With most of this week’s focus on the PSP Go release, I have read the reviews and weighed out the pros and cons. Although the Go is sleek and ergonomically superior to the PSP 3000, there are many detrimental features as well, such as the dropping of UMD and lack of an improved battery which cause many to be apprehensive to the switch. It makes me wonder if Sony is putting too much faith into the new iteration of the PSP.
In a recent interview with Claire Backhouse, PSP product manager for the UK, on gi.biz many questions were answered, but is Sony being unrealistic with their expectations for the sleek new handheld? Claire was quoted saying “I’d say probably about 60/40 – 60 trading in, or trading up and then 40 per cent a new audience.” I feel that this may be an unrealistic projection, especially since there is no way to convert UMDs, also if you trade in your PSP, then you have UMDs that are now useless. I think that new adopters will definitely outnumber those who will be trading in their PSPs. I also think that Sony is alienating their consumers. This is because Gran Turismo PSP was the flagship PSP Go title, since the release dates coincided with each other, but there is a PSP 3000 bundle releasing October 20th. This will further encourage handheld gamers to stick with the PSP 3000, since the GT PSP 3000 bundle costs less than the Go hardware.
Backhouse also talks of the focus of the PSP marketing. “On launch we’re very much focusing on the gaming part of it. The reason for that is because those are our first adopters, so gamers are going to be interested initially and I think in the next couple of months you’ll get other people that are interested in just general entertainment and things like Skyping – you can Skype on the console really easily – and going on the net, checking Facebook, that sort of thing.” I feel that this sets it in stone that they are trying to chip away at the apple handheld market, if you remember, Steve Jobs stated that the iPod Touch would first and foremost be marketed as a gaming machine. Although Sony is considered a gaming company by gamers, they are David in this handheld market to Apple’s Goliath. You have to remember that Apple owns 75% of the MP3 market and boasts over 21,000 games, where as Sony only has about 600+ games and 13,000 television shows and movies.However, some may argue that Sony may win in the quality over quantity argument. I don’t think the PSP Go will be able to compete in the social networking aspect of the market, this is due to the fact that the iPhone/iTouch have applications that integrate twitter, facebook, or myspace. Sony is also trying to take away at the minigame market with the introduction of PSP Minis. However, with the high prices on the PSP Minis, the iPod minigames will still be a much better value overall.
When asked about the negative reaction from retailers over carrying the PSP Go, Backhouse responded saying, “We were very aware of concerns when we went into it and I actually expected a lot more negative responses than we actually got. They were really quite fine with it. They see it as a way of getting people into the store because it’s new interest, a new product. And they’ve had such strong sales as well of PSP 3000 almost off the back of it. 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.” This is not the most reassuring statement to hear the PSP product manager say. I mean, sure it is good that retailers weren’t as apprehensive to carry the PSP Go, but the number of retailers that protested caused a fair amount of commotion in the gaming community. Although it may not cause too much drama, it still takes away from some consumers who were on the fence with their Go purchase. Honestly, if you heard that a retailer did not want to carry a product that you had slight interest in, wouldn’t that take away a good amount of your desire to even make the purchase. Just remember, even a little rain can ruin a days plans.
With the future of the PSP Go uncertain, the only real indicator of sales will be the NPD figures. Until we see hard evidence, it will be hard to know if Sony’s foray into the digital distribution model will pay off. You all know how I feel about this, but I would love to hear any thoughts or feedback on the Go from all of you, so make sure to leave comments and give your two cents.