That said, Apple does offer one thing that, up until now, the PSP has not: cheap and cheerful, impulse purchase games. Sony’s PSP Minis range, launching with the PSPgo, is Sony’s attempt to do something about that. Of the thirteen titles currently available, selling for between £2.49 and £3.99, there are a couple of gems (iPhone tower defence classic, Fieldrunners, the Lemmings meets LittleBigPlanet antics of Kahoots and a superb conversion of the Amiga classic Pinball Fantasies), some decent puzzle efforts (Breakquest and Vempire) and a few real clunkers (that awful iPhone b-movie God of War clone, Hero of Sparta).
Sony has already fared better here than Nintendo with its disappointing DSiWare range, but it still needs more games, and cheaper games, if it wants to go toe to toe with our chums from Cupertino. What’s more, a drop in prices for regular games wouldn’t go amiss. I understand that Sony doesn’t want to annoy conventional game retailers, but should it really be £3 cheaper to buy GT on UMD from Amazon than buy it from Sony’s own online store?
So, is the PSPgo worth buying? Well, there are some niggles and some legitimate reasons why new or existing PSP owners might prefer to stick with the PSP3000. For one thing, any software you already have on UMD will carry on working. For another, you can keep a spare battery or use a third-party high-capacity battery for longer trips. However, in nearly all other respects this is not just the best PSP yet, but a mobile games machine and media player. Sony still needs to convince us that a steady supply of decent games is on its way – two or three great titles a year just isn’t good enough – but the PSPgo should have made a great platform to relaunch with.
But now we come to the elephant that’s been sitting quietly in a corner of the room for all this time: price. Had Sony brought in the PSPgo at £150 to compete with the 8GB iPod touch and DSi, I’d be almost as keen to recommend it as I am the PS3 Slim. Sadly, even when you factor in the 16GB of onboard flash memory the £225 RRP is absolutely baffling. This isn’t an entirely new product with new capabilities, improved graphics and a next-generation line-up of games; it’s a revision of a handheld that’s over four years old, and it really should have been priced accordingly.
Even at the £199 price point that most online retailers are selling it for, the PSPgo is only just in the realms of decent value. When you consider that you can buy a near-functionally identical PSP3000 for £130 and two 8GB Memory Stick Pro Duo cards for under £40 if you shop around, the PSPgo looks even worse. While Sony’s engineers have taken aim and mostly hit the target, the executives in charge of pricing have shot the product squarely in the foot. High pricing nearly killed the PS3, so why has Sony decided to make the same mistake with the PSPgo?
Should someone see sense and the price come down in the future, then the PSPgo is definitely worth a second look. As I mentioned, Sony still has a lot to prove in terms of software, but this is a great bit of hardware for playing games on, and one that makes even more sense should you also opt for a PS3. Priced as it is, however – and even with the £199 online price – you’d have to be either very wealthy or really very silly to dump that kind of cash. It’s a great handheld, but just not worth that kind of money.
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A highly successful hardware redesign backed up by improving services and software. Sadly, the PSPgo still can’t justify Sony’s sky-high price tag.