Go on ahead and discredit the article without reading it. We all know you love the Playstation Vita and will want to destroy any scrutiny of it. But for those that would want to read these arguments: Welcome. Don’t get me wrong; the Vita seems like a quality platform off to a roaring start. But we’ve seen this before and for some this familiarity also comes with a bitter taste. The PSP, unoriginally just named Playstation Portable in full, had this same blaze of glory when launched. We were all impressed by the revolutionary traits this device could offer. But once the veneer wore off, was this still how we saw it?
Because the internet relies on pics before it happens.
The PSP launched with an unprecedented price tag, but we were assured it would repay itself immediately. Its never before seen processing power and screen shot this handheld out of its own league and would surely create eons of entertainment. It also had a good launch line-up; not the best, but there has been much worse. Wipeout, Lumines, Metal Gear and Need For Speed showed the world that all parties had big plans for the handheld. This was going to be a killer platform where people could play games, listen to music, watch movies and so on. It was a multimedia center in pocket form; ideal to usher in the new generation.
But there was already some discrepancy towards some aspects. For one, these promises of titles were a lot of ‘future talk’ and were always kept in front of us like a hanging carrot. But more so, there was a huge lack of diversity for a few fanatics of titles such as roleplaying games. Yes, Untold Legends was a launch title that convinced me to get a launch unit and wait it out for the next big RPG, but that game was dreadful and I was left waiting. Roleplaying games would let themselves slip away and it would be ages before a sizable line-up would present itself. The first year, my PSP served more as a makeshift music player than anything else and that’s hopefully not the focus the gaming device had. Also, certainly in Europe and its fickle distribution region, most titles that would come out in the end were old classics and that wasn’t the focus either. Processing power and graphical prowess, remember?
Gorgeous but confusing PSP advertisement. I think it symbolised connectivity.
There are no PSP games - blame piracy
So why were there no brand spanking new PSP titles for us all to enjoy? Multiplatform titles began to either not start on PSP development or canceled it halfway. Tons of promising titles just never saw the light of day. It was so bad that I dedicated a segment to the phenomenon alone, in an article about canceled games throughout history. Some of these choices were unfathomable at best.
Just like Devil May Cry would’ve suited the platform just as well as the successful God of War releases, so did other titles inexplicably lose the support of the demoralized PSP camp. Duke Nukem: Critical Mass had a build made for PSP that seemed in many ways superior to that of its DS sibling. Yet, the first person shooter got axed and the dreadful platformer went live on Nintendo’s handheld. All parties needed a scapegoat and pirates make great targets.
In an interview, the creator of the God of War PSP games said that piracy was the killer for the handheld. “It’s getting to the point where it doesn’t make sense to make games on it,” Ru Weerasuriya stated. Many such claims were made, but let’s be clear: The piracy card is a bunch of hogwash. Every platform has issues with illegal activity and not one has directly died because of it. Is it harmful? Probably so, but then it bears to ask why not many more platforms have died. The DS saw an equal amount of easy pirating with R4 cards, but still released tons of must-have titles that sold like crazy. Plus, Japan still views the PSP as a strong platform and sells them like hotcakes. Finally, PC gaming has been dead for longer than I’ve been getting laid. And guess what? Business has never been so good; on the PC front. I’ve amassed so many PC games in the last 2 years, due to deals and the indie explosion; I’ve started to become ashamed of my blind support. All this money blown at the gaming industry without me even touching the product; that’s unheard of.
How Nintendo is perceived to have survived piracy issues.
entertain annoy you
While we were throwing the ball around of who was to blame first, company or consumer, Sony still had a product to sell. Manufacturing costs a ton of money, so these bricks needed to get sold by all means necessary. In the end, Sony only dug itself in further with a slew of money-burning marketing campaigns that were just plain wrong.
At one point, it figured that polluting already blemished urban areas would benefit them. They launched a campaign with viral graffiti depicting their handheld. Admittedly, this is a pretty cool way of getting your product out there. Games like Jet Set Radio showed us all that we dig graffiti. Unfortunately, niches don’t necessarily make up for general social standards and this ad ended up with a cease and desist.
Nice try, but you might want to look up 'enabling'.
