Posted by: Kenji Hall on August 25
Last week, at the Leipzig games convention, Sony unveiled a redesigned PlayStation Portable, the PSP 3000. Yawn. Sure, the new PSP, which goes on sale in October, has a better screen and a built-in mic that makes the gizmo a Skype-ready Net-connected phone when there’s a Wi-Fi wireless network nearby. (Personally, I’d love to see motion-sensing added to the PSP, which would add another dimension to gaming and location-based services.)
But cramming more features into the PSP isn’t as important as beefing up the online offering of videos, games and other features. The PSP Online Store already lets you download both low-cost PSOne games and new PSP titles via a PC so you don’t have to connect to (or own) a PlayStation 3. In Japan the only videos I can get are game teasers and other promos. But in the U.S., the PlayStation Network’s video service now has close to 300 movies and 1,200 TV episodes. And the offerings aren’t only from Sony Pictures Entertainment. Sony also signed up 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, MGM, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros., and The Walt Disney Studios.
I had previously asked why Sony wasn’t lining up TV shows and movies for the PSP like Apple does for its lineup of video iPods. But I was wrong; Al de Leon, of Sony Computer Entertainment America, pointed out my error (check out the last paragraph of the release).
Still, I wonder: Why not let PSP owners customize what goes onto their PSPs, like Apple has done with the iPhone App Store? Sony officials bristle whenever someone compares them to Apple. But instead of getting defensive they should just recognize when Apple has a good idea and borrow it.
Some fanboy sites have blasted Sony for omitting the new features from the previous version of the PSP. Others suspect Sony is trying to stay one step ahead of modders who tweak their PSPs to do things the company’s engineers never intended for it to do. My guess is that Sony’s decision boils down to simple economics. It’s trying to squeeze more mileage out of the PSP by offering consumers a souped-up version and without jacking up the price. (In terms of affordability it doesn’t get any better than this: The $199 price of the PSP 3000’s starter pack in the U.S. is actually lower than the PSP’s $249 launch price in 2005.) That explains how it expects to sell 15 million PSPs this fiscal year on top of the 37 million it had sold from December 2004 to March 2008.
No longer child's play, the booming global games market is worth billions of dollars. In Games, Inc., BusinessWeek Innovation writer Matt Vella and Tokyo correspondent Kenji Hall analyze emerging business trends in video games and interactive entertainment. They’ll examine everything from button-mashing, chart-topping, console games to serious games commissioned by big corporations to train staff. They’ll also map the evolution of expansive virtual worlds and go behind the strategies at companies that are turning play into big business.