Based on some mysterious guesswork, gaming trade publication Gamasutra came up with some grim numbers for Sony’s PSP Go handheld: 6,000 to 10,000 units sold in the United States last month.
Sony has never released any official sales numbers for the PSP Go, a console that’s smaller and lighter than its predecessors and only supports downloaded games. But last week, Japanese industry watchers Media Create said 1,275 PSP Go device were sold in the first week of March. Regardless of the exact number, it’s safe to say the Go isn’t doing well. Gamasutra believes that Sony will launch a next-generation handheld this year and let the Go “experience a slow death at retail.”
That seems to be happening already. I used to see ads for the PSP Go all around Los Angeles, but no more. And the Go is conspicuously absent from Sony’s announcement of an upcoming PSP bundle for Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. You won’t see much love for the Go at GameStop’s Web site or stores, either. A rumor from February held that Sony was going to relaunch the Go with a reduced price, but so far, nothing.
I believe the PSP Go’s commercial troubles are due to several errors on Sony’s part, rather than one major problem. The $250 price point is hard to justify when the $170 PSP-3000 has all the same features, albeit in a larger size. Existing PSP owners were alienated because they couldn’t transfer their UMD games onto the device. Bad reviews didn’t help — those from Ars Technica’s Ben Kuchera and Destructoid’s lovably-vulgar Jim Sterling stuck in my head for noting how unfriendly the device was to its users.
But while it’s tempting to knock the PSP Go’s underlying concept — a download-only handheld that precludes people from buying and selling used games — I don’t think Sony was wrong to pursue it. Apple proved with the iPod Touch that a download-only device can find commercial success. Sony just erred on the execution, not on the idea.