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Sony Playstation Suite

Playstation suite was announced at the same event as the NGP but I didn’t get around to mention it in my original post. This is a new product that will be available to Android smartphones and tablets. It will allow downloading and playing of official playstation games, old and new on non-Sony devices for the first time.

It’s clear that this is the company’s first real attempt at the cheap downloadable mobile games market, as minis have in many peoples eyes been a colossal failure. Despite it being highly unlikely that they’ll give Apple any real competition, I think it’s the right tactic for Sony and their ambitions in mobile gaming to be using.

It’s a but strange that they chose to announce the service at this event, but they held back the announcement of the much talked about Xperia Play (rumoured name) until most likely the world mobile event in Barcelona in February.

The announcement of PS Suite all but guarantees the device is definitely coming and soon, but I suppose they just didn’t want to confuse everyone by showing two new pieces of hardware on the same day.

Hopefully we’ll get more info on the service including how and when it will be made available, the games and hardware soon.

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Sony Playstation Meeting 2011 (PSP2 / NGP) Thoughts

The PSP2 (codenamed NGP for next generation portable) is the result of what happens when Sony are keen to make up for previous mistakes, mostly the PSP go and listen to the players’ requests. As far as features go, it has everything you could want. Yes, I would probably have preferred a slider form factor, or even a flip, but it’s still got everything else almost any gamer could ask for. Here’s what it has:

  • Two analogue sticks, and from what I’ve seen so far, they appear to be actual sticks and not nubs as before, making them hopefully much more usable.
  • It’s not download only. This is a big deal. The go was a disaster, not because downloading isn’t the future, it was just implemented terribly and was also before its time. Adapted memory cards will feel familiar to Nintendo players and is the right thing for Sony to be doing now as it keeps them a big firmly placed in retail stores.
  • It has a huge 5 inch touch OLED screen, but when you look at it next to the 3000, it doesn’t actually look that big. While it’s not as portable as before in terms of pocketing it, most people would likely put their PSP in their bag anyway so I don’t see it as a problem whatsoever.
  • The touch panel on the back I was worried would be too big a part of the product, but I feel that it’s most likely going to be a gimmick like the sixaxis and hardly used. It will be good but will only give additional options to developers, just as the current gimmick started by Apple and now adopted by Nintendo and Sony of sensors and gyroscopes won’t feature in most games.
  • It’s casual friendly. The interface looks very Apple inspired. The bubbles on each “home screen” change the formula around from the grid style Apple pioneered, but you can see where they got their inspiration from, especially when you look at the dots at the bottom which indicate what home screen you’re on. The array of sensors and that big touch screen really make this a device that can eventually have mass appeal. Like the 3DS is positioned predominantly to target hardcore gamers at first, Sony are doing the same here, but admittedly with far less chance of broadening the appeal later on. They won’t be too worried about that though as they know their market well.
  • They have crammed in everything but the kitchen sink. The device has almost everything you could want. 3G, GPS, quad-core processing and PS3 like graphics as well the obvious things like wi-fi and bluetooth. This makes Nintendo’s SpotPass and StreetPass look very basic by comparison.
  • Playstation Network is fully integrated, meaning we’ll probably get to see our online friends, message them, invite them to games, maybe even voice chat. This would all be in addition to trophy support. Even though I don’t chase trophies like I used to, it’s still nice to get them when I’m not trying and it’s a feature that a lot of people want so I’m happy about that too.

That is about all I can think to mention about the system. Normally, after events like these from Sony and other companies, in recent times I’ve often felt disappointed and always left pondering where they could have improved. This time it’s hard to find fault with the NGP.

While it’s essentially the same strategy as the PSP was launched with, of pure power and the promise of console style gaming on a handheld. This time Sony are in a much better position to truly fulfil that premise and give Nintendo a better run for their money.

The only remaining question everyone has is how much it will cost. Of course, all of the great news today could be undone if they announce it at £300 or more, and you could easily see them doing so considering the specs the machine boasts. You just have to hope that they’ve either found a way to produce it fairly cheaply, or are willing to take a hit on the system to make it back on game sales. Perhaps a combination of these is likely.

Another point to bear in mind is that Sony are desperate to put the failure of the PSP go and the PS3 launch price behind them, and therefore they may be considering being aggressive on price straight away to try to avoid damaging their reputation again. They will want to keep things going steadily as they have been with PS3 for the last two to three years.

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If you needed any more evidence of PSP go’s worthlessness…

I I’ve been getting into Rockstar Games a lot more recently due to episodes from liberty city giving me the bug again. I was thinking about taking a look at Beaterator if I can get it for a bargain price.

I found the game on Amazon, Play.com, Zavvi and GAME for around £5. GAME were the most expensive at £5.99. Zavvi just pipped Play.com as the cheapest by 4 pence at £4.95 while Amazon only had it in stock from other sellers on the site and now Amazon themselves.

The point is that the game which retailed officially for £24.99 (which, let’s be honest, considering iPhone’s success at lower prices is still considerably too much) is being sold now at a very reasonable £5 at retail.

I decided to take a look at Media Go to check what Sony were charging for the download version of the game which PSP go owners have to buy if they want the game. I almost couldn’t believe it when I saw that it was still £23.99. Yes, you read that right. The reason why I say almost couldn’t believe it is because I know how this industry works in such ridiculous ways and how downloadable games and add-on content are seen as opportunities to absolutely disrespect loyal customers by charging so much more. When in theory, downloadable games should be cheaper for multiple reasons.

