Sony's PSP revision, the PSPgo, is all about digital downloads rather than packaged disc-based games. So what does Australia's largest games retailer do when it can't sell the software to play on a new hardware device? It looks like it doesn't sell that new hardware device.
We've heard that EB Games is refusing to stock the PSPgo in Australia.
If you go the EB website you won't find any mention of the handheld, despite its launch date being next week. If you call your local EB store—and we have spoken to several Sydney stores in the last 24 hours—you'll find the PSPgo is not in their system. We even spoke to one rival retailer who urged us to preorder the PSPgo from his store because "EB aren't stocking it."
Yesterday we contacted EB's head office to verify the rumours. We were told EB would not be commenting on the PSPgo.
Today we spoke to Sony and received the following statement from an SCE Australia spokesperson:
In relation to our business and the launch of PSPgo, we are already experiencing solid support for launch day on October 1 in Australia. Retail support of the PSP platform, includes both PSP-3000 and PSPgo. Many retailers will choose to range both PSP models side-by-side, as we continue to offer expanded choice for the consumer for the handheld device platform. As with any new product, there will be continued discussions with retail partners to continue to expand reach over time in line with growth of the entire PSP platform.
SCE are also committed to delivering more PSP content including strong IPs like Gran Turismo and LittleBigPlanet this year, plus increased networked services and applications for the platform such as the Digital Reader service which will launch with Digital Comics this December. In 2010 users will also be able to enjoy access to a Video Delivery Service.
The spokesperson informed us they could not comment on another company's business and thus could neither confirm nor deny EB's support of the new handheld.
If the rumour is true, why would EB refuse to stock the PSPgo?
Traditionally, gaming hardware is sold close to cost price. The retailer makes its money on the sale of software. With the PSPgo, those retailers are no longer selling the software.
Sony has perhaps factored this in to the hefty price tag on the PSPgo, supporting retailers with a higher profit margin than typically found in other hardware. But it seems EB isn't biting.
Secondhand sales are a huge part of EB's business. With the PSPgo, they miss out on that too. Other retailers, with less invested in the sale of secondhand games, might not be so concerned.
On the other hand, games publishers see secondhand sales as sales lost to them. With the PSPgo, they don't have to worry about it.
But someone still has to sell the hardware. Looks like the road towards digital distribution still has plenty of twists and turns for the industry to negotiate.