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Japan Is Ready For The PSP2

Posted on Monday, February 4 @ 15:19:29 Eastern by Heath_Hindman
Some people see things that never were and ask "Why not?"
He doesn't see things that are, and asks, "What?"

Sony's upcoming PlayStation conference holds a world of possibilities, and a lot of people are speculating about the likelihood of a PS4 reveal. In Japan, however, handheld game systems reign supreme; the much more popular hope in the Land of the Rising Sun is that Sony will announce a successor to the PSP.

Despite 2012 being the PSP's seventh year on the market, the sucker hung in as competitively as could be expected, shifting nearly a million units. Impressive, considering the 3DS finally hit its software stride and has Nintendo's marketing muscle behind it. The machine is still the recipient of games that highly appeal to its established install base, like One Piece: Romance Dawn (released in December with its own special hardware bundle), Digimon Adventure, Accel World, Jikkyou Powerful Pro Baseball, and others.

But Sony can't wait around any longer; it's time to release a second handheld system before Nintendo runs away with this generation. A lot of the big franchises that made the PSP such a success in Japan have moved to the 3DS. Some, like God Eater 2, are still set for PSP releases. A multitude of gamers, however, have followed their favorite games to the 3DS and would be hard to win back by a hypothetical second system.

Monster Hunter 4, for example, will be releasing on 3DS exclusively, as Sony has not yet shipped a potential competitor to market. Diehard fans may have even already bought their 3DS systems a while ago, for Monster Hunter Tri-GHatsune Miku tore it up on the PSP, and Sega and Sony would be out of their minds to let a PSP2 outing slip away. She should definitely get a PSP2 game, specifically one that isn't also released on PS3.

The PSP delivered some interesting Final Fantasy spinoffs and enhanced ports. For the time being, the 3DS has won that battle with Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy, which combines Japan's love of Faifan with its love of music games. It's no FF RPG, that's for sure, but nostalgia sells here, in any form. Rumors of a high-def FFX port in handheld form have been circulating for well over a year, and with no news from Sony or Square Enix, many fans are wondering: What even did happen to that? And speaking of music games, Taiko Drum Master did well on both PSP and DS in Japan, but the 3DS and Wii have been the only systems getting new TDM games lately. The PSP2 must win this crowd back.

Another thing the 20 million PSP owners in Japan will want in a new handheld is some sort of backward compatibility with all their old games. Buying games from a previous generation and, moreover, buying physical copies are way more popular in Japan than they are in most other places. Even with its established love of PSP, Japan kicked the PSPgo to the curb; Sony pulled the plug and stopped shipping the system in its homeland due to low sales.

The lesson here is that if Sony does make another handheld game system, digital distribution should be a bonus and nothing more. Just as important, it'll need to have some way to play the mountains of UMDs that PSP fans have—and will continue to accumulate. Going to a retro shop and buying games from the previous generation, even two and three generations back, is a popular hobby here, much moreso than in North America. If the new system can't play anything on those racks and racks of games from the previous generation, that makes it less appealing in this era of Sony backward compatibility.

Speaking of the previous generation, the next PSP should provide a few ports and remakes as well. Persona 3 Portable was the best handheld RPG of all time in the eyes of many, and I'm thinking a portable version Persona 4 could serve Sony's second handheld well. Maybe even some early PS3 games that weren't too taxing on the hardware, like Disgaea 3, could help widen the system's appeal. Ports from the current generation, like, I don't know, a bunch of fighting games, might add something nice. For best results, any current-gen ports should be priced below their counterparts on other systems. Even more backfire could be created if up-ports from the first PSP end up being worse on the second system than they were on the first. But that's so silly that it probably can't even happen, so I don't know why I'm saying it. I'd better stop myself before I waste time talking about the importance of proper memory card pricing.

The important thing to note, with all this port and remake talk, is that these would all just be pieces of the puzzle. They're an important part of the overall picture, but these factors can't do it alone. Persona 4 might top a system's sales charts and earn critical acclaim, but a few games can only carry a system so far. When the competition has been out for a while, a new machine really needs to come out swinging.

If there's to be any third-party support, it needs to be first-party support that leads the charge. Sony should do its best to provide a mountain of support for the machine, right from the start and without slowing down. It can't survive with the pattern of "one biggish game every two months" business that damns a system to mediocrity; it needs a steady flow from the system maker to set the tone. But of course, it appears I've let myself start speaking the obvious. I'd better stop before I waste time talking about the importance of proper memory card pricing.

The ongoing popularity of Sony's first handheld system stands as a testament to its success in Japan. The PSP has now grown up alongside a fresh generation of gamers, and the system has proven to Japan that someone other than Nintendo can make a great portable. This market is ripe, and I'm gonna come right out and predict that Sony uses its upcoming PlayStation event to unveil the future of handheld gaming with its second portable system: The PSP2.

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