The PSP is sweet, but Sony, it's time to upgrade. We complain because we care.
Consumers are always looking for the next flashy gadget to get their hands on and show off to their friends, especially when it comes to portable devices. Phones are almost replaced yearly to get the next cool feature or smaller design. It's no wonder businesses often redesign their products to not only sway new potential buyers, but also force those who own the older model to upgrade, which results in some juicy increased profits. So it's no surprise that game companies have followed suit.
It's been a popular selling tactic for years; the Game Boy was quietly shown the door while the Game Boy Pocket made its way in to gamers pockets. Heck even the obscure Wonderswan saw an updated color model. In some cases it's a last breath effort to save a floundering product (see N-Gage), but other times you have a product such as the Nintendo DS which was selling through the roof, but still saw a face lift to help attract even more consumers and kill the competition.
Typically these redesigns help fix complaints made about such system, more recently the release of the Nintendo DS Lite has managed to fix most of the problems associated with the hardware, the screen is much clearer, with optional brightness levels to boot, as well as a larger stylus. But best of all it received a complete make over with a smaller, sexier design. In the early PSP vs. DS controversy the two things the PSP significantly one-up'd the DS on was its crisp screen and sleek design. And low and behold Nintendo addressed those issues with the DS Lite, which has now taken Japan and the US by storm.
So where does Sony stand? While the hardware is certainly still selling, can it really make a mark if it continues to be outsold by the competition? Rumors have been boiling for quite a while about a potential PSP redesign and I think I speak for a lot of people when I say "bring it on." The PSP has a lot of unique features which truly make it a great system, but like the original DS, it has a lot of downsides as well, both internally and cosmetically. So here's a list of some things I'd like to see Sony bring to the table with the next PSP model.
The Dated Design
When it first hit the market the PSP was one of the most gorgeous looking devices this side of GameStop. It had that "cool effect" that made you want to buy it regardless of what the system had to offer. The screen alone made people rethink how it was possible that we even tolerated the dull screens from previous handhelds. However after only a little over a year since it was released in the United States there has been significant improvements on its competitors that have made it somewhat less appealing. For starters you have the Game Boy Micro which redefined the definition of minuscule, and had a dazzling screen to go with it. Then you have the DS Lite which features a small, sexy design as well as a screen that is arguably better then the PSP [a point I would argue -Ed]. Even the ol' Game Boy Advance SP has been blessed with a screen upgrade to stay a float.
So with all sorts of new and attractive handhelds out on the market, Sony needs to take the PSP in a similar direction. First things first is that the system needs to reduce in size. The system is bulky enough, but due to its non-clam shell design it practically requires a case which only adds to its size. Speaking of clam shell designs, the PSP needs to take a cue from Nintendo and the DS by making the switch. The screen is far too delicate and vulnerable to pesky scratches and other unwanted attractions that it's almost a necessity. By doing so it'll also allow the system to make room for size reduction. In having the screen on the top it makes it possible to condense the sides and make it smaller horizontally. The size reduction is crucial at this point, in an industry run on the idea of smaller is better, the PSP is above and beyond being one of the more robust portable gadgets out there. From a personal stand point, there have been numerous times I've skipped out on bringing the PSP with me on the go because it's just too awkward in my pocket.
The Atrocious Analog
They did it with the original PlayStation (in a similar fashion anyway), and Sony needs to do it again with the PSP. While having one analog stick was a nice change of pace from the same old d-pad we'd been playing with since the original Game Boy, you can't deny the fact that in this day of age it just makes sense to have two. And when you consider the fact that a vast majority of the PSP software is ported from a home console, it only seems natural to add it in there to ease the process and avoid the potential lack of buttons excuse on why a game is terrible (I'm looking at you Prince of Persia: Revelations).
The only problem that could come from this is that if game play requires the use of the dual analog then it would leave gamers stuck with the original model in quite a rut. However it's certainly possible that Sony could demand that all future games have alternative control methods that adapt to both systems.
While you're at it Sony, how about some grips on those slippery analog sticks?
