Media Diary Day ?: PSP Reborn
The PSP is a confused platform. It launched to great acclaim and sales, but was soon outclassed by Nintendo’s DS, whose staggering popularity is hard to compete with. So despite the PSP’s respectable install base, releases slowed to a trickle.
There are two major reasons for this, I think. First, the PSP offers PS2-level graphics, so full 3D. It’s much more of a regular console experience than the DS, which means it’s more expensive to develop for, yet with a smaller install base. Developers can make money making PSP games, but not as much as they can on the DS.
Secondlly, the PSP was originally marketed as a multimedia machine (remember UMD discs?). It can play movies and music. It also has a browser. The hardware itself is admirable and full of potential. However, Sony’s software skills pale next to someone like Apple, and as a media player the PSP lags far, far behind the iPod. Many people may have originally bought their PSP for multimedia reasons, not games – so game sales never reflected the install base. And those people may have stopped using their PSPs altogether in favour of iPods.
I bought mine on a game trade-in promotion at EB Games, knowing there were a few games on the platform that I wanted to try (Final Fantasy Tactics, Jeanne D’Arc, the Syphon Filter games, Patapon, Echochrome). Try them I did, but it was a real struggle finding games in retail. Some were easy, but FF Tactics was hard as hell – I finally found it used for $45, which is way too much for a used portable game. You could download games from the Playstation Network, but originally this was PC only.
When Sony added PSN support to the PSP itself, everything changed. Suddenly there were a ton of back catalogue games available for reasonable prices ($25 is the highest price I’ve seen on the store). I quickly filled up my proprietary memory card format with awesome-ish games, such as
- Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters – my first experience of this franchise. It’s a fun platformer with RPG and shooter elements. Not my usual sorta game, but it’s enjoyable, well-paced and slick.
Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade – I thought I’d have to hack my PSP to get a Diablo or Diablo-like game on this thing, but lo and behold, there are two Untold Legends games that hew vary close to Diablo conventions. This one was a PSP launch game. It does the trick.
Jeanne D’Arc – it’s a more simplified strategy RPG experience than FF Tactics, but that’s a good thing. Even at their simplest, SRPGs take like 45 minutes to play a level, so they push the limits of what you want to do on a portable device. This one is beautiful and insane, with a story that involves both Joan of Arc and legions of monsters.
Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror – I’ll admit that this hasn’t quite captured the thrill I felt playing the original Syphon Filter back in the day. Nonetheless, it’s very well-made, especially the control scheme.
Patapon 2 – Just released. Haven’t gotten that far with it yet, but have played enough to know it’s a worthy sequel to the excellent original.
If the rumours of the PSP shedding the UMD drive altogether at E3 are true, the catalogue on the PSN should grow even more – which would be great news. I hope for good things for the PSP. It frequently outsells the DS in Japan, on the back of games like Dissidia and Monster Hunter, which goes to show that it’s games that move platforms – and allowing the games releases to shirnk to nothing is a surefire guarantee that your platform will wither and die. By embracing digital distribution, and opening the plentiful back catalogue to keep gamers busy, Sony keeps the PSP alive between the sparse new releases.*
- That said, the PSP had a couple of the few new releases on ANY platform in the past couple months that I actually wanted to play: Patapon 2 and Resistance: Retribution.