Monday, October 05, 2009

Console (Handheld) Post Of The Week: The Curious Case Of The PSPgo

In summary version, here's how the PSPgo stacks up versus its predecessor, the PSP-3000:
--more expensive
--smaller screen
--less comfortable controls
--no backwards compatibility
--all purchased media must be downloaded
--games are more expensive

No, that's not the PSP-3000 I'm talking about compared to the Go. It's the Go compared to the PSP-3000. In almost every aspect, it's worse.

Seriously, WTF?

The PSPgo is $250. The PSP-3000 is $170. It's a hardware refresh, and it's almost 50% more.

Yes, the screen looks "sharper." Here's the thing, though: the screen looks sharper because it's smaller (3.8" versus 4.3"). The resolution is the same. Hey, shrink it to 1" and it will be razor sharp!

The smaller form factor, though, means that controls are smaller, and for the analog stick, that's an issue.

Play your old games? Forget it. The Go is 100% a download device. Screw you.

More expensive games? Of course they are. Maybe they're listed at the same price as UMD games, but you can't resell anything. Essentially you're paying 15-20% more, at least, when you factor in the loss of resale value.

More bad news: no pricing competition. No longer will dozens of retailers be competing on price, using PSP games as loss leaders with special pricing. Well, they still will be doing that for the UMD versions of games, which the Go doesn't support.

What I'm trying to figure out is who actually wants one of these damn things. And what the hell is Sony's point here?

Well, I've figured it out, I think. The Go is actually designed to be as poor a value as possible because it's a Trojan horse to sell PSP-3000s.

Crazy? Like a fox, bitches. Look at this quote from Claire Backhouse, product manager for the PSP in the UK, in a recent interview:
If you bring out a new product, people aspire to that but they might not buy it, they might buy the PSP 3000 instead. Especially if they're part of a family - dad might buy the PSPgo but the kids might get PSP 3000s. I think that works quite well for us.

We've entered a new era, apparently--the era where people "aspire" to buy gaming hardware. Sony has set a ridiculous price point for their NEW hardware precisely because they want to sell the OLD hardware.

Okay, I'm kidding about the Trojan horse angle. I think.

Here's more, though, and I think these quotes quite clearly indicate what Sony is really trying to do here:
It's for different audiences that have different needs. The PSPgo is more for the older, 16 - 34 year olds, more like iPhone users who watch films and want high quality downloadable games on the go, and it's more portable as well, so that suits their lifestyle.

[Wait? A portable is MORE portable than another portable?]

There'll be those who are currently playing mini games on their iPods, and one thing that PSPgo offers them is an amazing gaming console that's just as portable as what they're carrying around at the moment.

And I think PSPgo is even more so because you do want it in consumer's minds that it can do all those things as well and that makes it even better than an iPhone, I think.

I think the iPhone has opened up that sort of market, almost like social gaming on the go.

Gee, I think a certain company has a terrible case of iPhone envy.

Backhouse was working in comparisons to the iPhone at every imaginable point in the interview, and I'm sure it wasn't an accident.

That's what's going on here. Sony doesn't give a shit about the DS. They lost that war, and badly. Now they covet the iPhone market, and they clearly think the Go is an iPhone killer. Claire seems mystified as to why anyone would prefer to carry around an iPhone instead of a Go.

[Sam Kinison enters.
I don't know--maybe because it's a F***ING PHONE?
Sam Kinison exits.]

Clearly, Sony must be planning to add phone functionality to the Go, because without it, there's no point in trying to compete with the iPhone, is there? But even with that, is anyone going to care?

Sony has one other objective here, and I think that's eliminating piracy. Yes, that's obvious, because the GO should essentially be a piracy-free platform, but I mention it because publishers and gaming device manufacturers have claimed for years that games could be much cheaper if only piracy could be eliminated.

Well, guess what? Sony introduced a piracy-free platform and is giving us the raised middle finger, because the game prices are identical.

Interestingly, this doesn't appear to be the case in Japan. Chris Kohler e-mailed me this last week:
PSPgo game prices seem to be universally lower than their physical counterparts: I saw a lot of games in Tokyo listed as being roughly 5,000 yen on a disc but about 4,000 yen on the store.

I think that has to happen in the rest of the world, and soon, because the pricing structure is so utterly ridiculous that it seems doomed to fail. Quickly.

So there you go. It's the least competitive product ever, but just to clarify, it's not competing with the DS (or the PSP-3000)--it's competing with the iPhone.

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