Tough Love: PSP Go

It saddens me to see a great concept implemented so poorly. In this case, Sony had a real awesome idea on their hands, but fell flat on their faces trying to implement it.

For the uninformed, here’s the lowdown: the PSP Go is an alternative to the regular PSP3000. Sony is promoting a dual platform, so that the two can live on the shelves in harmony, and thus the PSP Go isn’t necessarily better than the PSP, just different. Besides the form factor, it differs from the regular PSP by swapping out the UMD drive for 16GB of flash memory, and Bluetooth. The lack of the UMD drive makes it lighter, and probably smaller as well.
Without a UMD drive, how do you play games? You download them of course! Yep, that’s right. The PSP Go relies entirely on Sony’s Playstation Network digital distribution marketplace to obtain content. It is “portable” defined.
Sounds, awesome, right? Having several full length games that you can switch between on the fly without having to fumble with discs? Oh, it is. But besides how sexy it looks, the PSP Go’s portability is probably one of the only good things it has going for it. Indeed, I can’t imagine Sony really selling many Go’s at all, because I can’t imagine why anyone would want one. Let’s go through the reasons why.
No plans for UMD conversion; Sony initially announced that they were considering a way for current PSP owners to trade in their UMD copies for digital ones. It was recently announced that they scrapped whatever plan they might have had. Also recently, it was announced that Sony had thought of a little something for the UK. Buyers of a Go can activate up 3 of certain UMDs they might have as legitimate downloads. So you can only take 3 of your games with you onto the Go. It’s better than nothing, like what SCEA’s doing, but it’s still not satisfactory, given the premium they’re asking for one these systems. Which brings me to my next problem.

$250 Price tag; Besides the fact that it’s just plain expensive, here’s the problem with this. It’s only $50 less than the PS3. For just $50 more consumers could grab a PS3 instead, which has Bluray, a harddrive several times bigger, a far healthier game library, and….seriously, do I really need to prove to you why it’s stupid that the PSP Go is almost as expensive as a PS3? On the other hand, it’s also $80 more than the PSP3000, which is compatible both with digital content and UMDs. You’re getting less content, for more money. So let’s say you’ve never bought a PSP before, have no UMDs to get mad about. Why would you buy the PSP Go over the PSP3000? I can’t think of a valid answer besides the reason trendy Mac users use: It’s sexy.
802.11b; Yeah, you read correctly. This system is confined to 802.11b wireless signals. The same system that relies entirely on giant 1GB+ downloadable games. To hell with that. To be fair, it is possible that you could do all downloading on PS3 or PC, and then just sync it over periodically, like the relationship iPods and iTunes have. But it’s still absurd that for $80 more, Sony couldn’t give us at LEAST a G-type signal, if not N. Really guys? People call Apple overpriced, but for $50 less they’ve got 802.11G on the iPod Touch. This is inexcusable.
Game availability; I’ll give Sony partial credit for this one, because they are making an effort to ensure that at least a very large majority of the PSP library becomes available as digital content on the Playstation Store. Just last week, they added nearly 100 titles to the already fairly sizable library of PSP games available on the storefront. If they want to sell any significant amount of systems at all, they’ll add another 100 this week. But the fact is, it’s probable that not all games are going to be available digitally. This means the chance constantly exists that PSP Go owners will miss out on some big, awesome game. In fact, it’s already happened. Dissidia Final Fantasy isn’t available on the PS Store. I looked, the demo’s there, but the full game’s not. PSP Go owners have no way of playing this game.
PSP Minis; With introduction of the Go, Sony also revealed their plans for a new game section, called PSP Minis, which would cater to “bite sized” games less than 100mb in size. This is no doubt an attempt to replicate Apple’s success with the App Store, but there’s a problem. There isn’t a single game in that section selling for under $5. I’ve heard that Sony simply doesn’t allow them to set the prices lower than that, which I hope isn’t true, because it’s foolish. The App Store took off because of the overwhelming high number of quality games selling for $0.99 a pop. You could hop onto the App Store from your iPhone or iPod Touch and grab a surprisingly great game for dirt cheap. That ain’t happening with PSP Minis. This might not be so bad if developers actually made their games worth the price, but so far this hasn’t appeared to be the case. Tetris is on there, selling for $10. This is a 25 year old game, there’s nothing new about it. And it’s the most expensive Mini in the section. When I can buy full length PSone games like Final Fantasy 7 for the same (or less) price as Tetris, we have a serious problem.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take a genius to see that the PSP Go is, in almost no way, worth it’s price tag. Technophiles will eat it up just fine, but anyone actually wanting to get some use out of the thing will probably find the 3000 (or even the DSi/Lite) a fine alternative. Current PSP owners and people seeking value in their purchases need not apply.

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