We're just hours away from the possible unveiling of the PSP2 in Japan, but despite rumours and speculation, we really have little to no idea of what to expect from Sony's new handheld - if it even exists. But what would you like to see in a new PSP? We have a couple of suggestions ourselves...
1. A Point Of Difference When the PSP launched in 2005, things were a little different. There was no iPod Touch, there were no smart phones - only a quirky, beguiling little device with two screens and a touch pad. And that wouldn't sell would it? Most commentators expected the PSP to sweep up the handheld market without breaking a sweat - it didn't.
But why? Well, I would argue that the PSP lacked a definitive point of difference. It was the multimedia device that purported to do everything - problem was that it didn't necessarily do anything that well. It didn't have an easily shared selling point like the DS did with its touch screen, or a supremely accessible user interface like the iPhone would have a couple of years down the track.
With time the PSP came to feel like a clumsy, bloated device - it felt old fashioned before it had any right to be. The DS, on the other hand, with its unique point of difference, continued to be relevant for its entire lifespan. In a crowded market, with Apple gobbling up lunch money left, right and centre, Sony really need the PSP2 to have some sort of point of difference or it may end up feeling like an irrelevant piece of tech.
2. Software That Feels Relevant To The User Interface But a unique point of difference will be rendered impotent if the PSP2 doesn't have a software line-up that supports and nurtures that point of difference. The DS didn't really start shifting units until Nintendogs and Brain Training caught its stride - both games that took advantage of the DS's unique user-interface. If the PSP2 has a touch screen, or a combination of different control systems, games that take advantage of this fact are crucial.
In a sense Sony has an advantage here - a device that has buttons will have a leg up over the iPhone in a certain regard, and a controller with two analogue controllers, in whatever shape they take, will have an advantage over the 3DS. If they have software that takes advantage of that fact, they may have some sort of leg up when it comes to the mobile market.
3. It Must Be A Convergence Device Post-smartphones, consumers are becoming less likely to tolerate carrying more than one portable gaming device on the move. The iPhone is a seamless device with an accessible user-interface that allows consumers to play music, watch videos, check Facebook, manage their lives, and play a host of interesting, cheap video games. How can the PSP compete with that?
Well, the obvious answer is the games themselves - if the PSP2 can be the vessel for AAA gaming experiences then it will be the platform of choice for gamers, but only if it can do what an iPhone does at a similar level. This means managing music, video, the internet - hopefully via a number of easily accessible apps. You'll have to be able to check your Facebook on a PSP2, you'll have to able to check Twitter. Perhaps an Android-compatible device with a PlayStation Store for AAA games the answer...
Which begs the question - shouldn't a next generation PSP simply be a smartphone? Microsoft has already stated that Windows Phone 7 is their mobile gaming solution, why can't the PSP2 be Sony's mobile phone solution?
4. It Must Compete On Price We're talking purely about video games here. Sure, most of us will be happy to pay a premium for AAA titles such as Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker on physical media, but Sony needs to be able to compete with $2 games like Doodle Jump and Angry Birds in the digital arena. The handheld landscape has changed dramatically in the past couple of years and consumers are now used to paying very little for disposable game content. Sony must create some sort of solution here.
I played Dead Space on the iPad last week - and I was blown away. It was an experience almost on par with some home console titles, and the controls were far less clumsy than you'd expect. You can buy Dead Space on the iPad for $12.99. That's what Sony are up against here.
5. It Must Have A Vision 'It only does everything' isn't quite enough. The original PSP seemed like a directionless device - every other month is became burdened with another accessory, or complicated with a new model that confused and bewildered the mainstream consumer. Eventually it felt like a bloated device that did everything yet nothing.
The PSP2 can't afford to be bloated - it has to be a kind of seamless catch-all device with vision. The cameras, the TV add-ons - everything must be part of one single, unified package from day one. A package that looks good, that has vision, with a point of difference that can inspire the word of mouth that made the DS, the Wii, and the iPhone such a huge success.
Well, that's what I'd like to see from the PSP2 - what about you guys? Let us know in the comments below.