Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The PSP2: Does It Have A Shot?

A possible PSP2 concept
Now that we've seen The Jungle, and the 3DS is on its way, what about Sony's poor lost little PSP? The PSP2 has been rumored for quite some time, but no one seems to know exactly what it will be or when it might appear. Certainly after the PSP and the PSPGo, expectations are not high for a new handheld from Sony. I'm sure part of the delay comes from headscratching at Sony over what the hell to do with a new device. I'm sure it galls them for Nintendo to have rolled over them so thoroughly with the DS line, with what is (in Sony's view) a technically inferior device.

Over at IndustryGamers, David Radd has some thoughts about what Sony could put into the PSP2 to give it greater sales. His prescriptions are a 3D screen (like the 3DS), a second analog "nub", make it a phone, use Kevin Butler as spokesperson, and make every game downloadable. Well, I'll agree with the second joystick; that seems obvious (though who knows if Sony can figure that out). It's a great way to differentiate the handheld from either the 3DS or the iPhone, and it shouldn't cost very much to add. But that's not going to make it a must-buy device.

I think making every game a download is a must, but it's not going to be easy for Sony because of the retail channel. They brought out the pitchforks and torches for the PSPGo (which was downloads only), and basically strangled that baby in its crib. Sony has to figure out a way to cut retailers in on a piece of the action; give them a chunk of money for downloads through their sites, or offer fast in-store downloads (and give the retailer a piece). Sony could get great promotions through the stores... maybe exclusive titles in some retailers, or exclusive DLC for a store. By promoting in-store visits and store web site visits, Sony could gain a lot of promotional help from retailers feeling besieged by all this digital download action going on around them.

Back on the hardware side, Sony has to compete with Nintendo and the iPhone and Android phones. I suspect Nintendo has locked up all the production of the only 3D screen supplier, so that route is closed (it's also an unproven feature, though it would dovetail with Sony's 3D push on the PS3 and with TVs). So the PSP2 should have some serious gaming horsepower. Give it a low-power Cell processor; or some CPU/GPU combo that will thrash anything Nintendo or Apple can produce. Make the PSP2 the most powerful handheld by a long shot, and you have a powerful attractant for hardcore gamers. Oh, and don't neglect the screen... it has to be high-res and gorgeous. The screen resolution is the 3DS' weakness; and the iPhone 4 has an amazing screen. Sony has to compete in that space, so the screen should be a killer.

Finally, open the PSP2 up to developers in a big way. Make sure it has a killer music player and video player. Sell your amazing catalog of music and video to the PSP2. Get thousands of Apps developed or ported; make the PSP2 a multipurpose device. People only have one pocket; if you want them to get a PSP2 instead of an iPod Touch the PSP2 had better do a damn fine job of playing music and video, and make it easy to acquire the content, too. (Beat Apple by having a removable battery and an option for additional storage via SD cards; give up on the damn Memory Stick already.) Make Skype a partner so you can neutralize the iPhone's communication ability without having to bring in a telco.

It's all a tall order, which may be why it's taken so long for Sony to get something together. Will they do something like this? I doubt it... Besides, with The Jungle about to take the handheld world by storm, what are the odds the PSP2 could compete against that?


  1. If the PSP2 has no built in phone support I'm not sold on the download only model - at least not in the first half of this decade. The everyday gamer is still not ready for the download business model and need a lot more priming. I believe that the best solution would be a combination of retail game card and downloads.

  2. I think the download-only model has proven itself well with the iPhone, but it is a somewhat different problem for game-centered handhelds (witness Sony's problems with the PSPGo). I don't think waiting around for the market to develop is the right answer; while you're waiting someone else will take it. I think Sony would have to put a major effort into developing the download model, which they didn't really do with the PSPGo, and enlist the support of retailers rather than fighting them. Difficult, yes, but Apple has shown it can be worthwhile.