Crisis Core Spurs PSP Rennaissance

I’ve never really been quite sure why the PSP is subject to as much FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt for those unfamiliar) as it is. It seems as though there’s something rather intangible about it that makes people shy away. Is it the higher price? The aesthetic or design? The negative reaction to the UMD format for anything but games? A complex feature set that confuses the average gamer? Of course, there’s the classic(ly delusional) argument of, “PSP has no games!” It has plenty, but most of them are catered to absurdly niche markets.

I can think of cases where each of these possibilities might be applied, but I’ve never gotten the feeling that Sony did something patently wrong. Yet, even I still find my paws on the DS most of the time. My slightly beat-up PSP collected dust from the time I finished MGS: Portable Ops until the time I picked up Crush over the Summer. Since then, well, it’s found itself back in the closet again. Maybe my personal experiences are colored by frustrations I experienced early on.

I managed to score a Japanese import just in time for Xmas (at an appropriately increased fee) with a copy of Lumines and Ridge Racers each. At the time, I was ecstatic. As opposed to the DS, here was a portable system that finally pushed the limit. Dreamcast, or even PS2 quality games on the go? Sign me the fuck up! I distinctly remember telling everyone how fantastic it was and it felt like the future was here. The PSP, not only as a game player, but as a multimedia machine, felt like something out of the future and there was the software to match. Both Lumines and RR had these really cool aesthetics accompanied by light techno soundtracks that soothed the ear. God, it was amazing what the UMD could do in delivering this level of software.

But over time, the DS picked up the pace and the Lite burst onto the scene, spurring the first of many millions of sales. You could say before the revision, the two could’ve been neck and neck all over the world, but Nintendo came along with something that shattered the PSP in terms of its visual and functional appeal. I say appeal, because the changes were completely cosmetic. It really didn’t work all that differently, but it looked like it should. The original DS was a cheap, plastic brick. This was a sleek, compact, hard-cased marvel. Look no further than Apple to see what even a minimal change in design can do for sales. There were mp3 players before the iPod, and many that offer more complete features, but nothing seems to be able to bust through that first impression made on the public.

Nintendo now knows how to present itself, while Sony seems like its lost its edge. Their marketing department is a disaster right now. I’m waiting for Kaz and Reggie to star in the next remake of Freaky Friday. Something shifted between the end of the PS2 era and beyond. Playstation ads lost their snarky comments and sense of “cool,” replaced only with strange cartoons and annoying guys yelling “CLUSTER BOOOOMB” on airplanes.

They’re the industry equivalent of Michael Scott — trying to earn their “street cred” by regurgitating catchphrases and concepts that left the sphere of pop culture about five years ago. So complacent in their position at the top, maybe they forgot how important it was to move forward not only in technology, but in terms of catering to the contemporary market.

psp-slim_group.jpg

Whatever the case may be, Sony may have left just enough bread crumbs along the path to find their way back. The PSP’s steady, but unimpressive sales have exploded in Japan thanks to finally receiving a killer app that is not Monster Hunter. Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core has helped move over 250,000 new PSP Light & Slim units in the past three days. Add the premium packs that sold out at the game’s launch, and you’re looking at total closer to 325,000. I have a feeling that despite the decent sales of the hardware here in the US, Crisis Core will give it a similar jump when it finally hits domestically.

But that’s not the only change. Kotaku also reports that the new, and most importantly simpler television ads have done a lot to shift the tide:

I’m silently hoping that high sales maintain even after those of Crisis Core settle down. It’s going to be tough in Japan with current lack of future software appealing to that market except maybe more Minna no Golf and Silent Hill Zero. The next big releases, such as God of War: Chains of Olympus will likely only find success in the West, but with games that are finally up to par with the Playstation 2 quality promised from the beginning and some extremely solid hardware, it might just work. I know I’m excited again.

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~ by Cavin Smith on September 26, 2007.

