Following on from our piece on the game industry's quietly-held belief that Sony is poised to release a reworked PSP hardware unit, SPOnG caught up with development veteran Dave Perry, former head of Shiny now fronting GameInvestors
and a new MMO by the name of 2 Moons.
“It's pretty clear from our industry's history that there's a mad rush to get hardware product out, then the hardware companies start to look at ways to fix the problems they encountered. Apple does this all day every day with its iPods, their Computers and their Software.
“It's a normal business model. When you look at version 2 of the Sony PlayStation 2 (the small slick one that won't hold an internal hard disk drive like version 1 did) it's clear that they changed their mind on a major feature. If you take the latest PS2 joypad apart, you will see where there were edge connectors, they've removed them and just press track connectors together. They save every single cent they can to get the price of the product down. I hope that they will do this with the Sony PSP. It's a great little machine, but the price is a major barrier. The American public like $149 to $99 for handhelds. So how could the PSP get there?
“First we spend a little more to improve some important aspects, so I would propose they make the PSP with a clambshell design, to protect that lovely screen, and they should have made the screen at least DVD resolution (704x480 in America, 704x576 in the UK) instead of the current (480x272), so if there's a scene in a movie with a letter we're supposed to read, we can read it. Or if there's important text on the screen, we know what it's saying. To save money, besides the re-think of the electronics/connectors etc. I would also kill off the UMD disc, remove it entirely and shrink the device size. It was nearly a very good idea until you realized for the same price as a DVD you got a highly compressed, low resolution movie, with no DVD features. I'm a gadget freak and even I didn't go for their movies.
“I think switching to digital distribution would be a much better idea, by including (for free) that Sony Media Manager software, while adding new features. Embracing digital distribution, even offering convenient encrypted over-the-air wi-fi distribution, would bring movies and games back to the PSP in a sensible way. Then I can buy movies or games for less (ZERO cost of goods), keeping the library safely stored on my PC, picking the ones I want to watch next, and all I have to do is sync. If they wanted to be forward thinking, they could offer modern features like game demos, trial music from new artists, item sales, vast customization of items, characters and in-game objects from databases too vast to store on the PSP. Again these would simply sync up when you plug in or connect through a wi-fi point. A bit like when you pay for a DirecTV pay-per-view movie in the USA, then when your satellite receiver dials in, it syncs your account. So the PSP could even offer in-game advertising and grab new adverts each time you sync. Why would you want that? Because suddenly there would be free games for it too!
“Low cost hardware, low cost games (even free games), longer battery life (no UMD to spin); and the price of memory sticks keeps dropping: It's all in their favour to make a really nice rev on the PSP. I do see opportunity for Sony to learn from the perception and reception of the current PSP hardware/platform. I hope they don't throw in the towel.
“Sony also have a policy of forcing users to upgrade the internal software in their PSP or they can't play a new game they just bought. They do this so they can stop the "homebrew" developers writing software for the PSP. Every time the guys in their bedrooms get something running on the PSP, Sony steps on it, and forces anyone that wants to play the latest games, to keep locking these guys out.
“What really happens is that a lot of PSP owners just refuse to buy any games at all, they save their hardware in it's current state so it remains "open". Surely Sony must see this as something that won't stop as they are now at Firmware 2.82 and every firmware up to 2.80 has been broken open.
“So, why not turn those people back into paying gamers, let them pay for the games, but then just stick with the model that the new features keep improving the device. Also embrace
user add-ons; make the device open (not to publish on, but to release code on). Firefox does; Internet Explorer 7 does; Macs do; Windows Vista does. Even Yahoo has its own Widget system.
“Did user-created content hurt YouTube? Why not open the PSP? Welcome indie games, welcome development, get the users promoting the device.
“The current plan just isn't working. I'm getting really tired of hearing, ‘I won't buy another PSP game as I want to try to make fun little games on there, so I can't afford the risk to get locked out.’
“I bet Sony tries to tell you it doesn't matter. Well, if you type "sony psp hack" into google, there are now 8.6 MILLION pages dedicated to the subject.
“The professional PSP game developers also get hurt by this policy as Sony will publish the number of PSP units sold, but the software sales just don't match up. This will certainly be one of the contributing reasons why."
“Also for the bit about digital distribution: the cost of goods is gone; the cost of the retailer has gone. The price of the games should be from $4.99 each to $19.99 for premium titles. Then we are moving in the right direction.”