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PSP Go! to focus entirely on digital downloads

Could iPhone developers be coaxed over to Sony's side?
PSP Go! to focus entirely on digital downloads

Sony has yet to fully reveal the technical specifications of the new PSP hardware update, the PSP Go!, but it seems unlikely it's going to include any kind of cellular or 3G connection.

The reason this is a bit of a surprise is because of the distinct design similarity to the iPhone. Although it's also lacking the expected touchscreen, the primary focus on digital downloads suggests the new Sony handheld could become more appealing to developers who've been concentrating on the iPhone.

"Firemint is focused on digital download and we've been making handheld games for about eight years now, so it's a platform that we are obviously considering very seriously," Firemint's Robert Murray tells PocketGamer.biz. "However there are still a lot of unknowns for us, and it seems like a different ecosystem to iPhone."

The similarities between the PSP Go! and the iPhone could well end at their aesthetic likeness, since the specifications for Sony's new handheld don't appear to be all that different on the inside of the casing.

"We are looking at PSP Go! as a different platform to iPhone," Murray continues. "The existing catalogue of games on PSP is different to iPhone, so it will be a considerably different landscape to compete in."

General reactions to the system's redesign have been positive, though many consumers appear concerned that their UMD-based games will no longer be of use if they buy a PSP Go!. Delivery of new software will be a marked departure from what PSP users are accustomed to, though it's something iPhone users have come to know and love from day one.

This new distribution model doesn't necessarily demonstrate much of a simplification for the developers, however, who will appreciate being able to sidestep the expense and difficulties of putting a boxed game on a shop shelf, but must still accept that the PSP requires a very different design process.

"With a standard controller as opposed to touchscreen and accelerometer, the PSP will require more traditional game design," continues Murray. "This is good and bad. A lot of gamers will prefer solid buttons and a D-pad, but the iPhone's finger touchscreen and accelerometer really offer designers something fresh to innovate with."

Ultimately, the PSP Go! isn't really about the hardware. It's a new distribution model that Sony is hoping will appeal to the modern gamer, and hopefully encourage in the smaller studios that have brought such massive success to Apple's platform.

And all of this hinges on cost. The consumer must be encouraged to spend on a minor upgrade, then be able to afford the new software downloads, while smaller developers will need reassuring that the costs of buying their way onto Sony's approved list is worth the expense - especially in contrast to the iPhone, which is all but free to create games for.

"We are very interested in hearing more details about the platform as they arise. It looks like Sony is getting very serious about digital download and I think that is good for everyone because I believe that digital download is the future," Murray concludes.

"I think all [Sony] needs to focus on is price, form factor and ease of use. If they get the mix right then this could be very exciting."