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Sony needs to learn that non-games can still be fun - Black

Bebot creator impressed with PSPgo, but hesitant to work on handheld until installed base grows

The creator of Bebot for the iPhone has said that the biggest lesson Sony needs to learn for the success of the PSPgo is to understand that applications don't have to be games to be fun and appealing.

Russell Black, a former senior programmer for next-gen home consoles, claims he's made more money in six months with the release of his cult synthesizer application through his company Normalware than the annual salary at his last job, but he's hesitant to begin work on any such software for Sony's new console.

"The main thing that I think Sony could learn from what's happening already with the App Store is that applications don't have to be games in order to be fun," offered Black, speaking exclusively to "Even applications that aren't fun might help you get your work done more quickly, giving you more time for things that are fun."

"If you look at what's popular in the App Store right now, you'll find things that you never would have expected, and more appearing every day. Even with the more game-focused audience that the PSPgo is likely to attract, I think that even Sony will be surprised at the kinds of things people want to use their 'games device' for, other than just playing games."

Black said he's impressed with the PSPgo hardware – Sony's first console to rely purely on digital content rather than physical media – but without a credible installed base, independent developers making money on the iPhone are unlikely to begin targeting the Sony handheld anytime soon.

"The PSPgo is a very appealing piece of hardware, and has great potential when combined with the possibilities provided by digital distribution. However, I would actually be very hesitant to start developing original content for it for quite some time yet," he said.

"If you develop a product that will only be available on the PSPgo, your entire potential audience is whatever number of people specifically own a PSPgo console. Right now, that number is approximately zero."

"If Sony's app store also let you sell games to people with a regular, existing PSP model, that would be a much more attractive prospect," he added. "There are nearly 50 million of those out there already. Even if you only sold to a fraction of one percent of those people, it's a significant number of sales. And even if the PSPgo sells great from day one, it's going to take a long time before it starts getting anywhere near those numbers."

Any App Store-style service for the new console would benefit from a tighter approval process than the one Apple currently employs, said Black.

"It's fantastic that the App Store is so open and inclusive, but when it gets to the point where it's difficult to find quality apps buried under piles of buggy tic-tac-toe and sudoku games written in a weekend, it really does become a problem.

"Whenever you have a large number of apps coming out with little or no advertising budget, giving each one the exposure it deserves is going to be very difficult anyway. Being too lenient on quality is only going to make that problem worse.

"So I think the potential is very interesting, and if the PSPgo sells well then it could become a very appealing platform for independent developers. But for now, we'll have to wait and see whether that will become a reality," he concluded.

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Matt Martin avatar
Matt Martin: Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.
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