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E3: Sony's Koller Talks Going Digital With 'Premium'-Targeted PSP Go
E3: Sony's Koller Talks Going Digital With 'Premium'-Targeted PSP Go Exclusive
June 3, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

June 3, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC, E3, Exclusive

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.

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Hayden Dawson
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So they are already changing their tune by calling the Go! their 'premium' model. Not quite sure how taking out stuff makes something that. Guess I dont understand an industry that complains about how hard it is to make money -- and the jobs they are having to cut because of it -- and then spending what has to be some pretty serious bread to go this dead-end route.

Peter Dwyer
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This kind of nonsense is caused by companies like Sony letting their marketting people dictate product design. It used to be that marketting promoted products that were researched and designed with a well understood target audience in mind. Now it seems that marketting get to tell the hardware designers what they want and this is the result!

Luis Alis Ferrer
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I found amusing how the younger and poorer, increasingly ethnic audience is identified with the less digitally savvy group.

If anything, those poor teens with time on their hands that can't afford all the games out there are most likely to work on hacking their PSPs so they can still run homebrew software, emulators and downloaded ROMs.

Robert Usarek
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The PSP Go! The faux smartphone for those who already own a smartphone!

Tom Newman
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The technology in the Go! is undoubtedly the way of the future, but the price point is just plain unrealistic. If it were $100 this could be a hot seller (even though that may be an unrealistic offer based on manufacturing/technology costs), but I know not one hardcore gamer who is willing to spend $250. That will buy a lot of UMD's. Even people with good incomes are going to be skeptical of this price point in today's economy.

Ethan Abramson
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Why do they keep referring to the PSPGo as being 'digital'? Are UMDs supposed to be analog? Optical disks are digital media too. I guess it's just typical marketing-speak but I find it particularly annoying.

Hayden Dawson
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And realistically (especially in the US) is the future Sony requires already here? I'm just not sold that it is. Downloading music and small aps is one thing. AAA games like GT or Chains of Olympus 2 are another. If you have good quality wireless internet at your house sure, you can just let it do its thing while you are at work, doing laundry or whatever. But if not, you will have to go to a starbucks or some digital dl kiosk in the mall and stand there for 30mins or more all while praying there's not some glitch that doubles that time.

Plus, you don't have to go far from any US metro area for broadband not to be an option at all. You may try to cover for such things by claiming the Go to be for a tech-lovng urbanite, but launching a product that you know so many will not be able to use may not be the smartest play.

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steve roger
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Thanks, B N. I am so annoyed about buying the PSP experiment in the first place. The PSP just hasn't gotten the proper support it needed in the first place. I thought I was buying a digital platform with downlaodable capability. The UMD aspect is the bane of my PSP existence. Why can't the same content for the GO be downloaded and put on a first generation PSP media stick? Or can it?

Craig Hamilton
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I love my original PSP. If I'm buying a game for it, I better get a nice protective case, book, and not have to worry about how soon I'll need to buy more memory to be able to buy more games. Not only is the $249 price ridiculously high for a LESS equipped piece of hardware (aside from blue-tooth and other mostly irrelevant 'features'), but that only includes 16GB of space? You're joking right? People are just WAITING for Sony to come around. Gamers WANT to like them, but they just refuse to do anything smart. Sony continues its moronic downward spiral into oblivion. PSP Fail!

Roberto Dillon
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"if you own the Go, you'll have that content... with content parity, price and timing parity across the board."

wait... price parity? You man the physical UMD and the digital download will cost the same??? No retailers, no distributors: the digital download should cost at least 40% less!