What did Sony learn? A lot, apparently.
The main conclusion, consumers still want packaged media. Sounds simple enough, and being a consumer who likes packaged media I can agree with that. However, If that is their main conclusion as to why the PSPgo failed, then SCEE need to pack up their bags and go home right now. There is one thing that springs to mind in rebuttal to these statements, App Store. Granted, App Store is a very established digital content vendor which happens to be attached to the money printing iPod/Phone/Pad, so it’s bound to do well. The App store has proved time after time that it isn’t an issue with no owning physical content, its an issue with the mindset of the consumer and the hardware with which it is implemented. There have been many nods to the App Store in Sony’s marketing strategy, the Minis were clearly an attempt to produce some cheap bite-sized gaming experiences which would be more suitable on the go. Minis haven’t done so well, firstly the price points are just a little too high and there just isn’t a great enough selection of them. Apple have succeeded in getting huge amounts of developers working with them, pricing apps aggressively and even offering some titles for free just to get people to buy them.
“We were getting signals from consumers that this was the kind of device that they wanted. But we need to recognise that consumers like their packaged media library.”
Andrew House, CEO of SCEE
There are other factors of course. Firstly, using the PSP to take on the iPhone or iPod Touch is quite possibly the daftest thing you could imagine. The PSP had been struggling in its own market, let alone introducing it to another, more competitive one. The only way Sony would have lured people in is by giving them a deal that is too good to pass up. £170 + 3 free titles would have been a nice starting offer, at least it would have gotten made people interested. However Sony seemingly did the opposite, £225 with one free game. Wow. It is interesting to consider whether the PSPgo was purely a market experiment for the next new PSP console (i.e. PSP2), that would be the only way at explaining why Sony have made such bad decisions. Even now with the “10 free games” approach, the console is still £225 and with E3 approaching and the iPod 4 announced, it’s just too little, too late.
Although, I’m still not convinced that the PSPgo was really just one large experiment, not really. Okay, so they probably have learnt a lot beyond the statements House made, however at lot of the mistakes didn’t need to have been made in the first place. Pricing a hand-held games console at £225 is an obvious flaw. When the PSPgo was released it was seen to be taking on the iPhone/iPod touch market, so its price reflected the “quality consumer electronics” market. However without the ability to make calls it misses the iPhone market, and without a touch screen and being at least £50 more than the nearest iPod Touch means it has missed the mark again. To make it worse though, Sony released this pricing bomb shell at the time the Playstation 3 Slim was released, with the 120GB model costing only £250. So as one console gets cheaper, the other gets more expensive. There are very few people if faced with the opportunity to purchase either a PS3 Slim or a PSPgo for (almost) the same price will go for the PSPgo (I know they are different markets, but it’s a largely psychological thing). In terms of the digital distribution method, all Sony had to do was to learn from the App Store or Steam and see how successful they have been, it’s not a difficult model to replicate especially when you have the pedigree of one of the best electronics manufacturers.
This is just my argument from what I’ve seen here in the UK, I know that sales in other territories haven’t been great and that PSN pricing has varied (i.e. US getting better special offers), so perhaps it could be that different ways of pricing the PSPgo and it’s content in other territories might have produced results which displayed different tendencies. However, it is still clear that the go has crashed and burned which ever way you spin it. No Sony, the reason why the PSPgo failed wasn’t because it was digital content only, that is a total cop-out. The reason is because you’ve given the consumer no reason to buy into it. Expensive hardware, expensive games and no obligation for developers to release on the digital platform as well as UMD are just repeated slaps in the face for anyone unlucky enough to have purchased it. From my short time with the PSPgo I loved it, but thank God it wasn’t my money on the line!
Oh PSP, why do you taunt me so?