Opinion: There's only one way Sony can resurrect PSP and PSP Minis

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Opinion: There's only one way Sony can resurrect PSP and PSP Minis
| PSP Minis

I think my experiences with the PSP have been fairly typical.

I bought it at launch (technically the US launch) and played it a lot, a lot more than the original DS, which was released in the UK around the same time.

Releases such as Field Commander, Untold Legends, and Metal Gear Acid weren't pinnacles of gaming, but they were generally well developed slices of high quality action. And, of course, there was Lumines - perhaps the most elegant PSP release.

At the time, PSP was an impressive piece of kit and gained widespread acceptance. You saw grown-ups playing their PSPs on trains, even using them as an MP3 or movie players.

Sure, things went a little strange when Sony released a camera add-on, tried to make it into a GPS device, and added Skype, but until the release of iPod touch and the App Store the PSP offered the best portable gaming screen and, to my mind at least, the best gaming experience.

Bite of the Apple

It took Sony a long time to react to Apple. But the whole PSPgo redesign aside, the integration of the PlayStation Store for digital downloads just didn't click for some reason.

To be fair, Nintendo has done an even worse job with its DSiWare channel and seemingly endless and confusing hardware redesigns. The ironic thing, however, is that the combination of the PlayStation Store, the desktop Media Go software (previously called Media Manager), and the PSP Minis channel is actually pretty good.

It's not as sleek or ubiquitous as iTunes, but it works well on-device or via desktop. The wallet system is a bit of a pain, but perhaps better designed for parents to give kids a limited amount of money to spend.

It's in the game

Again, the Minis games aren't amazing - typically being ports from other platforms. There aren't that many either - currently 90 releases over ten months or so. Yet the fact that only one million PSP Minis have been downloaded suggests there's a bigger barrier to acceptance even than pricing, which has most games at £2.49 compared to 59p on the App Store.

No. I think the main reason for this lack of activity is that most PSP users don't really know how to get onto the PlayStation Store.

Indeed, a PSP Minis developer recently told me that he thought the majority of downloads were now coming via PlayStation 3. If correct, it would mean the estimate that only 1.7 per cent of PSP owners had downloaded a PSP Minis is likely to be a high over-estimation. It's probably a fraction of one per cent.

Bite the bullet

In my opinion, there's only one way Sony can kickstart the platform as it currently stands, and that's to make all PSP Minis games free for those who download onto their PSP.

As we see on the App Store on a daily basis thanks to promotional websites such as FreeAppADay or Free Game of the Day, making stuff that once cost money free is a massive motivator for consumers.

It's probably the only way Sony could educate PSP users to get online, either on device or via the Media Go software and sign up to PlayStation Store.

Open the wallet

It wouldn't even cost that much. At most, the one million sales on PSP and PS3 to date would have grossed £4 million, or around £3 million in terms of developers' pay-out. Or around £250,000 per month.

Sony could easy cover that for a couple of months. Indeed, if it really cared about PSP, it would pay the developers of all the 90 games currently on the system double what they've earned over the past six months to keep their titles free forever.

Crucially, this would also kickstart new games creation as developers would know there was a decent userbase, even if it hadn't been proved to be a userbase prepared to pay money.

At the moment, with download volumes so low, developers aren't releasing new games and the whole PSP Minis concept is slowly dying, at least on PSP.

So it's time to see if Sony still believes in the PSP.

Digital distribution is clearly the future of portable gaming. Sony still has an opportunity to resurrect a platform it's spent hundreds of millions of pounds on over the years. But does it still have the belief?