Exclusive: Dave Perry on Redesigning the PSP

“Did user-created content hurt YouTube? Why not open the PSP?", Perry on future of the PSP.

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I'm a gadget freak and even I didn't go for their movies
I'm a gadget freak and even I didn't go for their movies
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.”


Joji 27 Oct 2006 12:28
Mr Perry makes some good and bad points here. I agree that Sony's policy of locking out homebrew developers with their stupid updates makes no sense at all. They are aliennating their very audience, something they shouldn't be doing when the DS is already kicking their arse into touch. I purchased Ridge Racers 2 on PSP the other day and what do I get, another damn update.

While I still think PSP has already lost this battle with DS (some of you will naturally disagree but that's fine) becuase Nintendo's hand held knowledge and sweet games library seems too much for them to handle, Sony show no sign of beginning to care for its customers. Until their attitude that gamers are the enemy changes, their handheld fortunes won't either.

What has happened to the Sony that used to love and respect us? That used to encourage homebrew coding via the Yaroze? That used to know what the hell to do. They cared once but money is their god now.

Losing the UMD isn't an option, that would just alienate people more and create countless dead PSP owners with no games to buy for their PSP. A digital distribution method could have worked, but unless you have a few gb cards its pointless. No real use doing it now unless Sony cut their damn mem card prices, which they won't do, so we are back to square one.

Indeed an open source PSP might save it, but unfortunately Sony are too stupid getting drunk on our money that they'll never do it. So go homebrewers, fight the powers that be.

All hands on deck, this Sony ship is sinking. Will they save the customers or just save their own arse instead?

I enjoy a lot of games on my PSP, but when Sony fail me I'm glad I have my DS. A PSP redesign would have to be £100-£110 for me to even consider buying one, but I just don't see it. Sony are too greedy.

RiseFromYourGrave 27 Oct 2006 16:24
get rid of the umd completely to cut down on device size.. LOL

shall we remove the dvd disc drive from the ps2 as well

i stopped reading when he said that
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jordanlund 27 Oct 2006 16:31
Ditching the UMD drive as a cost/size cutting measure has to be the single dumbest suggestion I've seen from an industry professional.

There are currently over 200 games available on the PSP in the UMD format, you honestly want to make a new version of the hardware that is incapable of playing them? You want to convince existing owners to "upgrade" while locking them out of their existing library?

If you want to replace physical media then you had better be prepared to distribute all of those titles and you need to consider having a system in place that allows owners of existing physical media to obtain the electronic version at no cost.

Naturally this will never happen.
iocomposer 29 Oct 2006 15:38
Get rid of the UMD?? Not all of the games for the PSP are a 10Mb download....Many are Gigabytes. That is anti-convenient. Here's a better strategy: Make more good games.
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