If you go back in history to just after Thanksgiving of 2004, the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP were just starting to creep into commercial availability, and the growing feeling among gaming media was that while you should never count Nintendo out … Sony had a device that could very well give them handheld gaming superiority. Even a year later, crossing into 2006 after the 2005 holidays, the PSP had the sales lead over the DS worldwide, and a tremendous advantage in the US. Yet within a year, many of those same pundits who proclaimed the PSP as Nintendo-beater were declaring the PSP dead. What happened, and what does it have to do with the upcoming release of the PSP Go or the title of this article? Read on and see!
If you ask PSP owners who have been there since the beginning what they dislike the most about the system, it is not the gorgeous screen, the solid controls, the decent movie and music player, the PSN network or some of the added stuff like the Web Browser or Skype. It isn’t even the slow and noisy UMD drive – it is the game library. While there are certainly consoles that have had worse game libraries, none of them have been major sellers like the PSP. We keep hearing ‘this is the one’, ‘that is the one’, ‘just wait for this release’ and so on. Heck, we’re still hearing it it with the upcoming Gran Turismo, a game that has been delayed for years now!
Over the past 4.5 years, many of us have managed to cobble together a respectable PSP game collection – with a few decent games from genres such as sports, driving, puzzle, RPG, strategy, action, shooter, and so on. But even the most ardent PSP fan won’t argue that the release calendar has been very thin, and solid releases even more rare. But there is one thing in common for everything from Lumines to LocoRoco to Syphon Filter to Jeanne D’Arc – they were all sold on UMD discs.
When the PSP Go was announced (perhaps confirmed was is a better word since it was so widely leaked), there was an immediate concern – what happens to our UMD libraries? At the time Sony assured us that they were working on something to help owners of existing collections of UMD games. Turns out that all of those months working on the problem hasn’t resulted in much. According to a report at Kotaku from TGS (Tokyo Game Show), a Sony rep said “We were evaluating a UMD conversion program, but due to legal and technical reasons we will not be offering the program at this time.”
So where do we stand now:
- The PSP Go pricing of $250 is confirmed by Sony as being ‘premium priced’ … in other words, they are charging more for it because it is ‘new’, as I noted here
- The PSP Go is not getting any ‘launch incentive’ in the US: all you get is the system for $250, whereas even the original PSP came with a nice case and a Spiderman 2 UMD!
- At the same time, Sony announced a special PSP-3000 version that includes the PSP-3000, Gran Turismo on UMD, a downloadable car for the game, a voucher for a PSN store movie, a 2GB memory stick, and 10 free songs to download.
If you are in Europe things aren’t as bad, as Sony Europe have announced two incentives:
- Register your new PSP Go before October 10th and get a free downloadable copy of Gran Turismo. That is a $40 retail value, in case you’re keeping score.
- In lieu of any stated ‘UMD-to-digital’ program, Sony Europe is offering existing PSP owners a program where by logging into the PSN Store with both their PSP and PSP Go their account will get credits to pick three games from a list of 17 games. Of course, most of these games are at least 3 years old and sell for ~$10 each new, making this a ~$30 ‘bone’ they are throwing to make up for the lack of a proper UMD transfer program.
As I was writing this,got confirmation from Sony America that they are NOT offering the program here “SCEA region will not offer a UMD rewards program at this time,” due to the fact that the company has a “dual-platform strategy”. What this means is that they are not doing anything special for PSP Go owners because they want you to own BOTH a PSP-3000 and a PSP Go … and presumably both a digital and UMD copy of games as well!
To me this is all pretty stunning: imagine what would have happened if Nintendo introduced the DS originally without a GBA slot and gave users the choice of three games from ~2001 to make up for the inability to access their library of games anymore! I think we’d have a very different landscape.
Sadly all of this feeds my cynical side: I don’t think that Sony really cares about existing PSP owners. They see them as largely potential pirates who have forced them to constantly patch the firmware, have left them with an abysmal record of game sales, and have done little to nothing to help their PS3 sales. And since 1996 that is what I have been saying – for Sony it is all about the PS3. While Nintendo feeds the synergy between Wii and DS, each one is treated as important individuals. As a PSP owner without a PS3, I constantly feel like Sony is considering me as a liability and second-class citizen.
And here I am, just one week away from having a PSP Go in my hands, and instead of feeling excited as I do with most gadget purchases, I already feel spited. I keep asking: can it get any worse? I am lucky – I already have a bunch of games in my PSN account. But last week I bought IL-2 Sturmovik on UMD and am still playing through the massive Disgaea 2, also on UMD … and many of my favorite games for the PSP either aren’t in the PSN store (Dungeon Siege) or I am not really willing to buy them yet again (Syphon Filter).
This has certainly turned into one of the worst product launches in terms of generating positive customer goodwill, as all of the PSP places I visit are filled with folks who are either on the fence about buying or like me and buying anyway, but none of us feel very good about the whole thing.
Sony has watched their image in the gaming world plummet over the last several years after being ‘king of the world’ with the PSx and PS2, and had an opportunity to repair that image by rewarding their loyal customers who were going back to the well for them again … but instead they put us in a place where many PSP fans are hoping for a poor launch and terrible sales showing to teach Sony a bit about customer loyalty.