PSP: Fierce revival or last dying breath?

PSP: Fierce revival or last dying breath?


Up until the 2010 Tokyo Game Show, I was ready to write off the PSP as a platform gone to the fishes. But since then, it seems that nothing short of a resurrection is taking place. Will it last? We're pulling our crystal ball and do some gazing of our own.

Up until the 2010 Tokyo Game Show, I was ready to write off the PSP as a platform gone to the fishes. But since then, it seems that nothing short of a revival is taking place.

It is clear that Sony’s handheld did not reach the critical success they had envisioned when they launched it six years ago. Industry analysts had expected more too. Market leader Nintendo may have had a fantastic lead, but the PSP’s vastly superior hardware, movie support and sexier exterior made the bulky DS instantly look outdated. Sony also relied heavily on its strong Playstation brand to be far more appealing than Nintendo’s failing GameCube platform. I am sure many of those same analysts are still scratching their heads over how the PSP could fail against the DS. I have news for them; using touch-screen to control your game “turns out not to be a fad after all”.

Hardware-wise, the DS continues to outsell the PSP two to one which is disappointing, to say the least. But things get really depressing when you look at the software sales for 2010. Here, the DS outsells the PSP three to one – down from two to one in 2009 – and their sales are still in decline. This is bad news, especially when you consider that the PSP already has the lowest attach rate of all five console platforms.

Initially, publisher interest for the PSP was considerable, and developers loved working with the powerful little machine. But over the past two years or so – as sales continued to be low – publisher interest started waning, to the point that even the platform’s staunchest supporters started to doubt their strategy. Then rumors of the existence of PSP2 development kits started popping up (now confirmed), and it seemed only logical that developers would shift their focus and move on.

Up with the buzz
And then the Tokyo Game Show happened. One big publisher after another announced new titles for the PSP, showing that the platform is anything but dead. Combined with previously announced titles, the PSP is gearing up towards one of its best fall lineups ever. A grab from some of PSP’s finest upcoming games (fall and otherwise): God Eater (Namco Bandai Games), Valkyria Chronicles III (SEGA), Patapon 3 (Sony), Final Fantasy Agito XII (Square-Enix), Dissidia 012 Duodecim (Square-Enix), God of War: Ghost of Sparta (Sony), Knights in the Nightmare (Atlus), Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Predator (Ubisoft).

These games, among a slew of others, prove that the PSP has some life in it yet. The list also reveals that support for the PSP comes primarily from Japanese publishers. With the exception of the odd sports title, Western publishers seem to have already given up releasing games for the machine. Now, that does not necessarily spell doom for the PSP. Japanese publishers have a name for creating great Role-Playing games, as well as good Fighting games; genres that are very popular in the West as well. Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, for instance, was released just two weeks ago, and so far has sold well in the US. Will it prove to be the first of many?

Crystal balling
My guess would be that this holiday season is “make or break” time for Sony’s handheld. If sales pick up, publishers may be inclined to continue to support the PSP for another year. If they stay behind we may just see an exodus from the platform that could potentially harm the future of the PSP platform altogether. If consumers see Sony struggling to keep its publishers on board for the PSP, they could very well give the PSP2 a pass.