For all the derision thrown the way of Sony Computer Entertainment, we know it and its figurehead Kaz Hirai are aware, pragmatic, ambitious, and contemporary. Even so, I find it hard to clear the image of Hirai and his fellow executives sat around their long mahogany desk, all a little hunched as a they twiddle their thumbs, scratch their heads, and occasionally, oh so quietly, let out a sigh. On the centre of the desk lies a photo of Nintendo's 3DS as held by a beaming Reggie Fils-Aime (with his eyes crossed out), next to it a slightly torn photo of the iPhone. There's also a blank sheet of paper with the letters PSP blocked out in a large bold font, and beneath them a large question mark. And hours of total silence.
When I was asked on a recent podcast about Sony’s tepid PSP line-up at E3, I said that the console's end had already come hours earlier at Nintendo's 3DS presentation. It was a snarky response, but when I read one glowing hands-on after another for the 3DS, I do wonder what the PSP has left in its locker.
Whether it was in response to the 3DS or something already considered, Hirai and Sony's decision to not bring 3D technology to its new handheld is a strong one. That is a fight that Sony will only lose. The PSP is obviously already flagging behind the DS in terms of worldwide awareness and uptake, and with Nintendo smartly incorporating the DS name into its new product, much like it did for many years with the dominant Game Boy consoles, Sony has no chance on a level 3D playing ground, even with a 'PSP 2'.
The question that remains, then, is regards what Sony can do with the PSP 2 to give it its own identity and footing within the handheld market. The PSP 2 obviously cannot go up against the iPhone as a device with a breadth of usability. Apple won that fight without pausing for breath, and if anything Apple enthusiasts are even more loyal than Nintendo's. We know that Sony cannot and will not try to fight on the 3D front either.
Maybe the only clear focus left is gaming. If that is Sony's new tack then it explains the company’s insistence at E3 that the PSP was the definitive handheld device to play games on. Will the PSP 2 have high level graphics and a gaming line-up to rival its PS3 sibling?
Maybe that leaves it with only a clear focus of gaming to really chase. If that's Sony's new tack then it could explain the company's insistence at its E3 conference that the PSP was the definitive handheld device to play games on.
Will the PSP 2 come to the fight with high-level graphics and a gaming line-up to rival its home console sibling? Is there the capability within handheld processors and, more significantly, batteries for that kind of mobile power, or will the new PSP have an even shorter battery life than the already short one of its predecessor’s? How much better can the visuals get within the limited resolution of a handheld's small screen? These and many other questions face Sony should it go down this route.
I’ll admit, my dismissive comment regards the chances of success for Sony's new handheld was snarky and way too cynical. Still, I cannot see how Sony is going to get back into the handheld race, but I do hope some smart bod at the Japanese company does. I do hope that we'll be bowled over when Sony probably unveils it at the upcoming Tokyo Game Show. For one, I'm unconvinced that the 3DS and the iPhone will offer enough breadth and choice between their gaming line-ups.
Still, when your ex-CEO says that if you don't get your act together then you're going to regret it, and describes your rivals as "shit hot", it's time to stop dissing the competition and pull your socks up.