Smart or Stupid: Sony Supporting Three Handheld Systems…At the Same Time

By Kyle Durant

February 15, 2011

For those not aware Sony will have three portable devices co-existing by the end of the year. The 1st is the obvious PSP-3000 model. The 2nd consists of the NGP which acts like the PSP’s successor. Sony has implied that the NGP will be formally named, priced, and released by the end of the year (in Japan). The 3rd and final device is the “Xperia Play” or better known as the PlayStation Phone which is said to hit stateside early spring. So is it smart or stupid of Sony to support three systems, in the relatively “same” market, at the same time, with all three most likely competing with one other? Hit read more for…more!

Why it is smart: The PSP is arguably one of the best handheld devices while just behind the DS in sales. In fact Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios, has bragged that the company is still struggling to meet consumer demand for the platform since its launch in 2004. (With over 68 million units sold at the time of 2010, who can argue that fact?) So why not sell the NGP along side with it? After all the new product needs time to mature and if nothing else why take away that which some seeketh most. The NGP looks to break new ground on the handheld field with its apps and engine which will hopefully garner the attention of old and new consumers alike. “The NGP features everything Sony can and wants to do today.” –Shuhei Yoshida

This marketing strategy allows consumers to buy or choose a portable gaming system (from Sony) with traits for different types of gamers. For example, if a gamer wanted a standard handheld device with music/video playing capabilities and a basic gaming feel…the PSP would be the obvious choice. If one wanted to innovate and have a handheld system with engine power nearly of that as a PS3…the NGP would be the way to go. This choice makes it so gamers don’t have to conform to the latest technology or be stuck with “last year’s model”.

Finally, the Xperia Play, which isn’t exactly in the same market as the other two but is advertised as such. Nearly all of the videos featuring the Xperia Play, on the internet, focus on its ability to act as a gaming handheld. But let’s not forget the core of Xperia Play…a 119 x 62 x 16 mm, 400 MB, Android phone. So it is not hard to put the NGP & PSP in the gaming category and the Xperia Play in the mobile phone category. In this sense, Sony hopes to rake in cash in two separate markets with three separate devices.

Why it is stupid: Essentially, Sony has three of their devices primarily competing with one another. You have to figure at least one handheld will suffer in sales because of it. Not everyone is made of money and if some are lucky, they will only buy one of these three handhelds. If the NGP turns out to be too expensive, gamers will go to the PSP to get their gaming fix. If a person wants the NGP, sees it is too costly, and doesn’t want to get the old model…Xperia Play may well be their choice. Not to mention the classic situation where the PSP simply gets left behind and overshadowed by its successor.

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To be blunt, Sony is managing three different devices which means (yup you guessed it) three times the cost. With this much money going in, how much exactly is coming back out? Look at it this way. Sony has three different expenses and the NGP, PSP, and Xperia Play are out in stores. A customer buys one device and leaves never to buy another Sony handheld again. However, they come back and buy a Nintendo DS. (If you want this imaginary person to buy a 3DS than by all means change the story to your heart’s content). In theory, Nintendo profited the most from this transaction because Sony has their market spread so thin. (Yes, I realize that Nintendo manages the DSi, DS, and soon to be 3Ds but they are basically the same system just different model).

No one can say for sure what will happen once each device is simultaneously on the market. Consumers are hard people to figure out (yes that means you) and certain events, promotions, and outings can lead to many different scenarios. Time will tell if the outcome of each handheld is good, bad, or acceptable. Either way, the Xperia Play and the NGP both look like very promising systems in their own right.

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Kyle Durant

Pretty much your above average gamer who plays games profusely and appreciates them even more. Been gaming since the NES but is in love with anything PlayStation. No I am not a typical fanboy...I appreciate each system for their strengths and recognize their weaknesses. I just love the PS brand. (Think along the lines as someone who likes to read but loves one author in particular). Ever since my time as #2 in the world at Resistance 2, I have taken video games much more seriously. Don't get me wrong, I am a laid back, fun guy to game with...but I always play to win.

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