The PSPgo has been source of controversy since its semi-leaked announcement last year. While Sony thought it would take them into the future, the device isn’t even catching ground in Japan, let alone the US or Europe. Is its large price point the only problem or are there more things to blame? Can Sony save its latest PSP? Or is it going, going…gone?
Yes, digital distribution is the way of the future. It’s hard to deny that. With the unbelievable success of the Apple products, as well as the presence of entire marketplaces across every single console devoted to all things intangible, we are at the beginning of a new era. Sony saw this opportunity and tried to be first out of the gate with the PSPgo. It was a genius plan. Get one of the most powerful handheld consoles and add fit it for the new age. Physical media? Old news. Syncing with a computer? Unnecessary. You can buy directly from the internet. Smaller and lighter for maximum portability. On paper, it looked like the future of portable gaming. But in practice, it looks like it’s going to be forgotten in the past.
Now I really like the idea of the PSPgo. I really do! But it almost seems that Sony is doing everything in its power to do wrong to this new device. First of all, is the price. Two hundred and fifty dollars? I don’t know if anyone told you this recently, but the economy isn’t exactly in its best shape nowadays. For a mere fifty dollars more, one could purchase the (almost) 3D ready, Blu-Ray playing, incredibly powerful PS3 and do pretty much “everything” with it. Which seems like a better bang-for-your-buck? The price needs to drop to at LEAST half of it’s current price to make it a bargain. At least lower in price than the PSP-3000.
Games and customer loyalty. A big doozy. I don’t think many people can say that the PSP doesn’t have a great library of games. That’s not the point here. The point is that while you’re talking up this digital device, you’ve been supporting it’s physical counterpart a lot more. How many different PSP bundles have come out with a killer game? Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep are two of the most recent ones I can think of. These bundles, with limited edition handhelds and the game, cost less than the PSPgo does by itself. Which is the better deal here? Why treat one version of the same product differently than the other? It’s almost like Sony is TRYING to sell more 3000s than PSPgos. Make the PSPgo more enticing to buy. Bundle it with not one, but maybe two or even three games. Give someone a reward for reaching for the new handheld. Oh wait… Too bad it’s only for one region.
Let’s look at existing customers who already have a PSP-1000. Or even a 2000 model. Their device is getting up there in age. They’re looking to upgrade to a new version of their beloved product. Let’s even say that they get over the price of the go. What about the large accumulation of existing UMD titles that they own? Not a chance. You’ve just excluded someone who has been your customer for several years now, by not letting them use their same games on current technology. It’s a completely different argument then backwards compatibility, where you can just ask customers to move on to the new generation. You have taken every option away for these people. First, there is no way to convert their UMD games into a digital format (legally at least). They are just pieces of plastic that have no use. Second, they shouldn’t be required to buy a current generation game again when they already own it. New copies of a game should come WITH a digital copy, rather than choosing between the two. So if you went for a digital version only, it would be cheaper (more on that later.)
Okay, let’s say they even got over that. They are fine with repurchasing all of their favorite PSP games with the wads of cash they have lying around. So they get onto the store and…what’s that? There aren’t even that many games available for purchase ON the store! Only games that have come out since the Go’s release, and anything else that Sony could scrounge up. What about games like Lumines, Crisis Core: FF7, and the two Star Oceans?? Any Final Fantasy 1, 2, or Tactics? Anybody? I’m not even going to mention a couple of the more obscure games that I’ve got for my PSP. The store isn’t being supported as well as it should be. For a current generation system, there should be more accessibility to the last fives years of its lifetime, not the most recent one.
Make the digital copies of your games not only accessible, but better marketed. If I had a choice to buy between a digital and a physical version for the same price, I’m going with physical. Why? Because it’s tangible, transferable, and has resale value. If a digital version of a game is available, it inherently doesn’t have these features. So where it lacks in features, it should make up in price. Drop the price of ALL digital releases. Check out this fun fact. Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines sells at $29.99 at Gamestop. On the PSN Store? $39.99. Exactly the same with Dante’s Inferno. The list goes on. Worried about piracy? Think about it like this. Pirates are going to steal your products, no matter what. The people who are going to buy your product are going to buy it, no matter what. Why don’t you reward your loyal customers and make it more appealing to us all? Physical copies of games will include collector’s editions but also go with the “bundle” option of the game and the digital code for the price that it is at currently: $39.99. Everything else, drop the price.
The PSPgo really is a nice product. I’ve played with it a few times, but I picked up my 1000 model PSP from a friend and, other than the battery level, it’s doing just fine. The Go isn’t some cash-in that the Sony people cooked up in hoping they’d made a quick buck. I think the strangest thing about the PSPgo is that Sony seems to be the main entity planning its destruction. There is so much more that they could be doing to help this device shine, if not the ideas described here. Try to include your customer base, not exclude them. That way, the PSPgo may not go down in history like as the next Virtual Boy…