Two weeks ago at the spectacular Gamescom conference, Sony announced a digital comic reader service for the PSP. The app, which launches in December, will provide free-flowing comics from Image, Archie, IDW and industry giant Marvel, with more publishers to follow soon after. The digital reader uses a technology developed by iVerse Media, which already offers digital comic readers for the iPhone and Google Android mobile devices.
The comic industry, like most other forms of media, has struggled to cope with the new digital age, seeking a viable digital platform to sell their wares, but ultimately failing to combat the rising piracy that plagues the industry. One of the many issues faced by the distributors is that there is no standard distribution service for comics with cross-publisher support that sells computerized comics, similar to Steam for PC games.
Marvel, possibly the foremost leader in the digital crossover allows a considerable selection of its back-catalog to be read online, although not downloaded, in digital format for a subscription fee. Additionally, Marvel has recently begun releasing motion comics on iTunes which, much like DC’s Watchmen Motion comic series, border upon being animated episodes rather than true comics. Marvel’s digital comic service has had considerable success and their motion comics are also expected to sell well, however consumers have still not truly embraced the formats.
PC based digital comics suffer from the discomfort caused by reading from an electronic screen as well as the decreased portability of a computer system, thus the move towards a portable alternative seems obvious, and it seems consumers have shown great interest in smaller comic displaying devices, with iVerse Media recently exceeding one million downloads for their digital comic reader.
Sony’s decision to bring comics to their handheld marks another step towards a truly digital age for comics, the large install base of the PSP and PSN, which will surely grow with the release of the PSP go, is a perfect platform for comics to be released. The success or failure of such initiatives as the PSP Digital Comics Service will ultimately determine the future of comics as a whole, with Comic distributors certainly watching the outcome of the platform as they struggle to decide how to tackle the issue of the new digital age.
However, it is important to note that the retail side of comics is still vastly larger than the digital side and will probably remain so for the foreseeable future, but as retail sales continue to shrink and online sales continue to grow the importance of network providers such as Sony cementing themselves as online comic book suppliers will become increasingly important. iTunes may have cornered the online music market, but the comic book market is still up for grabs, Sony’s push to create a true open platform for the PSP could show an important move into this industry where the electronics giant could see massive success in the future.
Digital Comics for PSP will be launching on the US and EU PlayStation Stores this December, with major comic publishers including Marvel, Image, Archie, IDW supporting the format with major releases as well as local content. Will you be embracing the Digital Age of Comics with the PSP? Post your comments below.