June 25th, 2008, 21:58 Posted By: wraggster
Three years ago, the PlayStation Portable landed in the collective laps of gamers and the general public, and the reaction was mixed. Quality games rolled out but a perception that there was nothing to play on the platform dominated. UMD movies flooded the marketplace but few people were building up libraries. The system was selling but the Nintendo DS dominated the charts and made the Sony install base look tiny.
The system continued on its way with games and applications, but it wouldn't be until Sony President and CEO Jack Tretton took the stage at last year's E3 and held up the PSP Slim that stores would see a boom in interest. Suddenly, folks were scooping up the system as fast as they could to play classics such as Daxter alongside new titles such as Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron and God of War: Chains of Olympus.
Yet, here we are thundering towards E3 2008, and the Interwebs have been abuzz with PSP commentary. There aren't that many games announced for the show, there haven't been that many games released this year, and the outlook past E3 is foggy at best.
Is the PSP dying?
Rather than just give you our own ramblings on the PSP situation -- which we have included at the end of this piece -- the IGN PlayStation Team grabbed SCEA Director of Hardware Marketing John Koller for a 30-minute interview about all things PSP. We found out about GPS, a downloadable movie system, what third parties are looking to do with the system, and Koller even answered a few of our reader questions.
Let's grab a cup o'info.
IGN: Well, John, thank you so much for joining us. I think one of the big things on IGN readers' minds is where exactly the PSP is. In your opinion, what is the state of the PSP?
John Koller: The state of the PSP is very strong. It's a high-growth business for us. It's a highly demanded product. It's red hot for us -- we've had issues keeping it in stock in the last six to seven months, more of a supply issue really than anything else. And the demand has been there really since the price drop when the PSP-2000 launched last September. Overall, the sales are up -- just to put a number with it -- sales are up 87 percent since the 2000 launch in September. Year over year, we're up really across the board. It's very, very successful for us. It's a big part of SCEA, SCEE, and SCEI overall. It's a very important product. So, for us, there are a lot of things that are happening with the PSP, a lot of things that are going to happen. The kind of where we've been -- we launched at a time in 2005 when it was more of an older consumer that was getting into it. We're at a point now where this is a teen proposition -- 15, 16 year olds. We're schooled regularly in focus groups on how easy it is to put PSPs and hide them in books, the back of classrooms, and things of that nature. It's much more of a teen type product now. I think as we go forward, we're going to see a lot more integration with PlayStation 3, particularly as the install base of the PS3 continues to grow stratospherically in many ways, and the integration that is going to occur there is part and parcel of the strategy that the PS3 is the living room hub and really where your entertainment flows. Then, your PSP is your digital living room on the go, and being able to access your PS3 in a wide variety of ways is really a key part of our overall branding strategy. That's going to be something that you're going to see expanded on in future firmware updates and other things.
John Koller: That's a big part of it as well. So, long-winded answer to your question. PSP is very, very strong. We're very bullish on it here, and it's an exciting time.
IGN: You talked a little bit about that 2005 launch. When the PSP first hit, for a long time it seemed like it had this reputation that it couldn't get past in a lot of people's minds that "Oh, there's no good games. There's blah, blah." That's ignoring titles like Daxter, Hot Shots Golf, Lumines, I can go on -- these titles were there, but it had this reputation and then E3 comes around last year and you guys announce the 2000, the PSP Slim, and it seemed like immediately perceptions changed. When those bundles were released, people were scooping them up and, like you said, it's been hard to keep those in stock or get people the ones they specifically wanted. It seems like right now, there's this lull, and I think you have a lot of people that have bought those Slims wondering. There's been a lot of talk -- I'm sure you see on the boards all the time -- is the PSP dying? How do you respond to criticism like that or comments like that?
Chains of Olympus -- the PSP blueprint from here on out.John Koller: Well, it's absolutely not dying. We're at a point actually where the counter to that is that it's actually doing very, very well. From a gaming standpoint, I think that there's a few things that are happening. There's been a calibration amongst publishers of how to publish for the PSP. You bring up some good points that initially a lot of the games that launched were either ports or games that didn't really meet the demographic's interest, and that was as we were shifting down to that teen demo. I think that a lot of publishers were unsure about who was purchasing and who owned the PSP. We have been -- and I guess where we are now is at a point were today publishers are seeing the results of decisions made 18 months ago. Where they were saying, "You know what, maybe we'll try this or that or maybe we'll wait a little bit to see how the PSP does." The level of games that we have now are very strong on the quality side, and I think, in many ways, have kind of followed what we have been preaching here is that the key to success in publishing on the PSP is to launch larger franchise games with unique gameplay underneath. That's a non-port type strategy. That's something like a God of War or Crisis Core where it's a large brand name, it's a very good game from a quality standpoint, but it's unique. You can't play it on console, and it avoids the cannibalization that you would get from someone who may own a console and play their PSP at home, which is a common occurrence. Given that situation, many consumers were choosing one or the other, and that's not a situation that we want to put a consumer in. That's another point to be made, and then the third thing is a lot of interest in the PSN, the PlayStation Network, and the downloadable distribution there. There's some considerable resources there being placed against development in that area as well. So, I think the net of this is that over the course of the next six to twelve months, there's going to be a tremendous amount of excitement about the franchises that are coming to PSP, the quality of the games, and then also the games that are going to be easily downloaded that are very engaging but for a less expensive price. I think that those areas are really going to instigate a lot of excitement around that category.
IGN: Are we going to see stuff from these unique franchises coming to the PSP soon? I mean, it's been a very quiet first half of the year here. There are exceptions obviously -- Patapon, God of War -- but then we ran into this section where we weren't having any games released or at least not that many. Now even looking at the E3 list on IGN.com -- which granted is only what people are willing to talk about; obviously everyone has stuff under their hats they want to try and blow out at this thing -- but you figure right now our list earlier in the week had about 100 games on it and only six of them were PSP. Is that cause for concern or are we going to hear about these things soon?
John Koller: You should hear about them. I'm not sure about soon because it's up to each publisher, but we have a very good idea of what's coming. We know both first and third party and without scooping anything because it's up to each publisher what they want to announce at E3, the franchises that are being brought over to PSP or currently are being considered to be brought over to PSP are very, very strong. The gameplay that is going to come from them is excellent. I think it depends whether all of those titles are announced at E3, but I can tell you that on the first-party side here at SCEA, we see tremendous opportunity on the PSP. Our worldwide studio team is actively developing titles for that platform and we've been on a road show amongst every, major third-party publisher -- which we actually just finished last week -- and have been talking to them about really how to publish on the PSP, and the level of excitement is really palpable. You can really feel the publishers getting back into the platform if they had walked away. That's really good news across the board. I think in talking to all of them, and seeing some of the gameplay and even talking about some of the franchises that they're going to bring over, it's a good time to be a PSP owner.
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