Those in the know react to Sony's next handheld iteration
Though a leaked picture is worth a thousand words, Sony had much more to say about the PSPgo during its press conference at E3 last week.
The new handheld is clearly more than just a sleek update; its screen size is deliberately smaller, its controls are pushed out of sight, its physical media no longer exists. Soon, if everything goes to plan, its game library will classify the device as a handheld for cheaper, daring niche titles and lucrative casual games.
On that last point, it’s ultimately the development community who will either make or break Sony’s strategy. And so, Develop has consulted a number of developers to get their thoughts on four key issues surrounding the PSP Go, including whether they would like to develop games for the new system.
Develop’s PSPgo panel consists of:
Andrew Oliver – CTO, Blitz Games Studios
Chris Kingsley – CTO, Rebellion Developments
David Perry – Industry Consultant
Ed Daly, General Manager, Zoë Mode
James Brooksby – Studio Head, Doublesix
Jon Burton – President, Traveller's Tales
Martyn Brown – Studio Director, Team 17
Miles Jacobson – Studio Director, Sports Interactive
Here’s what they all thought:
On being a digital-only platform
Digital is absolutely the way to go and hopefully Sony will find ways to reduce the cost (to gamers) over the previous UMD game costs. Going digital opens up concepts like free-to-play and micro-transactions based on a single Sony currency. As there’s no cost of goods, new pricing models can (and should) be experimented with.
Digital downloads are a risk – it depends what Sony has available to download – we haven't been approached about any of our games. If Sony has a good back catalogue I would be interested in purchasing one.
I think the shops shelves are getting too many formats to support and whilst the PSPgo is nice and portable, the game discs are actually quite bulky so it makes sense. The iPod has demonstrated that, given a nice small device and a good interface and easy buying process, people are happy to download content. I think this will work and move gamers to accepting legal digital downloads, which is the way we want the market to go.
As a developer, it doesn't make a difference to me. Our last version of Football manager Handheld was available as a UMD and via download, and we're not looking to change this policy.
It is a bold move into the future by Sony but one that was bound to happen sooner or later. It will open up a lot of opportunities for a wider range of games from established genres to new innovative concepts that otherwise would be too risky to develop.
I think it's fair to say that the UMD as a media format never really got going and I think it's clever for Sony to embrace digital distribution, which given that Team17 are pretty much solely digital distribution these days, makes us very optimistic that we've made the right calls.
Of course, with Doublesix being a digital download focused studio, we wholeheartedly support this move and know that this is the way the future will look. Clearly there will still be ways of buying PSP games through retail for some time to come as it is a major part of our industry, but we can all see clearly that the future is all-digital, so the PSPgo is the shape of things to come.
Going all digital means a more of a direct connection with the consumer. We can leverage the ability to update and innovate quickly in response to player feedback, and pricing can be more flexible. Even more interesting to us as developers is that we can really rely on the player's connectivity, which raises a lot of possibility for community and social play.
On hardware design
Having the PSP become truly pocket-sized definitely increases its appeal as a handheld gaming device - smaller means more portable. The sliding cover is a good solution for keeping the display real estate as large as possible.
I think the sliding movement that hides the controls is a great move and makes the whole package an object of desire, which is needed to compete in the evolving handheld space. It really is so much lighter and really does fit in your jeans pocket. The screen is a good size, really crisp and clean, and great for games and movies.
I’ve yet to actually hold one, but it looks very neat and stylish. Hiding the buttons behind the sliding panel is a great way of keeping the screen nice and big whilst ensuring the buttons are easily accessible when needed.
We think the PSPgo is a bold and exciting move for the platform. As ever, Sony's design is desirable and has a great image.
The new PSP design is fantastic. It's got that special Sony aesthetic that really makes it stand out, and it's a perfect pocket size.
On Stimulating industry growth
As a gamer I always look forward to any new hardware releases as they keep interest peaked and inspire us to think about what will come next. This model is showing us the shape of things to come. I think that the consumer will see this new model as sleek and exciting so I can see it on many "must buy" lists in the various tech magazines this year.
The PSPgo can enable the industry to sell games cheaper - while not dropping quality. Publishers and developers can still make the same money per unit which is good for the industry and consumer. It’s said there will be a lot more casual games on the system because of the reduced cost, which makes sense for a portable console and hopefully we’ll see some great innovative titles. I certainly hope the strategy works.
I can only hope the PSPgo can stimulate the industry to grow further. More hardware out there leads to more people to entertain with our titles.
In the past the games market has always been about maximising shelf space and sales in the first few months, but this can really help to expand the market and extend the sales life of titles for many months or even years. The PSPgo could be just the thing to start the long tail wagging!
With digital download, as we've seen on PSN and XBLA, you have the opportunity to innovate with experimental games that may never have seen the light of day at retail. That allows the possibility of creating new genres that widen and excite the marketplace.
On developing for Go
We're already making games for the PSP, and nothing in the new hardware stops me from wanting to do that. We will continue carrying on supporting the original PSP though for as long as we can, as that has been our market on the handheld so far.
I doubt we would make a specific game for the device - if it was an easy port from our PSP games, then no problem. Developers who have dabbled in XBOX live arcade (which we never have) would probably be interested, but we have limited resources for "unique" games on a single platform.
We are certainly interested and whilst we haven’t, at this point, started our own PSP titles, because we are too busy on other projects, we have licensed our Blitz Tech middleware out to make new PSP games.
We are more than interested, the PSPgo falls under our remit and we can't wait to get started making games for it.
We are absolutely interested in developing for PSPgo. At Zoe Mode we've been huge fans of the PSP since we developed Crush - we think it's a fantastic device and are looking forward to how the PSP Go opens up opportunities for more innovative ideas on Sony's smaller, slicker handheld
Absolutely, we're right behind this new device. We see a bright future ahead for the PSP.
I'm sure we'll be supporting the new PSP with engaging digital titles in the future.