9 Responses to “Crisis Core Spurs PSP Rennaissance”

  1. The PSP has great games, we both agree on that but there’s a thing that some devs seem to have a problem understanding and that is that’s a portable, multimedia (I hate using that word but whatever) console and that you should not be making your game like if it were a PS2 game. I’m playing Brave Story on my PSP atm, and it seems pretty nice so far but you can’t save wherever you like. You have to find these save spots and that is just something that does not work in a PSP game imo. Yeah sure you can put it on standby (which is a sweet option) but what if I want to listen to some music e.g. ? Then I have go back to the XMB and thereby lose my progress (if I haven’t come a savespot that is).

    Also, please Sony make it so that your system supports XviD and formats a-like. I hate to convert my tv shows that I have in XviD to some stupid format that the PSP supports. And make the MP3 player better. I actually use my PSP as my MP3 player, I actually sold my iPod because I didn’t use it as much as I used my PSP 🙂

  2. Good points, Kasper. I wonder sometimes how many of these PSP games started out as potential PS2 projects at some point and then got shifted over to lower production costs. That sounds like what might’ve happened to Brave Story.

    Sony does a lot of things right, but not “right enough,” if you know what I mean. Being able to access more XMB features from inside a game seems like a no-brainer, but they really haven’t done that yet for the PSP and it’s rumored to be included in PS3 Firmware 2.0. God knows when that might actually be coming.

    There’s really no reason why Sony shouldn’t be pushing as many formats as they can for media beyond their own hubris. Well, not that I expect or want them to adopt HD-DVD or anything like that, but some oft-used codecs here and there?

  3. Well people would tell you that Sony can’t support codecs like XviD and DviX because that’s the codec of pirates I suppose. It doesn’t make much sense I know that, but that’s what they’ll tell you.

  4. Oh, I realize that. It’s a shame, but there’s been plenty of proven uses for it in a more mainstream capacity. I’m just saying that I think it’s worth more to the consumer these days to have the option than not. Look at Apple’s anti-DRM campaign for reference. It’s one of the reasons they’re beating the pants off of everyone else in their market.

    Oddly enough, I think I recall seeing a recent screenshot of a video playing in HOME’s theatre area that had the DivX codec watermark on it. Assuming that’s legit, it would seem to indicate that Sony might be using the codec themselves to facilitate easier content streaming.

  5. Very interesting commercial, straight to the point (its slogan is “light” or “not heavy”), and just asking “nani sore” (what’s that). I had a feeling that Crisis Core (finished it last week) was gonna be a PSP seller, and if ever the FF7 remake is true it might be the catalyst to sell lots of PS3s.

  6. Looking at the difference between that and, say, the PSP ad for Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters in the US, I’m just dumbfounded. Now, I wouldn’t call it a hard sell, but the Japanese commercial draws a lot of attention to the “features” of the new model. That’s something I don’t recall ever seeing featured in Western ones. I’m not sure how having some jackass sitting next to you on an airplane screaming into your ear equates into consumer appeal, but sometimes getting straight to the point just works so much better.

  7. Depending on the mindset, commercials have different effect on consumers, depending on the mood or sometimes on the product. I guess Sony realized that the “funny method” of advertising the PSP isn’t successful so they just went straight to the point, but then again this slim PSP lightweight-ness is also one of its defining features so they just HAD to superimpose that one.

    Then again there’s still the masses of FF7 fans who are always willing to spend top dollar on anything FF7. I bet if Quaker Oats had a Blueberry flavored “FF7 edition” Oats it’ll sell more than hotcakes.

  8. Yeah. Since there isn’t much of an aesthetic change (like there was for the DSL), I suppose touching on its weight was the best thing they could’ve done. After all, smaller is usually better in Japan.

    And there’s no doubt that FF7 is a crucial franchise. It’s probably right up there with Gundam, Evanglion, or Akira Toriyama’s work in terms of long-lasting cultural impact. People say there are better Final Fantasy games, but I know of none whose characters/plot have endured as well as those in 7 have. People still go absolutely nuts over it!

  9. wut is that

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