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The last PSP game?

Posted by Nathan Strum, 27 January 2011 · 8,650 views

Video Game Ramblings
Well, despite my hesitancy to be an early adopter, I did go out and buy Tron: Evolution for the PSP. It was an impulse buy, and I feel terribly guilty about it.

Mainly because I bought it at Wal-Mart. :razz:

It's not the same Tron: Evolution that's on the PS3 or XBox360, but rather a collection of mini-games. Most are similar to the games on the Tron: Legacy iPhone app, but the PSP version adds a few more. I suppose Disney chose to go this route since they're both portable platforms, and they could get the same studio (Supervillain Studios) to do both games (in contrast, the console versions were done by the recently shut down Propaganda Games). The mini-games consist of Modern Lightcycles, Classic Lightcycles (90° turns only), Tanks, Recognizers (an on-rails shooter) and Disc Combat. Plus a "hacking" mini-puzzle-matching game.

I'd take screenshots, but that's not built into the PSP. Also, good luck finding any screenshots of the game online. Even the developer's website has none, and Disney's official site barely mentions the PSP version. There's nary a review out there either, and this was a tie-in to a movie that had the full might of the Disney Marketing Machine behind it. They made games for it for every platform. The studio paid to have a PSP game made. That had to cost, what... three or four hundred bucks? :roll: And yet, there's hardly a mention of it anywhere.

It's not a bad game, but it is an example of what's becoming increasingly typical of PSP ports, where you get either a watered-down version of its console-cousin, or a watered-up version of a cellphone game. Few PSP games anymore are really designed for the system it seems, and Tron: Evolution is basically a slightly-larger version of its iPhone sibling, for about 30 times the price. Disney apparently just rushed something together so they could make a few extra bucks off Tron completists and PSP gamers desperate for something to buy. For my money, I'd just rather have a larger PSP-like version for the iPhone, and pay $10 for it. There are far more iOS users out there than PSP users (160 million vs. 65 million), and it costs Disney zero to package, market and distribute an iPhone game. So they likely would have made more money doing that, than wasting development, manufacturing and distribution dollars on a PSP version.

For the PSP version, it's pretty apparent there's zero support behind it. No marketing. No review copies. However many copies happen to get into the hands of whatever PSP gamers happen across it seems to be good enough for Disney. Toss the PSP users a bone, but don't fret that there's no real meat on it. The simple truth is, nobody really cares anymore.

The PSP is dead.

Actually... it's been effectively dead for years. But it's stone-cold dead now. I find it hard to believe Sony sold 65 million PSPs. Certainly its anemic retail presence belies those numbers. Good luck even finding the PSP section among video games in stores now. I've been in stores where it's smaller than the PS2 section.

The PSP should have a pretty good-sized user base, but I don't think even they care anymore.

I've owned a PSP for several years, and own about a dozen games for it. But with few exceptions, I rarely play it anymore. I've never even cracked open couple of games that were given to me. My favorite games for it were the two Burnout titles - the most recent of which came out in March 2007. Gran Turismo is also very good, but is severely hamstrung by the PSP's biggest drawback by far...

It's lousy analog stub-stick-controller-thing.

This thing makes every controller on every system ever look brilliant by comparison - the Intellivision disk, the 5200 joystick - no other major game system ever came with a controller this bad.

Take the worst game controller you've ever used, and multiply its badness by 50. Then add 2. And you're about 1/4 of the way there.

The PSP's analog-stub-thing is, for all intents and purposes, useless. There's no feel to it. There's no range of motion. It "grinds" against the PSP's housing. It absolutely ruins what otherwise might be perfectly good games. The best PSP games manage to effectively ignore it as a true analog controller, and just use it as a smaller d-pad.

I gave up playing some games simply because the controls were so bad. Lego Star Wars? Unplayable. You can't precisely control where you're going, and will repeatedly fall to your death. The Recognizers in Tron: Evolution? Unplayable. You can't aim at all where you need to shoot. It's completely ridiculous. I suspect a lot of bad PSP ports that had been successful on other systems (such as Split Second or Mod Nation Racers) were due in no small part to how dreadfully awful the PSP's controller is. Either the gameplay suffered because of the controller, or the developers simply gave up trying, because they couldn't make the stupid thing work the way it should. Coupled with that, objects in PSP games are often ridiculously small, so playing the games becomes like performing brain surgery on a mouse with a blunt chainsaw. Left-handed. (Or right-handed, if you're a lefty.)

