For a long time, I always considered Apple to be a company that not only doesn’t care about maintaining backward compatibility and, in turn, getting more money from its very loyal customer base, but also loves to nickel and dime you to death. No company, I thought, did that better than Apple. Well, I may have been wrong.
Recently, Sony brought out a new version of it’s moderately successful PSP handheld game device. Sony is a company that just loves to bring out new stuff. (Which might be one of the reasons they have not been doing so well financially.) The new PSP, called PSP Go, not only upholds Sony’s tradition of introducing new formats and peripherals, it excelled with it.
The original PSP utilized a new Sony media format called UMD. The UMD was a tiny CD-like disc that could hold a two hour movie, music and games. At launch, there were several production companies supporting the new format and selling movies and other programming. Since the PSP has a beautiful widescreen display, the movies looked great. I damn near bought one just for the video aspect. The PSP also utilized the memory stick, Sony’s answer to Compact Flash cards. PSP was also a wireless device and featured a browser. It was a pretty sexy device. It could also receive content from a Playstation 3-another very sexy device from Sony (and pretty much a successful failure.)
For PSP, Sony managed to whittle together a nice little after market ecosystem. Third party cases, cables, power adaptors and other add-ons were all introduced. PSP sales started to take off last year, so these companies were doing OK.
At E3-the video game conference/show-Sony introduced a companion, not a replacement, to the PSP: the PSP Go. The Go was a bit smaller than the original. It is also a ‘slider’ device. It has many of the same features as the PSP except it does not contain the UMD drive. So anyone who buys a Go, and also owns a PSP, cannot use the game library they already had. The Go also features different connectors, so you have to rebuy your power adaptors. It also does not have the Memory Stick slot. Instead, it has the M2 Micro card. All of the memory sticks you had will not work with this thing. Oh, and those games you purchased over the PS3 for the PSP, those won’t work either because of the DRM. And, to top it all off, Sony’s promise of a UMD exchange program has gone unfulfilled. In fact, they have pretty said that no such program will happen.
Remember, PSP Go is a physical media-less device. The ONLY way to get content on the device is to get it online either wirelessly or send content from a PS3. Worse, many of the games that are available for the device are iPhone ports and cost two to five times more than the iPhone counterparts cost.
And don’t think I am just picking on the PSP either. Every time Sony updates its videogame hardware, they tend to render it incompatible with accessories for the previous version. The PS3, for example, was recently made smaller. In doing the redesign, they changed the power cord. Cords from the older generation PS3 will not work on the new version. PS3, over time, lost all backward compatibility with the PS2. If you had a substantial PS2 game collection, you had to keep your PS2 console. (OK, I’m being a bit unfair here: most consoles in the past were not compatible with the previous version. XBOX and Wii has spoiled me on this.) For PS2, the original version allowed the installation of a hard disk. At least one game, a Final Fantasy game, required the hard disk. When Sony downsized the console, there was no room for said hard disk and, consequently, that Final Fantasy became incompatible with the new version of the console.
The PSP Go seems to be not only a smack at game resellers, but it also seems to be giving Sony’s customers the finger as well. For a company that is, currently, not doing very well in the video game market, Sony seems to snubbing the customer base it has. They know, however, that the truly loyal fans will still buy. Like most Apple fans, Sony fans don’t seem to mind being nickel and dimed like this. Some companies seem to get away with this all of the time. It seems, however, that the PSP Go will become the first Sony product to fail at this as it has gotten a very chilly reception so far. Maybe it will become the PSP Stop.