Editor’s note: Dawdle founder and SAI contributor Sachin Agarwal is covering the E3 expo for us live from LA.
Sony’s (SNE) PSP Go is its version of Nintendo’s Game Boy micro: It’s a smaller device but with the exact same guts as the larger PSP-3000.
However, Sony is using the launch of the Go as a marker to refresh its downloadable content strategy — both games and video — for both the Go and the 3000. If you already have a PSP-3000, there’s no real need to get a Go if you’re satisfied with the 3000’s larger form factor, but Sony hopes to bring in new “digital savvy” consumers who don’t currently own a PSP device into the fold.
To learn more about the Go, I spent about half an hour speaking with Kristin Neirinckx, Marketing Manager for the PlayStation Portable, and Brian Keltner, Senior Software Specialist, of SCEA asking all about the new Go.
- The Go doesn’t have any additional features beyond the PSP-3000 because Sony “didn’t want to leave anyone behind,” according to Neirinckx.
- Neirinckx and Keltner emphasised that every new title — LittleBigPlanet, Gran Turismo, Fat Princess — and all the new video content — UMD quality, at full 30 frames per second, in 480p resolution — will work just fine on the PSP-3000.
- Rather than having a collection of games inside a UMD disc wallet, you can store games on your PSP Go or leave them a “virtual locker” and move content back and forth from the Go to a PC via Sony’s new MediaGo software.
- Unlike the DSi that has DSi Ware only titles, there is nothing that only works on just the Go.
- Keltner reiterated that Sony has not announced pricing for downloadable titles (i.e. will games be less than the same titles on UMD?), and that we should expect an announcement on that front closer to the Go’s launch on October 1.
However, there are a number of changes to the device that make the Go a bigger deal than was Nintendo’s Game Boy micro. While the micro was positioned as a fashion accessory for people with very small pockets, the Go marks a number of new strategies for Sony.
The obvious new strategy is elimination of the UMD in favour of making all games digital. The 16GB of on-board memory should hold between 16-18 games, but Neirinckx confirmed that gamers can launch games off of a Mini Memory Stick Pro if they wish. The Go relies on MediaGo, with functions as a “digital locker” for Go content, where users can swap between their PC and the PSP. Game titles and movies can be downloaded over WiFi directly to the device, or sideloaded from a computer.
A much less noted, but perhaps more important, change to the PSP Go is the replacement of the 3000’s mini USB port in favour of a new, proprietary connector. Until now, Sony had generally opted for standard-compliant connections with other devices on both the PSP and the PlayStation 3. On the PS3, controllers connect and charge with mini-USB connections, standard Bluetooth headsets work, and even the hard drive (unlike Microsoft) is standards-compliant. The PSP, likewise, could interface with any device over USB.
The replacement of the mini-USB port with their own proprietary port allows Sony to implement a program similar to Apple’s “Made for iPod/iPhone” program. Just like Apple’s program, third party accessory makers will have to submit their accessories to Sony for quality assurance testing, and Sony will allow those makers to place a holographic PlayStation sticker on their boxes to denote compatability. When asked if Sony was implementing this change to assure better compatibility or to create a new revenue stream from licensed accessories, Neirinckx insisted that the main purpose was for QA. However, when asked if Sony would demand a revenue share from accessory makers in the same manner that Apple receives a revenue share from “Made for iPod/iTouch” accessories, she demurred, saying “we generally don’t comment on business model questions.”
This new connector was made for the PSP itself, but Neirinckx said that Sony generally has a policy of sharing technology, meaning that it could show up on Walkmen or other devices. She pointed at the extension of Remote Play for music, photos, and video (no games) to Sony Ericsson phones as an example of how Sony shares technology across divisions.
While the PSP Go does not have a touch screen, thus avoiding comparisons with the iPhone and iPod touch, Sony is mimicking Apple’s (AAPL) strategy of creating a closed ecosystem of accessories via proprietary connectors. That is a departure from Sony’s strategy to date and a very interesting new development. Will Sony follow this proprietary interface path if and when they announce the rumoured PS3 Slim? That would mimic Microsoft’s approach to peripherals on the Xbox 360.
Sachin Agarwal is the President and CEO of Dawdle.com, an online marketplace for gamers to buy and sell new and used video games, systems, and accessories with other gamers online. Sachin is covering E3 Expo 2009 for The Business Insider.
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