October 28th, 2009, 21:13 Posted By: wraggster
Sony may surprise industry watchers and consumers when it eventually comes to making an announcement about the PSP's next major evolution.
While the platform holder released its latest PSP model, the UMD-free PSPgo on October 1, developer talk on the Tokyo Game Show floor in late September was of the system's next iteration, PSP-4000, which it is claimed will support Sony's proprietary UMD format when it launches in 2010.
Sony has come in for some criticism regarding its handling of the PSPgo since it was officially announced at E3 in June. Multiple retailers and consumers have complained about the system's hefty price tag. Some in the former camp remain unconvinced about the benefit of stocking the system due to its inability to support physical media and hence game trade-ins and second hand sales. Others in the latter camp have been unimpressed by Sony's UMD-to-digital solution for upgraders. In Europe only, a "PSPgo UMD rewards scheme" offered those who upgraded from older models to the PSPgo a choice of three free titles from a select list as compensation for the fact that they couldn't play their old games on their new handheld.
Perhaps more interesting is what we don't know - what's going on behind the scenes at Sony. While the company stressed at the time of the PSPgo's announcement that it intended to support "a shared strategy" between physical media and downloadable content, many assumed its focus would inevitably shift to the latter as time went by and that the new handheld represented the platform holder finally breaking away from its much criticised UMD format. After all, the firm said in July that it had "planned to release a PSP model without a UMD drive since the very beginning" and that it had simply been waiting for the digital distribution market to mature.
Sony has claimed that PSPgo's introduction has bumped up PSP platform sales in the US, the UK and Australia, but there's been no publicly released sales data to support this yet. In fact, the system sold just 1,000 units in Australia in its first week, with Sony acknowledging that the numbers weren't "massive" but claiming it was unconcerned "because there are still some issues that we need to work through".
So has a potentially disappointing commercial start forced Sony to take a step back from pursuing a digital-only strategy, or was that never the company's intention in the first place? Nothing's clear at the moment, but just days ahead of the PSPgo's Japanese launch on November 1, some members of the country's development community appear convinced that physical media will play a major role in the platform's future.
Sony Computer Entertainment UK declined to comment on this report.
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