Sony to end PSP shipments this year

UPDATE:Yahoo reports that European shipments of the system will end later this year, and that American shipments ended in January.

ORIGINAL STORY: Time finally appears to have caught up with Sony’s pioneering PlayStation Portable.

Polygon reports that shipments of the device to the Japanese market will be terminated later this month. To mark its quiet demise two new hardware Value Packs have been announced, as well as a Vita discount program for those who trade-in their old machine.

Sony disrupted the handheld market in 2003 when it announced the distinctly non-Nintendo PSP. The device arrived in Japan a year later and in Europe in 2005, smashing UK hardware debut records in the process with week one sales of 180k units – a record that was only broken last November with the launch of PS4.

PSP spent much of its life being maligned as a failure, mainly because it was never able to match the performance of Nintendo’s DS. This is an unfair assessment, however. DS is the best selling handheld ever and PSP’s 80m or so hardware sales can be seen as nothing other than a remarkable achievement.

But the truth remains that its legacy for many will be one of failure. Sony’s attempt to push its UMD disc format for the machine ultimately held it back and compromised the PSP’s functionality, reducing battery life, adding weight and increasing fragility.

Trying to convince consumers that a proprietary and expensive disc format was the future when smartphones and media players housing dozens of digital movies were coming to the fore was always a doomed strategy.

And Sony’s attempts to rectify the problem with the launch of the disc-less PSP Go 2008 was a commercial disaster. This wasn’t because of the hardware, however – that was decent – but a digital-only machine that relied on an under-populated and over-priced digital store was never going to work.

All in all its biggest failure was perhaps its lack of killer IP. How many truly memorable PSP exclusive titles can you recall?

None of which should detract from what the PSP did achieve. It looks highly likely that Vita will be retired with just a fraction of PSP’s lifetime sales yet will be viewed as a greater success by many. PSP and Vita remain possibly the greatest example of the disconnect between popular opinion and commercial reality.

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