Going, Going, Gone

PSP Go is laid to rest. Weeping is unlikely at this funeral.

18 months on the market isn't exactly an impressive tally for a games console - especially for one carrying the powerful PlayStation brand. However, just a couple of weeks over that year and a half mark, Sony has confirmed that the PSPgo is to be put to rest, with manufacturing and shipments already ceased. From now on, only those units already in the sales channel will be available.

Sony Japan's statement on the matter, as reported by Japanese site Impress Watch, was rather less equivocal than the one which came from Sony UK shortly earlier - in which the company pledged to "continue to meet... demand" for PSP products. Yet Sony UK's statement cuts to the core of the matter - there simply isn't any demand for the PSPgo, and it's questionable whether there ever really was.

If you want to see evidence for the PSPgo's complete belly-flop, take a look around the market in which the PSP has had by far the largest success. In Japan, Monster Hunter Portable has provided the platform with a killer app late in its lifespan which has turned it into a must-carry item for a huge proportion of young males - yet you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone sporting a PSPgo.

In six months living here, I've seen countless PSP-3000s of all hues and designs - usually clutched by groups of high school or university students ardently tucking into Capcom's monster slaying feast on subway trains, in fast food restaurants or in cafes. Along with the younger groups equally eagerly engaged in their DS' Pokemon titles, this everyday image is one of the most obvious outward signs of Japan's enduring videogames culture.

Yet even in the land of ubiquitous handheld consoles, among people whose lust for the latest must-have gadget is second to none, the PSPgo never found a foothold. Nobody wanted it here. What hope did it ever have elsewhere?

Instantly, PSPgo was much less interesting than we'd all hoped; the criticisms of it being more money for less functionality (given its lack of a UMD slot) rang true from the word go.

It's hard to believe now, but when the first shots of the PSPgo were leaked ahead of its official announcement, there was actually quite a bit of excitement around the device. UMD had never been a popular format - it's fairly bulky, noisy in operation, drains battery life and generally doesn't do the PSP any favours. Moreover, the PSP had gradually sprouted a variety of interesting but unwieldy accessories, including a camera, a microphone and a GPS receiver.

The prospect of a console with solid-state storage, all of those accessories built in and perhaps even a touch-screen interface - hinted at by the almost buttonless facia of the device when closed - was an enticing one. It wouldn't be PSP2, of course, but it could be a significant enough revision to comprise an extremely strong re-launch for the existing platform.

In reality, what we got is a device that's been botched from the outset. There was no touch-screen, of course, relegating it to the realms of an offshoot of PSP rather than a relaunch of the platform, and none of the accessories were built into the new hardware either. Instantly, PSPgo was much less interesting than we'd all hoped; the criticisms of it being more money for less functionality (given its lack of a UMD slot) rang true from the word go.

Yet the distinctly unimpressive hardware wasn't the real reason for the PSPgo's failure. No, the true problem with this platform lay not in hardware, nor even in software, but in services - in Sony's utter failure to provide a content platform for a version of the PSP that lacked a UMD drive and therefore couldn't use retail-bought software.

In fact, if PSPgo and its failure are to be remembered as anything, it should be as a masterclass in how not to manage a digital content platform. Underpopulated and overpriced, the PSP's digital content delivery systems - much like the PSPgo itself - manage the impressive feat of charging customers significantly more money for less functionality (and a smaller selection) than their retail equivalents, wiping out any possible advantage of digital distribution in the process.

The first major problem, and one from which PSPgo never truly recovered, was the failure to recognise that the system's early adopters would most likely be existing PSP owners - people with a library of UMD software they'd already paid for. The decision not to provide these users with any way to import that software onto the PSPgo was arguably fatal for the platform. It was also, however, entirely predictable.

Sony, and third-party publishers, don't like the idea of importing games because it's difficult to implement, probably open to abuse, and moreover, robs them of the ability to make money twice by reselling the same game to the same consumer. The latter point may seem unscrupulous, but it's easy to see where the idea comes from - the music business, in particular, has been sustained for years by re-selling the back catalogues of hit artists in a succession of new formats.

Consumers, however, were never going to accept that. The biggest problem faced by media businesses in the past decade arguably isn't piracy at all - it's the fact that consumers in general have become increasingly savvy about media ownership. Consumers re-purchased their albums on vinyl, then on cassette and then on CD, and their movies on VHS and then on DVD. When they bought iPods, however, something new happened - they didn't buy albums again, they just copied their existing CDs onto the new device.

That simple change has had a profound impact on the music business, and has caused a subtle but extremely important change in consumer attitudes. People no longer feel like they've bought a piece of plastic with media on it - they feel like they've bought that media, and the experience of ripping albums and DVDs has led them to believe that unless there's a damned good reason, they shouldn't have to pay for the same content twice. It's hard to dispute who has the moral high ground here, and media companies - already regularly tarred as villains by the public at large - would be wise not to try.

