This week Sony has taken a step in the direction of eliminating dependence on the UMD disk media by announcing that the upcoming Patapon 2 will be available only as a ‘Digital Download’ from the PSN Store in North America. As noted at TechTree, the game will be available on May 5th for $15 (other sources have $20, so we’ll have to wait and see). They quoted Patrick Seybold, senior director of corporate communications at SCEA, as saying, “We’re considering a digital only format for the Patapon 2 release as a one time test case as we continue to explore consumer preferences for digital content.”
Another article at Geek.com notes that “you will still be able to purchase a boxed-copy of the game from retail stores, but that box will not contain a UMD; instead it will carry a code to allows you access to the digital download”. The original Patapon was one of the most critically acclaimed games for the PSP in 2008 (actually, one of the few decent releases for the system last year, if we’re being honest). It combined rhythm-based gameplay and wonderful design in a family-friendly experience that had great replayability and left everyone who played it wanting more.
Of course, this is ‘only a test’ as Sony says, but I see it as more than one type of test. First they likely want to test the appeal of new release full-features digital download PSP games. They likely also want to test the appeal of direct PSN Store purchases compared to buying a voucher at a store. Finally I’m sure they’ll be watching the total sales to see if this process will increase or decrease the appeal of games (or not impact them at all).
I have two thoughts – first, as I mentioned before, the relatively slow speed of the PSP WiFi means that it will be hours before I enjoy the game. Second, I know I will be buying direct from the PSN store for a couple of reasons. First because I try to limit the consumption of plastics and other resources, so buying a game case that is nothing but a holder for a digital download code seems extremely wasteful. And second, one thing I love about the PSN store is that – unlike the XBOX Live store, the Wii store and the DSi store – it uses actual money rather than arbitrary points. The XBOX store in particular has taken flak for its’ ‘hot dogs & rolls’ approach, wherein you buy points in increments of 1000 but games are priced in increments of 800. When Patapon comes out I will be able to directly pay for it without adding extra money I might or might not use.
If anyone thinks that Sony execs won’t be nervously watching this to see whether the rumored move away from UMD to digital download only is a good idea, think again!