Thursday, February 3, 2011

NGP - Why Angry Birds Will Be More Important for Sony Than Uncharted

There were two thoughts on my mind as I watched Sony wheel out the successor to the PSP late last week.
The first was that nobody has learned anything since 2004. That was the year, of course, that Sony unveiled the system that everyone figured would sound the death knell for Nintendo's portable empire; and while we ooh'd and ahh'd at Ridge Racer, the PSP was ultimately buried under a mountain of shoddy ports and other flaws.
That brings me to my next thought though: The NGP has a chance to be more successful than its predecessor precisely because it's not 2004. The market has changed quite a lot in the past few years.
How much has it changed, you ask? Well, enough that Angry Birds can be downloaded 50 million times. And ultimately, I think it'll be those kinds of games that play as much a role in the NGP's success as Uncharted and company.
For one thing, they make a pretty handy stopgap. Anyone who purchased an Xbox 360 in 2005 can attest to how welcome an addition Geometry Wars was to that platform's barren launch lineup, and that was downloadable gaming was in its infancy. On a handheld like the NGP where Uncharted-caliber games figure to be relatively rare, the PlayStation Store will be worth its weight in gold.
And trust me, games like Uncharted will be rare. Back in 2005, developers went to the Nintendo DS in droves because it was cheaper to develop games for the thing (and later, it had a much larger install base too). In this day and age, with games like Angry Birds selling millions, do you think EA will drop a few million dollars on a handheld AAA project?
That pretty much sums up the handheld market as it is today. Quality games like Uncharted will certainly sell their share, but it'll be Lumines and other games like it that form the backbone of the NGP's software lineup. Those are the games that tech junkies will be buying while either waiting for the next big thing, or even while just waiting for a flight to Singapore.
And while the PlayStation Store titles will certainly be more expensive than the average iTunes game, they also figure to be a lot more impressive. The sort of games that NGP owners will want to show their friends.
Interestingly enough, that would seem to give the NGP a marked advantage over its nearest competitor -- the 3DS. Nintendo has so far been slow to warm up to the idea of an online store -- their e-store won't even be available at launch -- and normal 3DS games will reportedly cost as much at $50.
Will customers be willing to pay those prices for games like Devil Survivor: Overclocked, or even Ocarina of Time? I'm not sure, but the 3DS won't be able to fall back on cheaper downloadable games like the NGP.
The fact is that games like Lumines have always been better suited for quick handheld sessions, and there will likely be a flood of such games available on the cheap via the PlayStation Store. It's true that the presence of a downloadable store didn't make a ton of difference for the PSP; but then, the PlayStation Store couldn't even be accessed on the PSP without a PC and a USB cable until 2008, long after the PSP had faded from the public eye.
That's not to say that the NGP will automatically be a big success because of its online store. Given the emergence of mobile gaming, I think both the 3DS and NGP might have trouble gaining traction as anything more than gadgets -- premium systems for people with deep pockets and a love of high-tech toys. Of the two though, I think the NGP is in a better position thanks to its powerful wireless capabilities and the presence of the PlayStation Store.
So while Uncharted is certainly impressive, I doubt it will be enough to sell the NGP to the masses. With a strong downloadable store and a little luck though; well, like I said, it's definitely not 2004 anymore. 

3 comments:

LoneIslander said...

I don't even know where my PSP is.

PvtCarlin said...

Angry birds is a great game, going to look for my PSP!

Guzzi sager said...

Very informative post. Keep up the good work. I would really look forward to your other posts

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