February 15th, 2007, 19:04 Posted By: wraggster
An anonymous UK developer, writing in the comments section of, this Gamesblog post has provided a scathing assesment of the PSP's future. "There are virtually no PSP games being developed in the UK," he claims, citing comparatively high development costs and small userbase as key explanations.
"At a GDC conference in Brighton last year, everyone walked away from the PSP. Developers had to budget for PS2 content on a handheld with a tiny userbase. Its not cost effective, (especially when the alternative DS has a massive userbase and is cheap to develop for).
At the same time, Nintendo had sent Wiimotes that plug into Gamecube devkits to all registered developers. Instead of forking out thousands of quid to Sony for devkits that they still weren't releasing, studios were coming up with innovative Wii ideas. Instead of training coders to program the world's most complicated Cell processor, the Gamecube team just switched to the Wii."
A quick look at the PSP release schedule shows a flurry of activity heading into mid-March (just in time for Easter), but things thin out afterwards. Stalwarts like SOCOM and Metal Gear Solid should prop things up, but in terms of true Triple A titles coming from British developers, there's really only Manhunt 2, plus Sumo Digital's conversions of Virtua Tennis and Driver 76.
It could be argued, of course, that major UK-developed DS titles are just as rare. Diddy Kong Racing DS, perhaps. What else? Britain has never really been a major force in the handheld market, with publishers usually outsourcing portable conversions to smaller third-party studios, which are often given just six months to port console code across to handheld platforms.
Look at Metacritic's review scores for Nintendo DS games. As far as I can tell, only two of the top 20 - Metroid Prime Hunters and Tony Hawk's American Sk8land - were developed outside of Japan. This is in stark contrast to the console development market where the West has a growing share of the Triple A segment. Interestingly, at least 12 of the PSP top 20 are Western releases (although only a couple of them originated in the UK).
In Japan, there are loads of cool little developers like Tose, HAL Laboratories and AlphaDream, bashing out colourful imaginative handheld titles. The UK has the excellent Sumo Digital, of course, but considering the fact that the DS is cheap to code for - why aren't there many, many more? Britain is stuffed with small studios - Scotland might well have more mobile game developers than any other country outside of the Far East. What's preventing them from embracing handheld?
This isn't about opportunity, it's about psychology. There is no Western equivalent of kawaii - studios just don't get cute. I've been in dozens of them and the cultural references are always similar: Blade Runner, Lord of the Rings, Aliens, Frank Miller, William Gibson, Buffy, Star Wars - this is not the stuff of cute, effective handheld gaming.
PSP panders to a peculiar Western vision of portable gaming - a 'proper' console, playing 'proper' console games on a smaller screen. Thing is, I don't know about you, but I don't want to feel cool and edgy on the bus, I like the warmth of cute, iconic graphics. I don't know why.
No PSP development in the UK? Sony's embattled platform has masses of potential - it's a beautiful piece of kit. But it is being failed. There must be a combination out there of Japanese aesthetics and the Western vision of cool. Until then, the handheld development coma continues, only the faintest blips of awareness puncturing the darkness.
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