This is a speculative article written from the perspective of Christmas 2010.
It seems like every year there’s a renewed round of excitement about the PSP’s prospects for the following year. There’s no lack of enthusiasm behind the platform. It has a lot going for it, but despite Sony’s best efforts the PSP has never really managed to have that stellar year it’s been hankering after.
Not that 2010 has been unkind to the PSP. Indeed, it was a better year than 2009, which wasn’t a bad year either. The point is, the PSP’s penetration into the market has been by degrees, and in spite of what Sony might hope for its handheld the PSP appears to be making slow and steady progress rather than headline grabbing leaps and bounds.
So what happened in 2010? Well, with Apple’s iSlate announcement in early January, much of the iPhone development talent that had been churning out titles for the iPhone turned their attention to Apple’s new toy and its new SDK.
The resulting dearth of iPhone releases saw many gamers dusting off their PSPs and finding that the PSP Store had been shaken up considerably since they last visited.
Still, with PSP Minis prices still far from competitive, the trend this year has been more towards gamers purchasing fewer but pricier games.
As a result, titles like LittleBigPlanet, God of War: Chains of Olympus and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker did well, especially in the first quarter, but by March the once promising PSP Minis line slipped further into the doldrums.
By the time E3 came around in June, the cheaper PSP Minis and PSP2 news that gamers were hoping for never came. What Sony delivered instead was Home on the PSP and a 32GB version of the PSPgo.
It seemed at the time like a typical misstep for a company that has continually failed to understand its own platform. It has to be said, though, that Home has been a successful addition to the PSP, and the 3D PSP Store front, complete with an regularly expanding library of digital comics, has given both Nintendo and Apple something to think about.
Back to E3, the show stopping Resident Evil PSP gave the console a genuine E3 hit and the surprise multi-player mode has clocked up an unthinkable number of gaming hours this year. Though we’re still waiting to play it, Street Fighter IV’s imminent arrival on the PSP (also announced at E3) is clear evidence of Capcom’s confidence in the PSP.
By the time GC rolled around in August, EA lost its mind completely and decided to make its resurrection of the long forgotten NBA Jam series a handheld only prospect and even granted the PSP a timed exclusive.
After the game's release in October, however, it claimed middling review scores, and a panicked EA rushed the DS and iPhone versions out in time for Christmas at roughly half the price of the PSP game. Consider that franchise well and truly buried.
The end of the year has really been a time of mixed blessings for the PSP. There are plenty of games to look forward to, such as Street Fighter IV, God of War: Wrath of Sisyphus, Dark Void PSP, Uncharted: Fool’s Gold, Wipeout XXL and Fieldrunners 2 make us tempted to say 2011 will be the PSP’s year.
On the other hand, Sony’s reluctance to fall in line with its competitors and cut the price of the system leaves us feeling reluctant.
As far as we’re concerned, Sony is closer than ever before to perfecting its handheld formula. It’s got the games, it’s got the hardware and crucially it’s got online support and features that no other handheld can match.
So please Sony, if you're listening: cut the price of the PSP Minis and drop the 8GB PSPgo to £99. Maybe then in 2011 we can finally bear witness to the year of the PSP.