A close eye on PlayStation Network users' buying habits told Sony that it had to go digital with the PSP Go, hardware marketing director John Koller tells Gamasutra.
"The impetus for the product was that over the past two to three years we've seen a sigificant increase in digital demand," he says. "We've also been looking at how consumers track."
Although Sony has never released year over year increases in digital download by percentage, Koller says it's the boost has been "significant" lately. Couple that with the obvious growth of other mobile digital media platforms, says Koller, and "digital really starts to ramp up."
"It's not gonna ever take the place of retail," he adds, noting that Sony pre-briefed retailers like GameStop on their plans so that retail could continue to "play a role."
And Sony itself is still, for the time being, committed to the UMD format. During the company's E3 press briefing, the company said that going forward, it would aim to release all of its PSP titles both on UMD and digitally at the same time, letting consumers select to buy media in either physical or digital format.
"Yes, all dual-format, and we aim to go backward as well," Koller says, adding that Sony plans on converting at least 300 existing UMD titles to digital.
"Going forward, with one or two exceptions, virtually every UMD that launches will also launch digitally," says Koller. "If you own a PSP-3000, you can purchase the UMD or you can download, and if you own the Go, you'll have that content... with content parity, price and timing parity across the board."
The PSP 3000 gets direct access to the PSN's store, and the same feature will be native to the PSP Go at launch, Koller adds.
At the same time, the company's newly-announced, free Media Go app replaces Media Manager to act as a virtual locker of sorts, letting users store content they've purchased off the device so that they can choose which digital titles should occupy their device's hard memory at any given time -- similar to the way iTunes works with Apple's mobile devices.
So the PSP Go is Sony's answer to the continuing increases it sees ahead for digital content demand, but early game consumer reaction has suggested that its $250 price point may be prohibitive.
But Koller says Sony sees it as a "two-model strategy," wherein the PSP Go is the "premium-end" product to the PSP-3000's lower-end.
"From a target perspective the 3000 targets, and has been targeting, a lower income teen consumer... much more urban," says Koller. The demographics of the product are "very ethnic" ; 40 percent of PSP owners are Hispanic, for example.
"It's a different kind of [audience] than you usually see in portable [consumer electronics," says Koller. "It's much different than Apple's or Nintendo's products.
He describes the Go's demographic as someone in the 25-35 age range, "tech adopter, higher income... a little more digitally savvy." As with the earlier PSP models, colored hardware will be part of the strategy to attract this hardcore adopter demographic, although Sony's starting with just black and white hardware.
"The Go... appeals to who we launched the PSP-1000 at $249," says Koller.