On March 24th 2010 the PSP celebrated its fifth birthday, and to mark the occasion we decided to look ahead to the next generation of PSP and outline what direction the handheld should take. The current PSP suffers from a lack of identity; much of its functionality is underused because of poor marketing and an unintuitive design. It has been overshadowed and out performed by innovations on the Nintendo DS, and has come under increasing pressure from new competitors - namely Apple's iPhone. The new PSP must learn from past mistakes and take notes from the competition if Sony wants to stay relevant in handheld gaming.
That being said, since launching in 2005, the PSP has had its share of success: it has sold over 60 million units worldwide, plays over 500 retail titles, 20,000 movies and much more. In Japan, the PSP has been a phenomenal success consistently reaching the top of the hardware charts thanks to killer software such as Monster Hunter. Other notable titles include God of War: Chains of Olympus, SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo, Gran Turismo and Resistance: Retribution. However, these triumphs have not hidden flat North American sales, rampant piracy and a lack of focus. What follows is a list of features that should be included in the PSP 2, in no particular order.
Go Digital, Ditch UMD
The UMD format hasn't caught on like Sony hoped it would, its also been known to cause slow load times and quickly drain battery life. A new handheld is an opportunity for a clean slate, it's time to admit UMD was a failed experiment and move on. The UMD free PSP Go was definitely a step in the right direction and hopefully a sign of things to come. Sony should look to emulate the iPhone, to a certain degree, which has had considerable success with smaller, digitally distributed games. This is not to say all PSP games should be bite sized but an acknowledgment that most of the handheld audience isn't looking for a portable console - they want quick, unique experiences that can be enjoyed in five minutes. Chains of Olympus, while a great game, is not the right direction for mobile gaming.
A PSP without UMD, focused on digital distribution would require a persistent connection to the internet, most likely through a 3G network similar to many smart phones. This would allow online competitive and social gaming to flourish, as well as increasing multimedia functionality with features such as on demand film and television. Imagine being able to play with friends online, or stream live TV while riding the bus, taking the train or sitting in a park. 3G access is generally tied to a mobile phone contract - while Sony has been fairly adamant that a PlayStation phone isn't in the works - paying a fee to access the network is a viable option.
User Friendly Multimedia
While the current PSP does offer a wide variety of media options, besides portable gaming, the functionality has gone unnoticed by the majority of consumers because it's either too difficult to access or they're unaware it exists. Sony has failed to brand the PSP as an all encompassing entertainment device even though it possesses most of the features that characterize such a device. Lessons again can be learnt from the iPhone; everything is laid out in front of the consumer, it's easy to find whatever application your looking for, and once found it's easy to use. Why has the iPhone been more successful than PSP as a music player? A combination of effective branding and an intuitive interface. As for other multimedia, a camera also seems like a must; everything comes with a camera these days.
Both the Nintendo DS and iPhone have made touch feedback a standard part of handheld gaming and the PSP must catch up to survive. Touch gameplay isn't necessary for all games, as we've seen on the competing platforms, but it does offer many advantages - such as a wider variety of game types and more intuitive media browsing to name a couple. In the eyes of many consumers touch is a core pillar of portable games, so Sony would be wise to try and attract that audience. Using the DS as a model, the PSP 2 should incorporate both touch and analog control.
Two Analog Sticks
It pretty much goes without saying that the new PSP should have a second analog stick. The issue has been beaten to death by users clamoring for the addition since the device launched, so I'll only add a couple comments. A second stick would allow for better player control in almost every genre. Another nice addition would be the two stick shooter which has risen greatly in popularity over the last few years. Who wouldn't want to play Super Stardust Portable without having to use the face buttons? Sony should also consider redesigning the analog sticks so they stand out a little more, the current sliding stick can feel awkward during long play sessions or when the pace gets frantic.