By Richard Menta 2/18/11
Go back a few years, before Apple released an iPod that could handle video, and our choice for the best personal media player was a portable gaming platform that just happened to handled media brilliantly. In our May 2005 review of the Sony PSP, which we reviewed specifically for its media abilities, the unit clearly distanced itself from what was available on the market at the time. It was so good that it remained our choice for the best media player for over two years. That's when Apple released the iPod touch in September of 2007, a media player that with the later introduction of the App store would evolve into what is now the leading mobile game platform.
Sony's next gen unit is codenamed the NGP and the list of features is already making the some mouths water. But Piers Harding-Rolls, senior analyst and head of games at IHS, thinks Sony will have trouble moving a mass number units. As announced on IHS Screen Digest News Flash, Harding-Rolls feels that, despite healthy sales in the past, the rise of smart phones has reduced the standalone gaming device into a niche product. In his view it now falls under the category of specialist device in what is a shrinking rather than growing market.
"The competitive landscape for handheld and on-the-move gaming has been highly disrupted in recent times, with disruption occurring on the device, content and distribution levels", writes Harding-Rolls. From a device perspective, smart phones are now aggressively intercepting a wide range of consumers further up what is described as the consumption chain. The consumption chain is increasingly dominated by mainstream devices that are used for a wide range of everyday activities and that also happen to serve games content. On the move, this represents a convergence of activities into single devices, a trend that will result in usage away from specialist devices by the mainstream consumer and onto smart phones".
Harding-Rolls astutely adds "On smart phones, not only is games content plentiful, it is cheap as well. This combination will deliver a hammer blow to specialist devices like the NGP".
Harding-Rolls makes a very valid point. Sony PSP games still sell in the stores for between $30-$40. Most iOS games sell for $0.99. Take Madden NFL 11, which the gaming stores happily charge $39.99 for in PSP version. It sells for only $4.99 on the iOS App store. The issue that Harding-Rolls brings to light for the Sony NGP is not only one of it competing with technical convergence (Smart phones finally made a twenty year-old pocket PC concept practical), but of dramatic price differences.