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Platform(s): PSP
Genre: Hardware
Publisher: Sony
Developer: Sony


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PSPgo - Sony Director of Hardware Marketing Interview

by Adam Pavlacka on Sept. 21, 2009 @ 1:03 a.m. PDT

Created with portable, pocket-sized gaming in mind, the PSPgo comes with 16GB of internal flash memory.

WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank, and occupation!

I'm John Koller, and I'm director of hardware marketing.

WP: Let's start with the basics. What was the original concept for the PSPgo?

JK: The original idea was to build an ultra-portable, all-digital device. The idea was really to ensure that we have a full game concept because handhelds have kind of progressed into the smaller, bite-sized world. We wanted to ensure that the Gran Turismos and the LittleBigPlanets — the full games — could be playable on the Go. We started with the concept of building around the screen, and when you see the Go, you'll notice that the unit, when closed, is almost all screen. That's the idea around PSP in general: The screen really needs to carry the day. To house the controls, we initiated a slide function, which allows you to access the controls underneath, and it really provides a nice, portable experience for the consumer.

WP: Hardware-wise, with the screen and slider, the Go almost looks almost as if it's a cousin of Sony's Mylo. Was there any heritage there from cross-division, or were you working independently and happened to come up with a similar form factor?

JK: We actually worked independently, but the idea of the curved design and the more portable nature of it, surprisingly, was not shared between engineers, but they kind of came to the same conclusion, which is that this type of style and form factor actually provides the most portable experience, so that was really the idea behind it.

WP: Looking at the downloadable games, what did it take for a games publisher to make that jump from media to no media? Obviously consumers were, whether you wanted them to or not, storing games on flash media long before the Go. What did it take internally to say, "Consumers are doing this. Why don't we offer it?"

JK: Surprisingly, it wasn't necessarily because consumers were doing it otherwise. We actually looked at numbers in our research over the past few years about how digital demand has been growing. I think Apple's done a good job of that, and some other manufacturers have kind of laid the groundwork for where digital is going, but no one's done the full game concept. We looked at it and saw that we have a tremendous opportunity. We have a great infrastructure with the PlayStation Network to be able to access the best portable games available. Let's try to make a device that allows you to take all that content with you on the go. What the PSPgo engenders is the ability to take those games with you but also to have a large flash memory to store a lot of content other than just games, so you can put all your entertainment on it.

WP: You say 16 GB is included with the Go, and yet some of your games, like Gran Turismo, are already 1 GB in size. Is there any concern that some of the hardcore gamers are going to fill that up as soon as they buy it?

JK: We have a few solutions for that. With 16 GB flash memory, you're looking at between 17 and 28 total games if you go gaming only with the average size that we're currently looking at for games. We are going to have Memory Stick Micro (M2) capabilities; peripherals will be for sale, a 2 GB, 4 GB and 8 GB model. Also, we recently launched Media Go, which is a free application that you can download to your PC, and it operates as a digital locker, so you can actually swap content back and forth and store it there and bring other content over to your Go, if you'd like.

WP: Say I'm at home. I have a brother, and we both have PSPgos. With the original PSP, if we wanted to share a game, we could just swap the disc. On the PS3, anything that you download from PSN can actually be shared on up to five consoles. If I buy a retail game like Gran Turismo for my PSPgo, can I use that on multiple consoles like I can with the PSP, or do we have to each buy individual copies?

JK: It's unique, actually. It's different than the disc model. This is download-only, so you actually do need to have your own game, your own software for each hardware unit.

WP: Along those lines, is there any sort of method to transfer the authorization? If I drop my PSPgo and break it, do I lose my software? How do I get it on to a new Go?

JK: You retain download license rights if your unit breaks or if you buy a new one and you want to transfer off of this one. It's an authorization model, which you'll see in some handheld devices currently. It's pretty seamless, and you'll be able to do that very easily. What I want to emphasize is that there is no worry for any consumer. If they break their unit or if they lose it, they'll be able to download the content that they purchased.

WP: Another one of the advantages of the standard PSP is worldwide compatibility. Even with PSN, we see different stores, like the Japanese store and the European store. Are you regionizing the PSPgo, or will there essentially be one store, and all PSPgo releases will be available worldwide just the same way that standard PSP UMDs are?

JK: It's still regionalized, but for the most part, the content will be standardized, and what I mean by that is most of the content that the publishers launch is actually global, so for the most part, you won't notice many differences. There will be some games that only launch in Japan or only launch in Europe, but I think that'll be fairly rare. With the Minis line, which we haven't talked about, each region will be able to make decisions about what to launch. Some will launch here that may not launch in Europe, and vice versa, so there could be some differences there.

WP: Will Sony actively prohibit users in America from creating a Japanese sign-up to buy games from the Japanese store? Or is it more of a "We're not going to support it, but we're not going to stop you."

JK: It's not an active prohibition, but I think that in general, we prefer that they purchase in the region that they are located in.

WP: What about upgraders? In the past, Sony has said that it was hoping to have a solution for current PSP owners with large UMD collections to move to the PSPgo, but we haven't heard a lot about that. Do you have any more to tell us? Have you figured out what to do?

JK: We don't actually have the answer to give you today on that, but we do understand the importance of our current PSP owner and the legacy that they have. I think our most loyal PSP consumers are going to be the ones who are going to step up to buy Go first. There's nothing really to report today, but we do understand that the program's important.

WP: You say you're going to keep supporting the original PSP along with the PSPgo. As a new consumer, if I'm looking at these two side by side on the shelf, why am I going to buy the Go over the original PSP, and why would I choose to buy the original PSP versus the Go? Obviously when you've got the two SKUs on the shelf, you've got possible consumer confusion.

JK: That's a great question. We're going to hire you in marketing because that's exactly what you end up wrestling with everyday in terms of how you message both of those because they are very viable in their own right. If you're a digitally savvy, higher-tech type of consumer, the PSPgo is probably for you because it's much more portable, it houses your content a lot easier with the 16 GB flash memory, and it has Bluetooth. It's much more of a premium product. The PSP 3000 unit is certainly available for all, and I think we're still going to see the younger to mid-teens purchase that in large numbers. The screen size is a little bit larger, it's a different footprint, and really, it's kind of a different experience, but it does allow for downloads, so even if you're a download consumer, you could still get into PSN through the 3000, but I think most of the digitally savvy consumers are going will end up coming to the Go.

WP: Having worked on the hardware side, what's your favorite aspect of the Go?

JK: To me personally, it's the portability. I think that with the growth in consumers who take their entertainment with them everywhere, you want a device that you can actually fit in your pocket or fit in a bag, and be able to house all your content very easily and smoothly. The ease of download is very simple; it's a quick download for games and movies. I think the ability to take all that content with you in a small, portable device, for me personally, is really the biggest thing. I think for travelers, of which I am one, so I will say this kind of honestly, is that I think the Go is perfect for that type of lifestyle, particularly with the ability to take that content as I mentioned, but also the screen size.

WP: One last question, since you mentioned movies. In the past, Sony executives have talked about the PSP and PS3 and how it was always in an upcoming firmware to have the ability to put a Blu-ray disc in your PS3 and export that movie to watch on your PSP. Is that something that kind of fell by the wayside, or with the Go and the media manager, are we going to see that show up?

JK: That's called portable copy, and that actually exists today, so that's not firmware-based. That's something that we've been pressing pretty hard on the studios to adopt. It's more of a studio decision, but more and more are starting to see the marketing value in including a standard-def or a second sale portable copy. It depends on the movie, it depends on the property, and it depends on the studio, but those exist today now.
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