It all doesn’t make sense, and my personal view is that Sony and anyone else allowing this to happen, should be investigated for taking advantage of a monopoly on the spending habits of PSP go owners. It’s anti-competitive and this is on top of the ridiculous price of the dated looking system.

I wish Sony had never introduced the PSP go and just waited until the PSP2. They should have really thought more about how they were going to approach digital distribution in a way that made sense. PSP go doesn’t make sense.

Of course, the reason the price gap in this case is so huge is because Beaterator is a lesser known game that went under the radar so to speak. It probably didn’t move a huge number of copies and Sony must have just forgot to keep the price in line with the retail channels. I say Sony, but in the end, it may not be their fault because the publishers I believe have control over the Playstation Store prices and not Sony themselves. They can only guide them.

But at the end of the day, Sony should be doing more to force the publishers to set and maintain reasonable prices for their games. By doing a price review every few months or so, they could help themselves and PSP go owners because it will give them something to play. If I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t be paying almost 5 times the amount for a game no matter how much I wanted to play it. Surely the publisher would rather sell some games at a lower price, than presumably none or very few.

I should also mention that I looked up GTA Chinatown Wars on the store. On the sites mentioned earlier, I saw the game for around £15. On Playstation Store I found it for £29.99. It may not be as large in proportion as the price difference for Beaterator, but it’s still doube for the same game. Plus, this is a much more high profile game, and people are going to notice it a lot more. There’s no denying it’s an awful rip-off, but in the end it really comes down to whether or not people can vote with their wallets and spend their money on the UMD version, or even get the DS or iPhone versions.

The problem for PSP go owners is that they can’t buy the UMD, and if they vote with their wallets, they’ll have very little to play on their shiny overpriced systems.

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3DGalaxy 2009 Game Awards – PSP

PSP 2009 Awards

Quick note: Only games that I’ve played / am excited to play soon will be eligible to win awards.

Best Action Game – Patapon 2

Patapon was a great PSP game. The sequel takes what you loved about the first one and multiplies it. It’s definitely worth playing whether or not you played the first.

Also notable:

Best Music Game – Rock Band Unplugged

Rock Band Unplugged might not have the same lasting appeal that the console versions have but it does provide an excellent way to spend a few minutes when you want to rock. Because you play with just the buttons, it can make you feel great if you nail a tricky solo or other satisfyingly tough part of a song because the notes are faster than on the normal game, but also easier to hit. Instrument switching takes some getting used to but it is fun after some practice.

Best Platform Game – LittleBigPlanet PSP

LBP PSP is a great portable version of the original PS3 hit game LBP, lovingly downsized to fit the PSP perfectly. You don’t lose much of the experience either, making it an astounding technological achievement.

Best Puzzle Game – PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe

PJ Monsters Deluxe is essentially the collectors’ edition of the hit PS3 tower defence game. It’s a game that was perfectly suited to the handheld from the beginning and it is really fun to play.

Also notable: LocoRoco 2

Best Racing Game – Gran Turismo PSP

GT PSP might not be technically quite up to speed with MotorStorm but in the end, I had more fun playing this overall. The lack of a career mode is a bit disappointing but it is a handheld game so I can accept that omission. Collecting cars will keep you playing for a while and the promise of being able to transfer the cars to GT5 when it comes out will please quite a few players.

Also notable: MotorStorm: Arctic Edge

Best Visual Quality – LittleBigPlanet PSP

This game will make you marvel at the 4 year old PSP and marvel at how this game is really pushing it and unlocking it’s untapped potential.

Also notable: MotorStorm: Arctic Edge

Best Use of Sound – MotorStorm: Arctic Edge

I could have given this to LBP as well, but I think MotorStorm definitely deserves an award. It has a great soundtrack, great effects and provides the same brutal off-road racing experience you will find on the PS3 versions of the series.

Also notable: LittleBigPlanet PSP, Gran Turismo PSP

Best Story – Resistance: Retribution

I must admit that U bought RR mainly for the multiplayer. With that said though, the story that is there, is actually well done and for a PSP game and is worth a look if you’re into the gameplay.

Best Multiplayer – Resistance: Retribution

Resistance PSP really comes alive online. By far the best online shooter on the system, it feels console quality in its setup and really run exceptionally well considering the hardware. You can tell that Bend Studio made use of all their expertise from creating the Syphon Filter PSP series in creating this game’s online component.

Also notable: MotorStorm: Arctic Edge, Gran Turismo PSP

PSP Game of the Year – LittleBigPlanet PSP

I’m a big fan of Patapon 2, but I couldn’t put it ahead of LBP because of how LBP does something that’s never been done before on a handheld. The way you can create levels and share them online works extremely well so you cold conceivably never run out of new levels to play. Of course, the story levels are fantastic as you would expect too. They seem to be a bit tricky for a handheld but they’re fun and challenging without being overly tough. The lack of ad-hoc multiplayer is a shame but the game offers so much that you almost forget about it.

Also notable: Patapon 2, MotorStorm: Arctic Edge, GT PSP, Resistance: Retribution

Coming Soon: iPod / iPhone and overall awards.