Sony's PSP

Ever since the PlayStation Portable(PSP) was released in December 12th, 2004 in Japan, March 24th, 2005 in North America, and September 1st, 2005 in Europe it hasn’t exactly been the breakthrough in portable gaming that everyone was expecting.

At first, the PSP seemed to be going well with the best first week sales record of any handheld ever, coupled with a great launch line up including games like Lumines and Wipeout Pure. Despite such a positive start, things started slowing down. Soon after the release, came a terrible drought of software. Sadly, for everyone who purchased a PSP the drought hasn’t let up as much as one would hope. This drought still continues today. Approximately 263 games have been released since the PSP launch, although the number differs a little in each region. And although this may seem like a lot to choose from, there are very few games that are actually worth picking up. Most are fairly mediocre games or just plain lazy ports of their console counter parts. And there hasn’t been a game that has stood out as much as Nintendogs or Mario Kart DS since they released Lumines.



Why don’t they make more games?

Why aren’t there more games for the PSP, you ask? Well, this could be for a number of reasons. Let’s look at the history of portable game systems for a moment. The Gameboy was undoubtedly the system that made portable gaming popular. It consisted of two face buttons, a start and select button, and a directional pad and it played 2D games like the NES or Sega Genesis but on what can only be described as a dot matrix screen. It was later upgraded to the Gameboy Advance and GBA SP with a few variations in between such as the Gameboy Color. Now what made this system so popular was that you could play all your favorite games on the go. On top of that, it was something new that no one had ever done before.

Fast forward to today, where we are now in a time where you can finally play 3D games on a handheld system. Nintende were again the first 3D portable with the Nintendo DS. The DS while being graphically inferior to the PSP, does feature two screens, one of which is a touch screen which allows for a new and immersive kind of game play that’s never been seen before. The PSP took a more traditional approach opting to use the same style as the PlayStation (PS) controller and even features its own analogue nub. Not to mention the fact it features a beautiful widescreen display with graphical capabilities that have never been seen on a handheld before.

You see, the Gameboy was released when 2D consoles were still the standard in homes and because no one had ever made a handheld console before, it flourished. Nintendo found a niche and they filled it with their content. People wanted to play their favorite games anywhere and that’s what they gave them. Even after, 3D consoles were released, the Gameboy and later the GBA continued to be popular. This was because although we were at a point where the newest thing was 3D games, some people wanted to play, what was considered, amazing looking games, where as others [still]wanted to continue playing their favorite 2D games.

It was at this point, the developers split into two groups, 3D developers and 2D developers. The 3D developers would concentrate on making games for the home consoles and the 2D developers would make games for the portable systems. [This trend continued late into the GBA’s life and continues today on the DS with games like Castlevania: Order of Ecclessia]The PSP however, brings a rather different situation when it comes to the PSP and the current systems surrounding it. On a home console you have graphical capabilities and available memory beyond that of the PSP as well as offering more control via more buttons.

By this logic shouldn’t the Nintendo DS also be failing?

The answer to this is simply no. While the DS isn’t as graphically charged as the PSP, or have as many buttons as any home console, it still has something unique, it has a touch screen. The problem with the PSP isn’t that it’s a bad piece of hardware, the problem is that there isn’t anything unique about it. I hate to say it, but the PSP doesn’t offer anything that makes developers want to develop on it. It all boils down to features. Home consoles are capable of higher resolutions, more processing power and superior textures, as well as more buttons for the developer to use as they please. The Nintendo DS has a lower quality in graphics but has a touch screen and a stylus that let’s you do things that have never been done before. That feature is what saves the DS from failure. The PSP’s dilemma is that it’s stuck in a middle ground. This middle ground is its downfall. It’s capable of graphics that have never been seen on a portable before but it doesn’t do anything that particularly stands out. It’s almost in the place of a teenager. No longer a little boy, but not quite a man. Another example that’s already proven itself is that of Xbox Live. The fact is that when you compare the number of multiplayer games on the PS2 with the number on Xbox, the Xbox wins by far. Simply, because it has its Xbox Live feature, this feature attracts developers to make a great multiplayer experience along with the single player portion.

Although, the PSP may be missing some key features that may attract more developers and in result produce more games, it is still a great piece of hardware that’s more than competent enough to offer photos, music, video and most importantly games. Let’s hope the PSP Go! can turn Sony’s luck around in the portable market.