So when the PSPgo turned up, lacking any way to copy your UMD games to the system - which would not have been technologically or practically impossible, it should be noted - consumers snorted with derision and decided to ignore the system. From there on, Sony's fresh blunders only compounded the original disaster, but they're worth looking at anyway.

Price control is a factor which publishers see as an advantage of digital distribution, but which consumers see as little more than gouging.

There was pricing, for one. PSPgo owners paid above the odds for their console - at launch, it wasn't much cheaper than a PS3 in many territories - and then they were expected to pay above the odds for their software as well. Games which had fallen dramatically in price in retail stores held on to their RRPs on the PlayStation Store, effectively ripping off a captive audience who couldn't break out of the ecosystem due to the lack of a UMD drive. Price control is a factor which publishers see as an advantage of digital distribution, but which consumers see as little more than gouging.

The final nail in the coffin, though? Selection. Sony never managed to get a decent amount of the PSP's back catalogue onto the PSPgo - and then it started to slip up on the new release catalogue, too. There's a very straightforward reason why I've never, ever seen a PSPgo in the hands of any of Japan's countless Monster Hunter players - the most recent best-selling title in the series, Monster Hunter Portable 3rd, was never made available on anything except a UMD.

Expensive, lacking in ambition, hated by consumers, ill-supported by third parties and ultimately abandoned by Sony itself, the PSPgo was the unloved runt of the PSP family - and now becomes the most high-profile console hardware failure of recent years. Sony says it's discontinuing the system in order to focus its attention on the upcoming NGP platform, the true successor to the PSP. We can only hope that when it comes to designing, implementing and supporting the NGPs digital retail systems, the disastrous mistakes of the PSPgo will serve as a stern lesson.

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Latest comments (19)

Tim Ponting Director, Renegade PR6 years ago
I bought 2 PSPGos last November (2010) - a competition prize - from HMV in Ealing (sadly no longer... Just like the PSPGos I bought). It took ages for the guy on the till to work out what was being given away free with them - download credits, free cases... And where they were hidden away iin the stock room.
Just as everything was bagged up, the store manager made a special trip down from upstairs.
"I just wanted to see who had bought them," he explained. "They're the first PSPGos we've sold. I just didn't actually believe it until I saw them in your bag..."

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tim Ponting on 21st April 2011 2:32pm

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Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 6 years ago

To be quite honest I kinda forgot about the existence of PSPgGoover , I don't remember the last time I even thought about it. But yes as you say you can't really expect the consumers to pounce at this given what they were doing. Paying more for less is hardly a win win solution.
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Nick Burcombe CEO & Co Founder, Playrise Digital Ltd.6 years ago
Pricing went the wrong way. Should have been £99 if at all possible.
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Show all comments (19)
Kenneth Bruton Producer 6 years ago
small screen + lack of umd drive + higher price= no surprise it died a quick death
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Reza Ghavami Marketing Analyst, NVIDIA6 years ago
It had potential, but I think it's the lack of impressive titles that killed the Go.
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Miguel Melo Principal Software Engineer/Product Manager 6 years ago
It's a shame because I actually think it's a decent piece of kit. Ergonomically speaking, I don't mind that it's smaller: the only thing I think doesn't quite work well is the shoulder buttons because you end up with your fingers scraping against the metal back of the screen.

I do agree that the problem here - more than the initial price, I would say - was the botched software support and the fact that I couldn't convert my UMD's across. This hassle was minimized by the fact that I actually got the 10 games offer with my PSPGo last year, but I will openly admit that I have an ISO loader on it for the sole purpose of playing Field Commander, since my UMD disintegrated and you can only buy it on PSN US.

This is a seriously messed up state of affairs because it kinda makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong, which of course I'm not.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Miguel Melo on 21st April 2011 9:27pm

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Tony Johns6 years ago
Not looking good for the NGP because of the lack of a UMD games.

If all games have to be downloaded, then why bother to store games in retailers.
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Curt Sampson Sofware Developer 6 years ago
Tony, the NGP has physical media, though a card instead of a UMD. So not all games have to be downloaded.
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So you're suggesting that we sould buy a game with its single SD card ? That's utterly money thrown through the window by the publisher. It would be more sensible to offer games (discounted) to donwload in a 32Gb SD card.
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Peter Paninar Artist 6 years ago
Lack of physical media is not a problem.. see apple for example.
What put me off and guaranteed that I'm not going to buy the pspgo when it was first announced was the SMALLER screen.. just that fact alone killed it for me... not to mention that sony loves to put ridiculous prices on the stuff in their digital stores, the prices there are just insulting! when you can buy NEW retail games a lot cheaper, they will never move to full digital only distribution this way... people just won't buy it.
They should learn from apple in this and open the development for more people.

on the other way I would love to buy a psp with bigger screen like ds xl :)
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 6 years ago
Actually, a better solution for single game cards would be to make these retail games "limited" editions of some sort with a lot of stuff on that card BESIDES the game to justify the price point. For example, Imagine a RPG on the NGP. buy it online as a download game for a low price, but pay more for a card that has the game, soundtrack, wallpapers, an art gallery feature, a "making of" video and whatever else can be crammed onto the card.