The Miserable Memory Sticks
We all knew that eventually handhelds would move into a disc format, and with the PSP we got one with the UMD. But of course we would get both the positives and negatives that go along with the new disc driven format. More space and a more console like experience on the go are nice, but long load times and lack of internal memory are certainly a set back. The load times are something we're all going to have to live with but the internal memory is something Sony can and needs to change.
Sony has always pushed the idea that the PSP has the potential of replacing your iPod. I don't know about you but I don't really see the point of paying $200 for a device and then an additional chunk of cash to pay for memory sticks that only give me a fraction of the memory space that the iPod has to offer. Memory sticks work well with something like a digital camera because it's more convenient to bring a memory card to a photo printing store rather then your entire camera, however when do you ever find your memory sticks out of your PSP? I'd say almost never.
What Sony needs to do to get over this hurdle is include an internal hard drive. When the original Xbox came out it was a huge selling point to consumers, the same would be said for the PSP. From the looks of things memory cards (or sticks in this case) are seeing their final days with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, so why not the PSP as well? Now I'm not expecting something like 20 GB's of storage, just a modest six to eight gigabytes; now that's a solid 1,500 to 2,000 songs - more then an iPod Nano - and would certainly make me second guess my reasons for owning any other MP3 player. It might set Sony back some cash, but with their current position in the industry Sony needs to follow the all too familiar "it takes money to make money" strategy. It worked with Microsoft and the Xbox, and you can be damn sure it'll work against Nintendo and the DS as well.
I've been anxiously awaiting the a white PSP to hit the US ever since it was announced for Japan way back when and every day is another day I go without one because SCEA seems to ignore the demand for it. This might not necessarily apply to Japan or Europe for that matter as they've seen a white and pink model, but it definitely applies to the United States as we've yet to see any additional colors to the PSP line, only black. It might not be a big deal to some of you, but for someone like me, I actually bought the white Nintendo DS Lite on day one, and recently sold it in favor of the black one. Now if I wasn't the kind of person who always has to have the cool new game device I probably would have held off on the initial DS Lite purchase, which I'm sure a lot of people are doing with the white PSP. It's simple, new colors ignite more sales, just ask Nintendo. And judging by the PSP's sales, it boggles my mind that we haven't seen more colors in more timely fashion.
Sony's has also got to stop stripping and adding to the PSP package. When the system launched in 2005 we had a humble bundle of goodies that came with it and it retailed at $250. Then Sony, for whatever reason, decided it would make more sense to get rid of the majority of those extras (most notably the memory stick) and give us a more bare bones package for $200. But even now that's been replaced very recently and the system has been bumped back up to $250 (as it includes a game, a UMD movie, and a much bigger memory stick). When you look at what you get with the PSP now it's obviously a pretty darn good deal, but I have to ask what the point of it all is? Quit forcing these price changes on us and just give us the system the way it should be and follow the standard every so often price drop.
Or an even better move would be having two options such as the PlayStation 3 will be doing come this November. I'm fine with the current bundle at $250, but why not give us a stand alone, absolutely bare minimum package as well for roughly $175? I know it's hard to believe Sony, but not all of us enjoy ATV Offroad Fury.
The PSP is far from over and these are just a few of the examples on how to fix the somewhat flawed PSP design. These examples are only scratching the surface of what the PSP 1.5 could include. The possibilities of a full blown online service, built in camera and even a microphone are just a handful of other options that come to mind. While some of these might be more realistic then others they are all definitely things that should be considered in the future and lets hope Sony can address them as the system has a lot of untapped potential.
And even though Sony has repeatedly stated that the PSP will not see a redesign and instead focus on the system enhancing peripherals such as the camera and GPS system, it's hard to imagine that Sony can tolerate the ass kicking that Nintendo has been dishing out since both systems launched. It would only seem logical for Sony to keep a redesign under wraps until after the holiday season, so there's certainly hope for an announcement in 2007. An upgraded PSP on top of a bright software lineup in the not too distant future could get the PSP back on its feet.