ARTICLE: Looking Back at the Fall of the PSP

Looking Back at the Fall of the PSP – Willy105

For the first time since Sega deployed their Game Gear to the market in the very early 90’s, Nintendo was going to have a real competitor in the handheld market.

Nintendo was quite literally the king in the market, with the Game Boy dominating the world and becoming the most successful line of videogame systems ever released. Tons of other companies have tried to enter their kingdom, like Neo Geo with their Pocket, Tiger Electronics with their, and even Atari with their Nomad. But each have been met with total failure. They just didn’t get enough attention.

Sony, the second company ever to make a system that could compete with Nintendo’s offering, and the first one to actually surpass them in the market, was determined to take the handheld market as well. To do this, Sony had to reinvent what gamers thought a portable machine could do.

Nintendo had made a tradition of making their handhelds with power similar to the home console that preceded their console currently in the market. Sony wanted to make their handheld AS POWERFUL as their home console. It would have to be an engineering miracle, but they managed to do it pretty close.

Their PSP was not a portable PS1. It was a portable PS2.

That alone was all that needed to steal the show at E3 2004.

“Sony is going to beat Nintendo at their own game…again!”

“I think we may have seen the end of the reign of the Game Boy.”

“The PSP will be what Nintendo failed to deliver all these years. A current gen experience in your pocket.”

Sony was on a roll. Just look at their competition. Nintendo unveiled their next-gen handheld at the same show, and it turned out to be the Nintendo DS, a brick with two screens with midi sound that was graphically less powerful than the N64, almost down to PS1 levels. All Sony had to do is put them side by side.

The PS1 port of Ridge Racer on the DS, vs. the new Ridge Racer developed for the PSP with PS2 graphics.

A graphical difference of one generation. It was no contest.

Not only that, Nintendo kept preaching their same philosophy they have been repeating since the days of the NES, gameplay over graphics. Gamers did not want that anymore. Why stay with a weak little handheld with an unproven gimmick that only plays games limited by dated 3D graphics when they could have a handheld that played “real” games, along with videos, music, photos, and even an internet browser?

Sony was on a roll.

All they had to do at launch was put out a spec sheet, and the kids bought it like swine flu medicine. It was now cool at school, in the streets, and everywhere else to have a PSP in your pocket. The PSP was also very good looking itself, sporting a black chrome finish in a slick futuristic design, compared to the DS, which was a fat X-Wing without wings. You must have been insane to have a DS instead of a PSP.

So what happened?

The PSP’s main attraction killed it. During the first few years, the PSP was getting exact ports of PS2 games, and people loved it. The PSP versions of the games were the ones people wanted. But the novelty soon wore off. That was all the PSP was getting. Very few original games appeared on the systems. Meanwhile, the DS was getting exclusive after exclusive after exclusive, many of which were actual AAA games that you couldn’t play anywhere else because of it’s “gimmick”.

With nothing new to fall back upon, the PSP went into obscurity in the US, with fewer and fewer games coming out, sales going down, and general interest about the console made it a rare topic in System Wars.

However, in Japan, the PSP is still a healthy competitor to the DS. Everybody in Japan already having a DS means the PSP is looking like a worthy alternative. And Square Enix’s undying support for the handheld (although it is slowing down), has kept game sales for the system on par with any other home console. And Sony would not just let a system die out, and for the first time in years, they are pledging to provide more first party game support for the system this year with Motorstorm and others!

If you have a PSP, don’t panic. It’s not a waste of money yet.