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Analysis: On PSP Go's Launch Numbers, PSP's U.S. Future
Analysis: On PSP Go's Launch Numbers, PSP's U.S. Future
November 16, 2009 | By Matt Matthews

November 16, 2009 | By Matt Matthews
More: Console/PC

[Gamasutra looks at PSP Go first-month sales, estimated at 100-145,000 -- and finds "strong reservations" for the PlayStation Portable's prospects in the U.S., with GTA: Chinatown Wars' slow retail launch just one red flag.]

Since Sony launched the PSP Go handheld on 1 October 2009, industry observers have sought any concrete indication of its sales.

At best, Sony has released statements of being pleased with the system's low-key release (“additive to Sony's PlayStation business” and not “at the expense of PSP-3000 sales” according to Sony's John Koller), and the NPD Group rolls all PSP hardware sales up into the single figure that it releases for the system each month. Repeated requests to the NPD Group for more detailed data have been politely declined.

However, some information appears to have slipped through the cracks. The post history of “creamsugar”, a member of the rowdy NeoGAF forum, reveals numerous data leaks, presumably from official NPD Group reports, and those leaks have proven reliable when later compared with official data.

According to a post made by creamsugar last week, sales of the PSP Go were around 100,000 units during October 2009. Moreover, the black PSP Go system was apparently twice as popular as the white model.

The NPD Group would not confirm the accuracy of the data offered by creamsugar. According to private discussions with analysts, we feel the number of PSP Go systems sold in the U.S. so far is between 100,000 and 145,000, lending some credence to the leaked figure.

Assuming launch-to-date (LTD) sales of the PSP Go in that range, the smaller handheld has assumed around 25-40% of the platform's hardware sales. Given that the PSP sold 1.4 million systems during November and December of last year and the system's declining sales during 2009, we feel it likely that the PSP Go installed base will range from 450,000 up to 550,000 systems by the end of the year (just in the United States).

One recent move that we see as potentially positive for the PSP Go is GameStop's announcement of an in-store downloadable content program.

A download-only system like the PSP Go runs contrary to the used-product resale model which accounts for much of GameStop's profit margin, and indications are that GameStop will only initially sell DLC for physical games. However, we see benefits for both Sony and GameStop in the mid-term as long as physical games can be traded and the credit can be used to purchase games for the PSP Go (as well as for other PSP models).

We are undecided about the PSP Go's success so far and its long-time prospects. Sony's decision to simultaneously support the PSP-3000 and games packaged on UMD while also offering the download-only PSP Go may appeal to retailers (or at best anger them less) but the split confuses consumers. At least Sony's older hardware can still purchase and download games, a benefit if the ultimate goal is a download-only handheld.

Moreover, we have seen no significant PSP Go promotions, either at retail or in mainstream media, although that is merely an anecdotal observation. In fact, the primary PSP commercial on television features Gran Turismo and the PSP-3000 model, not the PSP Go.

Finally, the $250 cost makes the PSP Go a luxury game system. Few consumers will have any software they can transfer to the PSP Go (in the form of games downloaded from Sony's PlayStation Store), so new owners will then need to spend additional money to play games.

Until Sony clarifies its vision for the PSP Go, initiates serious promotion of the system, and reduces the system price, we expect its hardware sales to remain modest.

Even beyond the PSP Go, we have strong reservations about the PSP platform itself, strictly on its ability to move software. According to previous reports, the PSP generally accounts for only 4-5% of all software revenue each month, on par with what the PlayStation 2 is still generating as that system begins its tenth year.

Heavily promoted titles like Gran Turismo, Motorstorm: Arctic Edge, and Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars have failed to reach the top 20 all-format chart. With an installed base of nearly 16 million systems in the United States, it is disconcerting that only one PSP title, Dissidia: Final Fantasy from Square-Enix, has made it into the top 20 games for any given month during the past year.

The PSP version of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is particularly troubling. The PSP has played host to both Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, and each has sold particularly well. Yet in its launch month Chinatown Wars didn't even make the PSP software top 10 list at retail – it placed somewhere below #10, the PSP version of LEGO Batman.

While it is possible that some of the PSP's retail sales have moved to downloads through the PlayStation Store, we think it unlikely that those sales are the key reason for the weak retail performance.

[The preceding analysis was conducted as part of Gamasutra's in-depth NPD article, examining October 2009's U.S. console retail sales.]

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Tom Newman
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Personally, I put buying PSP games "on hold", as have several other people I know, and all for the same reason:

The PSP Go! is obviously the system's future. They're still making UMD's yes, but the writing is on the wall for the future of this format.

I would gladly buy a PSP Go!, BUT I already have a library of UMD's I would have to re-purchase, as Sony has no trade-in plan to convert these for old PSP users, even though most of the titles are already in a download format. I'm not buying any new UMD's for a format that is on it's way out, and am skeptical to purchase any new download games for my old system until I figure out where my relationship with the PSP really stands.

Fábio Bernardon
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So, no one blaming the PSP as the reason for the commercial failure of GTA:CW? Interesting that when the DS version did not do so well, it was because it was on a Nintendo system rather than the game's own merits. And lots of people predicted that it would do much better once it was released for the PSP. Very interesting, indeed.

Jeremy Reaban
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I think there are several factors as to why GTA:CW didn't do well. First off, the viewpoint. Those sorts of GTA games have simply never been that popular. It wasn't that GTA3 had dramatically different gameplay than earlier ones, it was the graphics and viewpoint that made it massive.

Going back to it makes no sense. Like FPSes going back to the Doom style of no aiming, no looking up and down.

Nextly, it's a port of an old-ish (8 month) DS game that is actually priced more. PSP fans were upset that not only did the DS get the next game in the series (instead of San Andreas Stories), but all they got was a port, and they had to pay more for it. And what's more, it's also coming to the iPhone for $30 cheaper or so. It's like a slap in the face to PSP owners. It has nothing to do with being cool, it has to do with being treated poorly and expected to take it. Consumers aren't idiots or sheep

Pachter recently said that publishers risked devaluing their IP by selling it on the iPhone so cheaply. He seemed to be referring to consoles (Madden he mentioned), but I think it's really true for handhelds. Why do owners of the DS and PSP have to pay $20-30 more for the same games on the iPhone? Since it often is exactly the same content, at least on consoles there is a huge difference between that game and the iPhone version.

Jay Martinez
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The PSP has sadly become a very stale market as compared to the attention toward the roaring big 3 consoles. Price drops, new PS3 slim, huge huge titles STILL bringing vitality to the console (and to an extent the PC), and of course the future prospects of motion-sensor gaming. And the current exciting world of the PSP? Far-too-occasional big releases, plenty of ports, and a new "trendy" and more expensive model with no real improvements that forces you to start your game library from scratch. The PSP is treated too consistently as an afterthought to cheaply scrounge as much profit as possible from the left-over crumbs of the console release.

Give us PSP owners something EXCITING to look forward to! Portables have so much potential, if only they would start being treated as a platform for innovation rather than just a battery-powered gimmick.

Ashley Bushore
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Just wanted to share a recent top 10 toy list for the holidays. It has the PSP listed as wanted with both boys AND girls. We'll see....

Bradley Jones
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I believe the PSP Go's sales will spike in the month of December. I'm predicting a huge increase for the Christmas season. The only downfall I have found with the PSP Go is the fact that there really aren't any upgrades as far as graphics or quality of games from its predecessor. I do like that you no longer have to use UMDs anymore, though. I find it much easier to download games than to keep up with a tiny disc.