How will retail handle the new PSP?

The next PSP might not be unveiled for another two weeks, but retailers are already debating the merits of the device.

Sources have confirmed to MCV that the next iteration of the PlayStation Portable, which will feature a cosmetic facelift and ditches the UMD disc format, will form a key part of the format holder’s press conference at E3 on June 2nd.

Games for the device, which sports a new compact ‘slide open’ design that conceals the controls under the screen when not in use, will be primarily available through the Store on the PlayStation Network.

MCV also understands that select developers and publishers have already been briefed on the device.

Speaking in an interview published today, Sony’s European studio boss Michael Denny reiterated that the platform holder is planning to introduce new IP to the device later this year.

He said: We are looking for new and innovative PSP titles all the time. We already have downloadable content on the platform and are encouraging more of that as well. It’s the same as we have done on PS3.”

But leading games retailers are already asking questions about what that strategy might mean for them.

Online independent ShopTo told MCV that it is wary of a download service becoming the main way to supply games to the device.

I do not see why a retailer should push users towards going to an official site to download a game,” said the site’s Igor Cipoletta. There’s the risk that next time they’ll go directly to them again, unless Sony and the publishers are going to run an affiliate programme for the retailers.”

But bricks and mortar retailers are nevertheless optimistic about any upgrade to the device.

Should the device properly eschew software sales at retail, Asda’s Jon Biggs added, retailers will have to carefully examine how to position the device: It would certainly need careful consideration to understand the viability of a hardware platform as a retail proposition without the ability to bring consumers back to the store for software.”

But a level-headed GAME says it is keen to work with Sony and keep watching and learning what consumers want when in comes to digital distribution – and it isn’t worried about digital sales harming its business just yet.

We recognise that digital distribution will be part of the way consumers shop in future – we will just work very closely with the hardware manufacturers and the publishers as we do today and look at the ways in which we can ensure that we are driving the best value from our marketplace going forward," said CEO Lisa Morgan

She added: Regardless of all of these things that are evolving in terms of distribution streams, customers will tell us the way in which they want to shop.

Today, customers predominantly want to shop in our stores and a growing number want ecommerce.”

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