In six days’ time Europe will experience the biggest hardware launch since PlayStation 2 in 2000, with Sony insisting that any competition with Nintendo is ‘irrelevant’.
And after a hard year for the High Street, PSP brings with it what the trade hopes will be a long-awaited turning point in the fortunes of the market and the promise of a bumper Q4.
Despite shortages, Sony’s handheld has already launched to great success in Japan and the US. And while delays have pushed back the release of the system in PAL territories until September 1st, the £179.99 unit is expected to prove a sell-out.
With the final part of the global launch jigsaw almost in place, backed with a massive £10m cross-media marketing campaign, SCEE expects its dominance in the home console arena to drive its debut handheld system to success, dismissing the challenge of sector leader Nintendo.
“The idea of a handheld rivalry with Nintendo is an irrelevance,” VP of studios Phil Harrison insisted to MCV. “Those formats don’t appear in our planning. It’s not a fair comparison; not fair on them, I should stress. That sounds arrogant, maybe, but it’s the truth.
“Nintendo knows its target audience, because it has really narrowed that down; and it’s pretty much defined by a boy or girl’s ability to admire Pokémon.
“With the DS, it’s fair to say that Nintendo stepped out of the technical race and went for a feature differentiation with the touch screen,” Harrison continued. “But I fear that it won’t have a lasting impact beyond that of a gimmick – so the long-lasting appeal of the platform is at peril as a direct result of that.”
But Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter believes there is enough room for both systems in the market: “Longterm, I see DS expanding Nintendo's demographic upward to the high teens,” he told MCV. “I see Sony’s PSP expanding the ‘mobile’ demographic to the 30s. Both will expand the overall market by providing an outlet for gameplay beyond the home or office.”
The face of the enemy
Sony may be dominant in the home console field, but it has a long way to go to match Nintendo’s handheld achievements...
Game Boy Range
Total global hardware sales (as of 9/04): 176.8m
Total global sales: 67.7m (inc. SP)
Total PAL sales: 15 million (inc. SP)
Total global sales: 6.65m
Total PAL sales: 1.3m (inc. 300k in UK)
Big hitters at launch
While its movie and music playback features will prove a draw, PSP’s ultimate success is dependent on its game content. MCV highlights a trio of titles carrying great expectations...
GTA: Liberty City Stories (Rockstar)
A dream title for SCEE to have in the launch window, retail has been briefed to expect Rockstar’s original, fully 3D adventure to release in October. And with early reactions bordering on the hysterically positive, this has ‘system seller’ written all over it.
Ridge Racer (SCEE)
An integral part of the PlayStation story, Namco’s latest Ridge Racer offers the definitive arcade petrol-fuelled experience.
WipEout Pure (SCEE)
Another title synonymous with Brand PlayStation, Sony Liverpool has conjured another fast and furious, future perfect racing thriller.