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PSP lacks a 'viable' business model

Smack Down's Laurent Benadiba urges Sony to invest in "beautiful" platform

The CEO of Lyon-based developer Smack Down Productions, Laurent Benadiba, has told that Sony needs to act in order to stimulate the PlayStation Portable market in Europe, echoing comments made by Ubisoft's Rob Cooper last year.

Benadiba, whose company worked on a PSP title that was never published, revealed that he'd had discussions with a publisher to make a "top five" IP racing title for the platform, but that there was no viable business model to even allow the project to break even.

"I worked for two years on the PSP, as one of the only developers then, and I really believed in the platform at the time," he said. "I still believe there's potential, but it's like self-confidence - if you trust yourself, maybe others will trust you. If you don't trust yourself, nobody will trust you.

"I think that's what's happened with the PSP - Sony released the product, but they never put enough of a push behind it. Games, ads, better shelf placement - trying to make an effort. I think it was also released at a time when they were still very focused on the PlayStation 3, trying to get it out of the door, that they slightly forgot about it."

He went on to compare the PSP with the success of the Nintendo DS, and noted particularly the strong line-up of first party titles on the latter machine.

"Look at it - it's so much more powerful that the DS, and it's a beautiful object, it's like an iPhone," he exclaimed. "Amazing, and the technology behind it is great. I think they expected the platform to just work on its own - but if they want to get it back on track... well, it's a tough one.

"First they need games - the Wii has Zelda, or Wii Fit, or Wii Sports, it's got triple A games that bring the platform forward. I think the PSP is lacking this - it's got Grand Theft Auto titles, Daxter, but they need more of those platform-specific ground-breaking games."

As well as a possible lack of investment, Sony also has to contend with the issue of piracy, according to Benadiba.

"The second problem that I have - and this is pretty bad, what I'm going to say - but I think the piracy level is much higher. There's a lot of piracy on the PSP I think. I don't have numbers, but you see people playing on the train, they have empty carts, and this is a big problem.

"If it's pretty easy to crack it down, then people won't buy the games, and if people don't buy the games, publishers won't make them - so it doesn't encourage publishers to make games.

"The other day we were with a publisher, and trying to figure out a business model for a PSP game. It was a big IP, a big license, a top five racing game, and we couldn't work it out, how we could break even. Because there are so few sales on the PSP in Europe now that you have to make a huge title on a small budget just to break even.

"It's discouraging publishers from making PSP games - maybe they could do what Nintendo did, and make lots of first party games? Push the level up..."

The full interview with Laurent Benadiba is available now.

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