Sony Sets Up Shop for PSP Gamers

PlayStation Portable (PSP) users will soon be saying good-bye to their old download service. Sony, maker of the PSP, announced Tuesday it has launched a new service, the PlayStation Store, for the PC from which PSP owners can purchase content directly.

The current PSP download service will reportedly go dark at the end of January to make way for what Sony says is the next evolution for the PlayStation Network and PlayStation Store.

PSP Shop

The new PlayStation Store for the PC is the first time Sony has opened up the PlayStation Network for gamers beyond PlayStation 3 (PS3) owners. Now, the online site will be accessible to millions of PSP owners and allow them to download content whether they own a PS3 or not.

The service is free, and PSP users can access the PlayStation Store for the PC by using their existing PlayStation Network account or by creating a new account. Once logged in, they will find a variety of free content, including demos of the latest games such as “SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Tactical Strike” as well as much-anticipated upcoming games including “Syphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow” the follow-up to “Filter: Dark Mirror” for the PSP.

Users will not only be able to download games from the PSP’s existing library of titles but will also have the chance to download titles available only through the PlayStation Store, including “Syphon Filter: Combat Ops” and “Beats.”

In addition to the latest titles, PSP gamers will also have access to titles from Sony’s classic games catalog for the original PlayStation. Favorites such as “WipEout” and “Crash Bandicoot” are immediately available. More golden oldies will be rolled out throughout the coming months, Sony said.

The site also features add-on game content, trailers for forthcoming titles, promotional videos and PSP themes. Demos, PSP themes, PS3 wallpaper and trailers are free. Games range from US$5.99 to $19.99.

Playing Hardball

Sony’s decision to open access to the PlayStation Store to PSP users is directly related to its second-place ranking behind Nintendo’s DS portable gaming system, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group.

The Nintendo DS has outsold the PSP by a factor of two to one worldwide since both devices were initially released in late 2004. The DS owns nearly 68 percent of the market with 55.43 million units sold around the world, according to VG Chartz, a video game sales tracking firm. The PSP, meanwhile, has sold 26.45 million units for just a little more than 32 percent of the market.

“Sony is tired of playing poor second to Nintendo and is starting to pick up their game,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

The profit in game systems is all about moving titles, and the PSP can connect to a network and much like the new Kindle from Amazon can pull content from the Web, Enderle continued.

Although the need to make downloadable content available online was something that Microsoft seemed “to get first,” Enderle noted, the software maker does not have a handheld gaming system.

“By providing more opportunities to buy, [Sony] create[s] the potential for more revenue and profit,” he explained. “Problem is that they also create channel conflict with the retailers, but I honestly don’t think Sony has any choice.”

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

The hardware maker’s next step, according to Enderle, is to follow Amazon’s lead and find a way for the PSP to bypass the PC for content. “By putting the PC in the middle, they are not taking full advantage of the potential for additional sales that the platform has.”

The PSP has always been a better product than the DS in terms of pure technology, Enderle said, and could be considered a better deal due to recent pricing changes. However, he said, Sony is again its own worst enemy, with a poor marketing strategy and missteps with its Universal Media Disc format, which Sony originally planned as a delivery method for movies and other videos to the PSP.

“The problem is the DS has had unique content, much like the Wii, which appeals to a wider demographic and breaks out of the typical gamer box,” he pointed out. “In addition, Sony made some bad bets with regard to media that they are paying for in the PSP — a traditional Sony problem.

“Finally, Sony’s marketing truly sucks, and their offerings don’t get the sales they otherwise would receive as a result. So, in the end, I don’t expect this will have the impact they are looking for and is only a partial step, but a good one, in the right direction,” Enderle concluded.

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