Thursday, June 05, 2008

Sony's PSP is a pretty face

It’s not a secret to anyone who pays attention to the news that while PSP sales have seized the crown of juicy charts, notably in Japan, the amount of third party titles poking their nose on the mini thing is dramatically poor.
Rob Cooper (Ubisoft UK) is convinced that the handheld suffers from a lack of direction, and no strong communication as to what the console should provide, or whom it may need to be sold to.
The thing is, when you look at the console's sales (which surpass those of the PS3 now :/), then when you consider its new design, and when you give a quick glance at its games, you cannot help noticing that the console does sell because it’s pretty. And that’s about it.
It’s a PS2 with some simplified libraries, and the granny is still enjoying life as far as we can tell, notably, again, because of new paint jobs (and I must admit that the red version really looks neat).

Trouble is, when Sony will have circled the whole rainbow, what will they be left with?
Well, nothing. Unless they find a solution to their image problem, they won’t be able to entertain the fad that long.

The console is not horrible though. OK, it has mistakes, like the UMD drive, but the screen is fabulous, and is capable of storing, reading and playing various media files.
Plus, it’s very pretty, no denying that.
Now, all of this is fine, but the PSP is suffering from what is the much expected key feature these days: the touch screen.
In that, the PSP shows its age. It’s too close to the PS2, and doesn’t come with enough extravagant functions to compete against the simpler and yet, somehow, fuller DS.

Still, there’s something which can be done with such a screen mounted on a multimedia platform.

My point is simple: instead of trying to cram games which are typically crafted for “living room” experiences into this handheld, why not actually consider that we have a small and light(er) console, which can be easily connected to others, anywhere, and has a fantastic display apparatus capable of rendering pictures with crisp quality and replete with vivid and contrasted colours?

They could focus on JRPGs even more, and also churn out more 2D games.
But above all, why not focus on providing artistic experiences, which the DS and its low quality screen cannot?
You know, more fl0w stuff?

Yes, the PSP was first presented as a posh artsy thing.
Much like the PS3 actually. Then there’s that sharp U-turn which Sony completed rather early in the PSP’s life, and then tried to catch up with the DS. Which it cannot.
It’s one of those few times when you feel like Kutaragi’s vision would have helped a lot here.

So why not push this sort of trendy, high-tech and pompous pretence to its maximum? What is there to loose anyway? Not much I’m afraid.

Why not allow people to download even more content depending on their current location, like near a theatre, a museum, a rock stadium, etc?
Say, you’re attending a fashion show. You’re given a small flyer, with a simple and clear procedure telling you how to connect your PSP to the local hotspot, and then you get a continuous feed of information about the event, the models, the products’ line, the designer, history, photos, the programme and even interactive visual experiences (not really games but more like demos).

Why not allow the console to be used as a controller for other machines at electronic and science shows and conventions?
You know, that funny video of a guy who pretends that he hacked the signal of a large screen in a train station, in Utrecht, with a N95 Nokia… nice hoax. Yet, the idea is good, in terms of localized synchronous interaction with different people.
Why just not allow all people to do that for real? Certain concepts have been explored with sound & light devices being sensible to the presence or movements of people (interactive display at Target in Union Square, NY, or Monolith, Volume and another responsive experimental LED system, all three by United Visual Artists), or providing more synesthetic outputs according to inputs from mobile phones (Amodal Supension and some other interactive stuff I can’t find a link for, which was about talking in your phone and changing the colour of small light columns, in Japan I think).
I suppose it would be interesting to use infrared with the PSP to probe the environment, eventually using a small device that you’d attach to the top of the console, and form images and sounds on your screen according to the input.

Or could you imagine playing with people on that kind of light wall (first inclusion of a yaytube vid btw):

Well, of course, with that wall, who needs the PSP’s screen? Oi! It’s the spirit that matters, OK?!
Mmm… People would probably miss their train! :)

Let’em connect their PSP, and have them fiddle with the huge screen. Make it a continuous community event. Put light and music shows up there.

Put GAMES up there!

Working now, in order to reach new audiences, may be a worthwhile strategy, so your potentially faithful customers would be ready to make the jump to the next handheld (if there’s one).

I’m convinced that there are other things which can be done with this machine, even if I think all signals tend to show that the PSP will be short lived… unless Sony has the balls to spit a PSP 3.0 with a touch screen.
Then, they’d probably need to sell a thin touch screen controller, which you’d plug into the socket on top of the console and strap to the screen of the older versions.
However, you’d probably want to avoid that ugly baby, right?

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