Let’s take a trip back to when the original Playstation Portable was launched in Japan, where it got the console at the end of 2004, North America got it in the first few months of 2005, and for those in the UK, we were waiting until the end of that year for it.
Boasting graphics that could match the PlayStation 2, the handheld ran on UMD’s a new media device that could not only play games, but also movies for on the move. With enhanced connectivity between PSP devices as well as Sony’s home consoles, the system was very impressive. At this time the console had some great title support including system favourites like Dynasty Warriors and Tekken among many other Sony classics.
During this time, the system flourished a year on in 2006 where Sony launched their Playstation 3 console whilst also announcing the Playstation Network, the new expansion of their multiplayer ventures with the PlayStation 2. This included the PlayStation store, where these new releases drew attention away from their handheld platform.
During this ,the PSP was not forgotten. In 2007 the slim and lite version of the PSP were released, and in the UK, sales quadrupled for the week and the uptake of the PSP in America doubled for the month of October. The console had a slight redesign with the inclusion of a Microphone and a retrofit of the screen size.
In 2008 the PSP had direct access to the Playstation store. With this in mind, players were able to download game demo’s and access Playstation One classic titles. This added a whole new dimension to using the memory stick to download PSP and PS1 titles, meaning new sizes of memory became useful and available.
From here the console went downhill, as the shift towards PS3 continued and the PSP became more graphically outdated and Sony seemed to stop supporting it’s handheld console. A shift in the market towards mobile gaming created the ideas of “smaller is better” in Sony’s mind. The lack of support from Sony left the console in the hands of 3rd party developers and due to consoles, the often fickle control scheme support for the platform faded.
From here on out, Sony had one last trick up their sleeve… to try and win back the PSP market, and in late 2009, they launched the PSP Go, a console established by mobile trends that focused entirely on downloaded games from the store as well as promoting this “smaller is better” idealism. By reducing the screen size as well as minimizing the control scheme, the Go fell flat on many fronts. By cutting out the need for UMD’s to reduce console size, Sony had brushed aside the key market since its launch. This meant the console relied on it’s internal memory at 8-16GB for both downloaded and saved games, meaning those that expanded their game libraries had to either participate in a cycling of games, uninstalling those they no longer played and reinstalling if they wished to play again or purposely keeping their game libraries smaller as not to reach memory capacity.
The Go was also held back by the fact that it did not support games upon launch and the store was lacking in some titles for weeks before they reached store support, for example, the popular Final Fantasy: Dissidia. This was not the store’s only shortfall… The PSP Go, despite all it’s cutting down, was far more expensive that it’s predecessors, and this may have been understandable because of it’s position as the newer console. However, despite all profits from game sales going to Sony, the PSP games on the store were more expensive than their store sold counterparts. The Go was also hit very hard by the PlayStation Network blackout earlier this year, during the downtime from April 20th until the system was restored in mid May, which during this time anyone who brought a PSP Go had no access to the store and hence no games for their system. These trends meant the Go never did revitalise the PSP’s chances and the system faded again into obscurity.
It’s now 2011 and 6 years after the consoles release, we are on the pinnacle of the PlayStation Vita, so what has Sony done to push the original PSP before it’s launch? This year saw the launch of the essentials range, a move by Sony to push the best selling PSP games onto those who were newer to the handheld, meaning that classic games like “Ratchet and Clank” were sold at really reasonable prices, yet this did little to salve the wounds of those who feel the console was abandoned by Sony. Some great games were launched by Square Enix and Altus like Persona 3 Portable and the 3rd Birthday to promote PSP exclusives.
Sony have done little to promote late releases on their first handheld and as we wave goodbye to the PSP, promises of entertainment packs at large retail won’t cut it for a market that is in a recession and aware of a future that lies with the PlayStation Vita.
So the point of this article? Life is about learning from your mistakes, and if Sony want to be taken seriously, they need to show us that the Vita will do that. So far things are looking good. The controls from the original PSP have been updated so the Vita is more like a dual shock controller and the console has recieved strong 1st and 3rd party support with a selection of exclusive titles and impressive names like Uncharted and Bioshock. With this in mind, Sony… bring on 2012 and the PlayStation Vita.