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Editor's note: Brendan sees a lot of untapped potential in Sony's PSP Go. I'm not sure it's quite the panacea he thinks it is, but he definitely convinced me that Sony is grossly mishandling the product. -James
The PlayStation brand has atrophied. A last-place console, a last-place handheld, and many questionable decisions define PlayStation this generation. It’s time to fix that.
Sony has a weapon so secret that they don’t even realize what it is, and it could turn the tide in their favor if they just started using it. I'm talking about the PSP. The device is as unremarkable as its library of games, but the PSP could be Sony’s game changer. All they have to do is use it and put an end to this innovation stagnation.
1) Kill the 3000 and roll with the Go
While the PSP Go isn’t a next-generation PSP, it is the successor to the PSP 3000. Sony should treat it as such and discontinue the PSP 3000.
The problem with the PSP Go isn’t that it’s smaller or lacks a UMD drive; the problem is that it’s $80 dollars more than its tech-identical brother. When a hardware manufacturer releases a slim-branded model of anything, the pricing goes down, not up. That’s basic, video-game economics. Trying to inflate the price because it's a new gadget only works when you are actually selling a new gadget. Sony isn’t.
An overpriced console isn't going to usher in the digital-distribution revolution. 3DO didn’t bring us the age of CD-ROM-based gaming, the first PlayStation did — because it was affordable. Digital distribution is the future, and Sony has the chance to shape that future right now.
Selling the PSP Go at a loss and discontinuing the PSP 3000 would be good for business. Increased PSP Go sales means that more revenue flows directly to Sony through their PlayStation Network store. It also means that used sales will dry up because digital games aren’t resellable. This will further increase Sony’s revenue stream.
2) Unify the PSN Experience
The PSP Go and the PlayStation 3 can both connect and interact with PSN. Sony is the only company with a handheld and television-based console that can do that. The problem is that the PSP Go cannot interact with PSN the same way the PS3 does, and Sony needs to change that.
I say give the PSP Go a permanent connection to PSN like the PS3. When the PSP Go is on and Wi-Fi is available, it should be online. Sony should allow users access to friends lists, messaging, and the ability to see what people are playing. And as cool gift to brand loyalists, they should add Trophies to PSP games.
PSP Trophies serve a double purpose. They add a cool feature for users, and more importantly, they give Sony the advantage in a game that Microsoft has been playing badly for years. Microsoft has yet to deliver with any of their Live Anywhere devices. Sony can patch in the ability, nonchalantly acknowledge it, and beat Microsoft to the punch.
Most importantly, unifying the experience does more than legitimize the PSN platform: It also fulfills the promise of the PSP Go as a true multimedia device — something that plays games, movies, and music, and now something that keeps you connected to your friends through PSN.
3) Save-File Syncing
The PS3 is a system that you play on a couch. The PSP is a system that you play when you aren’t near a PS3. An increasing number of PSN titles are becoming cross platform. PlayStation Minis and PSOne Classics are playable on both the PS3 and the PSP. While they aren’t top-of-the-line titles for either system, they are still cross-compatible — an innovation that shouldn’t be overlooked. Imagine if a user could sync his save files from one device to another. While it seems like a limited-use feature, one should never underestimate its potential “wow” factor.
You’re playing Final Fantasy 7 on the couch, and you realize you have a dentist appointment. You save, exit to the PS3's operating system, and sync your save file to your PSP Go. Then you pick up where you left off while you're waiting at dentist's office. When you get back home, you reverse the process, and you are playing on the TV again — simple, elegant and chock-full of PR potential.
The bottom line is that innovation doesn’t have to come from new tech. This isn’t about 3D, and it’s not about motion tracking. It’s simply about putting the puzzle together with the pieces you already have. Sony has more pieces than anyone else in this puzzle. They just need to put them together.
Brendan is one of the co-founders of fourplayercoop.com. While his editorial musings are few and far between, he can be heard every week on Four Player Co-Op's Bullshot! podcast.
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