Sensing some passive aggressiveness, Sony turned on people with simple slogan billboards. "Spend a night in Paris," didn’t refer to the European city per se and "Your girlfriend's white bits here," pasted in front of a cathedral was probably even less classy. But the pinnacle of these ads was a message stating: “Take a running jump here,” right in front of the tracks of a Manchester Piccadilly station. Reports from Arstechnica.com at the time mentioned: “Such poor taste that some transit employees actually covered it up with tape.” Someone should ask Sony what’s so marketable about suicide.
But the PSP wasn’t done riding the coattails of controversy. When trying to rebrand the handheld with a new color, Sony posted an ad in the Netherlands that depicted a white person submitting a black person. “PSP White is coming,” was placed next to the artful photo of what would become target of racist protest. Sites like Joystiq reported about the conflict and Sony defended its position on the element of contrast, but it was all in vain.
Marcus making an (out of context) extremely poor statement.
Finally, when all hope was lost, Sony made a big fuss about revamping the PSP completely, at the ennui of general indifference. Still, the company was adamant this time. They even brought out a kid named Marcus onto their E3 stage and did a cute little skit. Where is Marcus now? Hopefully, he died along with the sycophant campaign that spawned him. And we won’t even mention the PSP Go. Remember the PSP Go?
The titles that did gain some lasting power in the end were few and far between. In reality, when talking about top-tier must-have games, only a handful come to mind. Let’s say roughly a dozen titles made the cut with several making every top list. That doesn’t really entice people to pick up an exclusive platform. So let’s for a moment pretend that the PSP is dead, due to the PS Vita release, in order to depict a dreadful tale.
By the end of the life cycle, Sony realized that it was going to go down with the ship on this one. So in a Hail Mary attempt to salvage the damage done, it started to take away the chosen few from the handheld. Fan favorites God of War and Metal Gear Solid saw their PSP exclusives ported, as well as Japan’s top-selling Monster Hunter franchise. What little leverage the PSP had, was now being swept under the rug in an attempt to vanish the failure handheld from our minds. Only a few gems remain untouched so far, but let’s make a ‘wild’ prediction: Knowing Square’s rehash mentality, it won’t be long before Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core will get a boost on another format. Then, the cycle will be complete and the PSP will die an unjust death; abandoned by its fickle creator despite its attempts at greatness. It’s like a family drama.
The sum of owned PSP titles, minus 3-4 digital releases. Even less got played.
Sony even admitted themselves how unmoved they were with their first attempt. In an interview with Industrygamers, Sony Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida spoke about being underwhelmed about the PSP. He said: “At launch we were excited about the large, beautiful screen, and a powerful processor, but not much more.” When Sony started moving its attention to the PS3, they were even passing the burden on third parties. “I was hoping at the time that third parties might help fill in the gaps,” he stated: “But they were facing the same situation.” Really? Well heck; thanks for trying anyway, I guess. Isn’t it “lead by example?” As the owner of the product, one would expect them to be the banner for it, but clearly no one really cared. It would’ve been nice to know that beforehand.
So long and thanks for all the fish
Any day now, I’m expecting to get a mail from Sony, stating:
“Thank you for play testing in benefit of our advancement in the handheld market. Our Beta codenamed ‘PSP’ is coming to an end and we appreciate the support throughout the years. Your extensive work into our product has helped us create the next line in amazing mobile gaming. The amount of feedback was immense and your funds helped us research what implementations were important for you to enjoy in the future.
We therefore hope you’ll enjoy your free PlayStation Vita unit for your efforts.. We have shipped your free unit and it should arrive shortly. Sony is glad to be counting on your dedication and we hope you’ll keep supporting us with our release product.”
Does that mean the PS Vita is headed the same way? My cautious optimism says no. It holds many qualities and even has a few features that are quite revolutionary. Hell, it’s even the first device that might help cater to the large portion of left-handed gamers, with the help of the rear touchscreen. But let’s not forget that the PSP had equal pioneering traits when it released. Time is the great equalizer and it’s therefore that I won’t take Sony’s word at face value this time. You may do so and please do. But until there is solid proof of the PS Vita’s lasting power, I’ll marvel at the shininess from afar. Gamers have a unique way of carrying blind grudges for inappropriate amounts of time and as the saying goes: “Fool me once.” There’s still the 3DS. I didn’t think I’d need to mention it in this article, as the two don’t compare. Feel free to prove me wrong in the comments now.