So Tron: Evolution is likely to be my last PSP game. I've decided if I'm going to buy games like Gran Turismo, Mod Nation Racers, Lego Star Wars, or anything else that exists on larger consoles, I'd be better off just buying the big-boy version in the first place. The sacrifices made to squeeze games into the PSP more often than not aren't worth the portability of them. Besides, games written for the iPhone (and other smartphones) are approaching (if not exceeding) the quality and depth of what the PSP can do, and are designed specifically to work on those systems, rather than trying to shoehorn a console game into a half-baked portable console-wannabe with a horrible little analog-stick-torture-thing. An iPhone is also a fraction of the size and weight of a PSP, and iPhone games generally cost 99˘. The pricey ones are usually just a few dollars. How can Sony possibly hope to compete with that?

Well, apparently, they're about to try. Again.

With the PSP2.

Yeah. Good luck with that.

First of all, for dedicated gaming handhelds, Nintendo has the market sewn up. The DS is everywhere, and the 3DS (which I personally consider to be little more than the Virtual Boy Advance SP DSi - but whatever) is going to sell a gazillion systems, if for no other reason than because Nintendo already has the fan base for it. The novelty of 3D will get the Nintendo fanboys to line up and buy yet-another version of the Game Boy, despite the outrageous price.

Second, the PSP is dead, remember? Nintendo replaces its handhelds while they're still popular. They didn't wait for their user base to get tired of the Game Boy/Game Boy Color/GBA/GBA SP/DS/DSi before putting out the next one. Out of sight, out of mind, right? If your PSP has been sitting, unused, on a shelf for months, how likely are you to buy the next one? Eleven months from now?

Third, smartphones are filling the casual/portable gaming niche in a huge way. First, people are going to buy a phone anyway. So if they have the phone, they're likely to spend 99˘ once in awhile for games. That means they're going to be increasingly unlikely to fork over big bucks for another portable device to haul around with them, when they've already got a perfectly good game system with them all the time. Plus, they're really unlikely to want to start spending $30 or more per game, when most iPhone games cost 99˘, many are under $5, and the really, really expensive ones cost only $9.99 (and usually drop in price shortly after release).

Fourth, the PSP2 is a behemoth. The original PSP was already huge, and now they're making this one even bigger? Yeah... it's portable-ish. But it's yet one more thing to haul around. I bet those dual analog sticks are going to help it slide right in and out of your pocket with ease, too. :roll: If you're looking for gaming on the go, this is a step backwards, like buying a CD player to replace your iPod.

Who is it aimed at, really? Not kids. Kids have the DS. Not casual gamers. They have smartphones. Innovation seekers? They'll have the 3DS months before the PSP2 comes out. And while no price was announced, I can't see the PSP2 for selling less than $399, can you? And no mention was made of backwards-compatibility with existing PSP titles (no surprise there - even the PSP Go didn't bother with that). So... tell me, who's going to buy it? Hardcore gamers who are looking to take their PS3 experience on the road? And how big of a market exactly is that?

If Sony actually decides to go ahead with this (and maybe they'll smarten-up by then and decide it's not worth it), the PSP2 will likely end up being nothing more than overpriced, underperforming, short-lived, soon-forgotten, unlamented, portable roadkill on the videogame niche market highway. Of life.

And Gran Turismo will ship for it five years late.

Wait. Watered-up? :)

I came across the news of the PSP2 the other day and thought pretty much the same thing. Actually I wondered where the entire handheld game market is. I've never once seen anyone playing a handheld game (PSP or DS) in the wild. Granted, I have no kids so I don't hang out with soccer moms and dads at places where kids may congregate and actually use these devices but you'd think in all the years they've been around I might have seen one in use someplace besides the interwebs. Everyday Google news treats me to another dozen tech stories about the latest handheld black boxes that will change our lives, only to be found in a landfill a month later. I'll admit the dual touch surfaces of the PSP2 sound intriguing but intriguing in a student industrial design project kind of way. I wouldn't have guessed they'd actually consider renting out more landfill space for a bunch of these though.
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Any place you find kids where the parents know they will have to be waiting, you'll find kids playing their DS.

