised system where they directly control the price and distribution for their products. I’m not saying that this’ll really be a huge problem for retailers Sony won’t sell half as many PSPgo without Amazon, Game, HMV, Play.com etc behind them, it will just take some thinking so retailers and the producers will all be happy with this.
Rumours have recently been circulating that Sony are planning to re-launch the PSPgo, and after the new download incentive for coughing up the now £200 hand-held failing to inflate sales they need to do something quickly. I don’t know whether some of the problems that I and others have identified with the PSPgo will be addressed, but my guesses are that the solution(s) are simple, A) drop the price to at least £170 and B) increase the amount of content on PSN and lower the prices in line to those or the high street or perhaps even less. It seems that if people are actually going to part with physical media then they need a good enough reason to do so.
(at least this all isn’t as shite as Ubisoft’s new DRM)
Chr15 6r33n (Follow me on Twitter at chrisgreen87 and for Chronoludic updates click here)