This would make the cards worth the extra cost and even if the media is reusable, many players who would more likely than not keep them in their original format. Additionally, some sort of registration number can be added to each card and digital version where all players could possibly be chosen to win some sort of premium item(s). Give people more stuff and you have less "disposable" games, I say...
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Miguel Melo Principal Software Engineer/Product Manager 6 years ago
@Greg: Agree. A few years ago I was a rabid defender of buying games in "physical" format because of the tactile feedback you get from opening a box. But one day I ended up realising that off-the-shelf games for the most part no longer brought any swag. The days of huge manuals like Falcon 4, or cloth maps like Ultima are long and now it's just a disc in a dvd box.

When this clicked I moved almost completely to downloadable stores. As far as games are concerned nowadays I will only buy physical items if they are either "special editions" (i.e. cool junk in the box), unavailable on online stores OR incredibly cheap "delete bin" offers.

I am yet to make this change for music (still like lyrics booklets that come with CD's - so, still some value there) but in the case of games I'm sold to the download channel.
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Callum Roberts Junior Artist, FuturLab6 years ago
I'm really worried for handheld gaming at the moment.
Especially as the smart phone games are so cheap, no one wants to bother with another device when they spent all their cash on a phone.
And people "need" phones - It's not like a handheld console is a necessity

I really hope this isn't a taste of things to come from the 3DS or NGP, as the 3DS hasn't even had a chance to get into its stride and the NGP shows great potential.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 6 years ago
@Miguel: Well, as any PSN user can probably tell you, being "sold" on download content means not a whit when you can't GET that content. My case for physical media as 100 percent viable solution rests until ANY issues with the ability to buy and play what you want, when you want it is something EVERY gamer can do, regardless of his or her ability to connect to a network.

As bad as that issue is, it can (and probably will one fine day) become worse. Me, I'll be whipping out my physical media and not spending time screaming flames on a message board to a customer service rep nor be part of any silly class action lawsuits that are bound to take place...

Just a thought...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Greg Wilcox on 24th April 2011 5:49am

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Rachel Griffiths Studying Graduate Entry Medicine, University of Nottingham6 years ago
The Go was a shame..such a lovely design, much more stylish than the bulky 3000, but in the end not even an option for most potential buyers due to the download only thing, and not cheap with it.

The actual downloading may not be an issue so much but the lack of access to second hand products is the killer. With physical discs I can buy a game pretty cheap, and trade it in when I'm done. With the Go, you're stuck with it,and with Sony's prices. Go = no go.
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John Bye Lead Designer, Future Games of London6 years ago
The PSPGo's a fantastic piece of kit, but as you say it was doomed because of the high launch price and the fact that there was no trade-in system to let existing PSP owners swap their UMDs for digital copies of the games (where available) or PlayStation Store credit (if not). I didn't have many PSP games before, so I actually did pretty well given the number of free games Sony gave to existing PSP owners who bought a PSPGo. If I'd had a bigger collection of PSP games beforehand I'd have had to think a lot harder before buying one.

As for software pricing, Sony and a few other companies have been pretty competitive with online pricing, but sadly several other publishers still insist on charging at or near full RRP for download versions of their games. And that's the ones who make their games available for download at all.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 6 years ago
I had something like 150-160 UMD games when the Go shipped out and ONLY a eleven or so were available as Go releases I'd have to re purchase. That wasn't a good start and waiting for more of my library to pop up on PSN didn't do me any good. While I loved the design and some of the other features, the fact that it made my stacks of games "obsolete" (when they weren't) made the go a no-show in my collection.

I do wish these companies would think enough to ASK a wider range of users what they want rather than shoving new toys in our faces and trying to take the "old" ones away... That kind of choice shouldn't always have the same consequences every damn cycle...
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game6 years ago
That taking away of games poses an interesting question for the next console cycle when it arrives. Xbox stopped supporting backwards compatibility, PS scrapped it, and whilst ghis was an annoyance for physical media, you have options such as selling games off to late adopters, or if your old console breaks, getting a second hand one off ebay.
It will be a lot more of an issue if next gen, the platform holders don't find a way to let people who have spent thousands ondigital games redownload, preferably on their new console. With steam I know I can keep downloading on future PCs, I would like to feel secure that I can do the same with the consoles.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.6 years ago
The 3DS will have a feature (coming with the big May firmware update) that will allow you to transfer your DSiWare games to the 3DS. Supposedly to several 3DS consoles too. I imagine that they'll have a similar feature for WiiWare and VC titles for the next home console. And backwards compatibility with the GC and Wii have been suggested.

I'd be highly surprised if Nintendo did this while Sony and MS didn't.
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