PSPass Go, spend Â£200+
Posted on Monday, October 5 2009 @ 11:37:53 Eastern
So, the PSP Go is out now and has been for a couple of days. I had a hands on go with Sony’s new iteration of the PSP a few weeks ago when Mr Sony popped into a shop I was working in at the time. I had already formed several of my own opinions based on what I had read in press releases and my understanding of the second hand market and concept of downloading and by getting a hands-on demonstration I could decide what I thought of the actual hardware.
The console itself is very impressive. It’s nice and tidy when folded down and the sliding mechanism is smooth. The location of the screen makes gaming feel natural and, although the physical size of the screen has been slightly decreased in accordance to the size of the machine, the resolution stays the same so the image is crisp. The interface is slightly modified from the PS3/PSP system so anyone who has used a Sony machine recently will be able to navigate easily. Now, the physical item is very slick; the whole thing feels polished and high quality but the rest of this article will be denouncing manufacturing choices and lambasting the lack of a UMD drive. Reasons will of course be provided.
First, backwards compatibility has been kept to a minimum. The most obvious aspect of this is the loss of one’s UMD collection but a less reported side is the need to buy a new memory card. Yes, the PSP Go has 16GB of built in storage which will last for a while but when a console’s only means of using data is saving it to a storage medium it should really have a cheap removable memory card too. The PSP used Memory Stick Pro Duos while the PSP Go has upgraded to the M2 Micro. While this is a better type of storage (it’s physically smaller while still holding large amounts of data) it does mean that anyone who bought an older PSP memory card will need to buy another memory card to fit their new PSP Go. Perhaps this is a small gripe but it does set a precedent.
The worst thing about the PSP Go is the lack of the UMD drive. At first glance this is an inconvenience but perhaps not a deal breaker but if you look deeper it’s actually a fundamental, and crucial, flaw in the PSP Go’s design. The lack of a UMD drive or other type of optical drive means that the only way to play games is to download them from the PSN. Obviously this means Sony is in sole control of how much games are priced and this can only be a bad thing. Competition in the retail sector keeps prices competitive; certain businesses price match their rivals, others price low in the first place, those that don’t simply sell less games. There is no competition here meaning Sony is free to use prices gamers have already accepted at street level leaving us with downloads costing £30-40. For any Americans who may be reading this that’s about the average price of a new, boxed game here in the UK: PSP games are generally priced at £30 brand new.
So what’s the problem? You’re getting a spiffy piece of hardware and the opportunity to buy new games at standard new prices so that’s a pretty good deal, yeah? Unfortunately that viewpoint fails to take into account the lack of a second hand market. However much developers and publishers hate the second hand game market it’s here to stay and that’s because it allows the consumer to play great games at a cheaper price. There is a thing called the second price auction where the winner of an auction pays the second highest price bid instead of their own. This concept encourages people to only bid an amount they can afford (since bidding more would make it more likely they would win and perhaps have to pay more than they wished due to someone else’s overzealous efforts). Similarly, the presence of a second hand market encourages people to buy new games, safe in the knowledge that they can trade them back at a later date for partial recompense. This concept has been lost with the download-only PSP Go. There is no possible second hand market with downloads since a pre-owned copy of a game is marked down in price because of wear and tear caused through general usage, digital 1s and 0s cannot experience this degradation and so a second hand market is rendered moot. Therefore PSP Go owners have no way of making some of their money back, no way of returning games they are unhappy with and no way of buying cheaper pre-owned games. Such a tactic may allow Sony to reap enormous sums of money if users were forced into buying the PSP Go but let’s face it, they’ll either buy a pre-owned PSP 3000 or ignore Sony completely and go to the DS.
Another issue with downloadable games is the lack of a physical case, disc and manual. Part of the reason behind the cost of games is the cost of production. Those cases, discs and books don’t cost much to produce but the need to pay for the manpower, petrol and means of transport to actually move hundreds of boxes of the things from country to country to city to city adds up and adds to the overall cost. Downloads have none of these extra overheads: the cost of creating the game and the bandwidth used to host are the only things developers and publishers are required to pay for so shouldn’t downloads be marked down in price to account for both the lack of physical material and lack of effort required to distribute the game? Sadly this is not how things work as you have seen from the pricing I have already mentioned. Sony is still expecting the PSP Go user to pay full price for a product he will never hold in his hands. That’s fine with small arcade style games but that **** don’t fly with full, retail games like Gran Turismo and WipeOut. The lack of a physical product may not be a big deal to some people out there but it is to many. I, for one, like to view my collection on a shelf rather than cycling through a list. My DVD collection spans four shelves and is creeping on to a fifth but I don’t rip the entire lot to a terabyte hard drive even though it is within my capability to do so. I don’t shirk this activity because of how dull it may become by the 50th DVD; in fact, I am of the odd persuasion that sees this sort of thing as cathartic. No, I don’t do it because I like having my collection there to touch and while downloads are a nice thing to have, they really should be one option, not the only option.
The emphasis on downloads for the PSP Go makes the 802.11b wireless adaptor a curious choice. This outdated technology reportedly makes connections shaky and easily dropped. This would simply be an irritation if it weren’t for Sony’s decision to not save download progress. Imagine how pissed you would be if you had spent the best part of an hour downloading a gigabyte game only to have the connection fail and progress wiped.
Of course in the current economic climate the whole thing comes down to price versus usability. As I’ve already described the PSP Go is not the most flexible PSP on the market. It removes control from the consumer who can usually shop at different shops, new and pre-owned markets and online for the best deal for their games. It removes the physical aspect of game buying and replaces it with cold, hard data. It inexplicably uses old wireless technology. For all this you are being charged £225, this is only £25 less than the 120GB PS3 Slim and only £50 less than the 250GB PS3 Slim. Why would someone buy a PSP Go to slowly download expensive games for £25 less than a Blu-Ray player when they could buy a PSP 3000 for around £150 (or even better just buy the cheap Blu-Ray player)? The PSP Go is a toe in the download waters but it seems to have tripped and fallen. It’s really only an option for the wealthy show-offs and even then it’s a bad one.
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