The writing's on the wall for PSP, there's no doubt about it. The thing is though, the writing has been on the wall for Sony's handheld for a few years now. And it's still here. It's still selling. It's doing brilliantly in Japan.
And Sony clearly has absolutely no intention of giving up on its plucky little machine.
MCV recently met with SCE UK sales director Mark Howsen and PR boss David Wilson. Perhaps the most surprising outcome of the talks was this – whilst Move is clearly Sony's main act at this year's E3, it's not the only priority.
The platform holder still has big plans for PSP.
It admits, of course, that the PSP is struggling outside of Japan. Sony has never issued UK sales numbers and a look at the official figures reveals why that's no surprise. However, Sony is keen to point out that its machine isn't the only handled struggling in the territory.
I think in handheld over all the industry is at a bit of a tipping point,” Howsen explained. We're seeing a trend whereby consumers are relatively accepting of the fact that they have to buy high-price hardware but at the same time they expect to pay very little, or sometimes even nothing at all, for software. That's a real shift in behaviour.
Of course there will always be a market for premium, full value product but the balance between that and value content is changing quite rapidly. That's been fuelled by, I guess, piracy initially but now also the advent of new business models coming into this space and that's feeding it even faster.”
Though not referred to by name, the influence of iTunes and its aggressive pricing strategy permeated every sentence. Though Apple's brand remained unspoken, Sony's reaction to it has been clear. First, the cut-price PSP Essentials range. Then this week brought the news – broken exclusively by MCV – that Sony is to give away ten games to anyone registering their PSPgo after April 1st 2010.
All these moves are designed to steer PSP gently away from the triple-A full-price software model and ever closer toward an Apple style strategy.
To reinvent the whole PSP model wee need to look at handheld in a very different way, in the context in which consumers are now viewing it,” Howsen added. We're trying to reengage consumers with PSP, though that's not just a challenge for us – it's a challenge for the whole handheld sector. We are at the point of a major shift in the way that consumers are engaging with the current players in that market.”
Questions regarding the PSP 2 – a machine that MCV is absolutely convinced will be revealed this year – were rebutted. But rest assured that every change we're seeing in Sony's approach to handheld now is simply laying the foundations for news heading our way later this year.