Actually, the PSP2 is impressive for a different reason - it's coming out only 2 years after the PSP Go (which was really a modified PSP). The graphics processor is also very new. Sony has really reduced their time to market.

Not that it will do them any good. They will still be overpriced and coming out 10 months after the 3DS.

I also wonder how much piracy killed the PSP.
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Wait. Watered-up? :)

Ummm... you know... like a plant.

Yeah, that's it. :P

I came across the news of the PSP2 the other day and thought pretty much the same thing. Actually I wondered where the entire handheld game market is. I've never once seen anyone playing a handheld game (PSP or DS) in the wild.

My nieces have DSes, and whenever they got new games for them, they would take them everywhere. Mostly though, they played them at home or in the car. Now that they have a Wii though... I suspect the DSes will be gathering a little more dust. Like any system, if you've played through all of your games and don't have a steady influx of new ones, you'll get bored with it.

With my PSP, I would take it on trips sometimes, but almost never just played it out in the wild, because the thing was too big to haul around all the time (you had to have a case that would hold the PSP plus sevearal UMDs, and then carry around a bulky charger somehow). Not so much portable as transportable.
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Someone should really make this into a real game...

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When I was riding the train to Seattle every day (about a year ago) I occasionally saw people playing DS/PSP. Not too often, but it was a very "professional" crowd. Mostly 30/40-somethings going from their home in the 'burbs to their jobs in the city. Kinda like me...I was the one guy playing a GBA and/or GBC. :)

I do frequently see kids with DSes at the store, mall, wherever their parents drag them.
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Here's an interesting article on how smart phones are cutting into the portable gaming market. Personally, at least in part because I own an iPhone which is more-than-adequate for casual gaming, I have no interest in buying another portable gaming system. I bought very few games for the portables that I have (PSP and GBA-SP), and have no interest in buying a DS, 3DS or PSP2/NGP. For me, portable systems are for quick pick-up-and-play games. I don't need a deep, immersive gaming experience in a handheld (although in some cases, you can get that on the iPhone anyway). Plus, the newer handhelds are oversized, overpriced, and don't do half of the things my iPhone does, and does well: iPod, cell phone, text messaging (admittedly, I rarely ever do that anyway :roll: ), GPS navigation, e-mail, plus all of the functionality of non-game apps, which is practically unlimited.

Because there are gamers out there that will buy whatever system is new and shiny, there will always be a market for dedicated, portable gaming systems, but I don't see it growing. I think any growth with portable gaming will be into the smartphone/tablet market, because of the reasons I mentioned in the main post that the gaming companies can't match: 1) people are going to buy these devices anyway because they have practical uses beyond gaming and 2) games are much, much cheaper on these devices, so more people who would never otherwise buy a game for any reason will do so for their smart phone or tablet.
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And another one bites the dust...

Actually I'm surprised it took Sony this long to kill the PSP no-Go. But they're stubborn that way. (Unless, of course, it's a product you need. Then they'll kill it off before you can buy one.)
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Well, Sony announced the new name of the PSP2 NGP... it's the "Vita".

Like, "Vitamin". Same root word.

But is that pronounced "Vie-ta?" "Vitt-a?" "Veet-a?"

Like... Velveeta?

Or VitaMeataVegaMin?

If they make a miniature PSP Go version of it, will they call it the VitaMini? (Oh please... please do.)

I'll admit I was surprised by the price. $249 is a lot cheaper than what I was expecting, and only about $149 more than I'd be willing to pay for one. I just have zero interest in buying a bulky, dedicated, semi-portable console again. If I want console-level games, I'll buy a full-on console. If I want portable games, I'll stick to my iPhone.

Given the price and specs, I think it will be marginally successful, in as much as the PSP was. But it will all come down to software. If the titles aren't there, they might as well start clearing out extra space in the E.T. landfill. If it integrates well with the PS3, then that could help boost sales, but again, the software has to be compelling enough for people to want to own a PS3, and a Vita and pay another $60 for a game.
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But is that pronounced "Vie-ta?" "Vitt-a?" "Veet-a?"Like... Velveeta?

It's more like Wii-too :lol:

So it has a touchscreen and cameras? There were times when Sony was copying Nintendo way faster...

BTW: I think I'll buy a PSP for myself sometime soon now, so I can play Mega Man Powered Up :)
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