Spring is usually the busy season for video games, when most games - and many of the year's biggest - are released for each gaming console. But the fall of 2010 may leave PSP fans feeling like they're getting the short shrift.
There will be no Need For Speed for PSP this spring, no Sims and no Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, despite the release of sequels to each of those series hitting home consoles - and despite previous editions of each of those franchises appearing on the PSP in years past.
Some video game series that once appeared on PSP will skip Sony's handheld platform this spring. Others will continue a lengthening absence, while handheld releases from those same series appear for PSP rivals such as the Nintendo DS and iPhone.
The PSP is not blinking out of existence, of course. The Sony handheld will get some major new releases this spring, including a stand-out exclusive Kingdom Hearts game from Square-Enix and a God of War from Sony. But a PSP fan would be correct to notice that their purchasing options have been diminished.
EA, which released Madden and NBA games on PSP last year, will only put out a Madden for PSP this year. Last year, it released a FIFA and a Need for Speed; this year only FIFA. Medal of honour, which twice appeared on PSP, returns this year to consoles, not to the PSP.
EA spokesperson Jeff Brown downplayed but did not deny EA's shrinking PSP release line-up. "As evidenced by today's launch of Madden NFL 11, EA is a big supporter of the PSP," he told Kotaku yesterday. "We've got a lot of good titles on that platform and more to be announced soon. EA has adopted a 'fewer, bigger, better' strategy that reduces the number of titles and SKUs [versions]we produce each year, but we're very bullish on Sony systems in general and the PSP in particular."
Sony, which also has no NBA game on the release calendar this spring despite releasing a new one for each of the past several years, is not a company known for abandoning its hardware. Company spokesman Patrick Seybold maintained that, five years past its US release the PSP still has solid support:
"There are still a lot of very strong [intellectual properties]coming to PSP this year from all publishers," he said, "from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker from Konami and Madden from EA to God of War and MLB: The Show to new IP like Invizimals and EyePet all from SCEA. As you probably also saw, Disney recently announced Split/Second and there's UFC Undisputed 2010 from THQ coming to the PSP among many others. At E3 we announced 70 titles were coming to PSP this year, so the content line up and pipeline is still strong."
Seybold added that Sony is moving more already-released games into its $US9.99 Greatest Hits line, as a way to expose those games to what he described as a "demographic [shift]to a bit of a younger audience."
The PSP continues to be a strong seller in Japan, where it can top hardware charts on the strength of national phenomenon Monster Hunter. In the US, though, sales have been cooling. Last June, the NPD group which tracks US sales calculated that the PSP sold 121,000 units in America, trailing the next-closest gaming platform, the surging PS3 which was at 305,000 units for the month, to say nothing of the continued hottest platform in gaming, the Nintendo DS, which sold 511,000 units.
Powerhouse Activision will release no major PSP games this fall, no PSP versions of its new Spider-Man, Call of Duty or James Bond games. New editions of each will be released for the DS. Activision's lack of support isn't new, however. The publisher hasn't supported the PSP with a Call of Duty since 2007, nor has it released any of its hit Hero music franchises on the platform. A company spokesperson did not provide comment for this article by press time.
THQ is continuing support with both UFC and WWE releases this spring. Ubisoft, which had an Assassin's Creed for PSP last year, does not this year. LucasArts will not release a PSP version of its Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II. Representatives from Ubisoft and LucasArts did not reply to requests for comment for this article.
The PSP has a library of strong games and enough new games coming to interest plenty of players. But the PSP is also moving into GameCube territory, emulating the condition of Nintendo's pre-Wii last-place home console. In years past, it was common for a new game to be announced for every platform except the GameCube. Today, the PSP is, more and more often, the odd video game machine out.
Considering buying or upgrading a PSP? Check out Kotaku's PSP Buyer's Guide.