There's been plenty of discussion recently about the state of the PSP market – both from other publishers and from Sony itself – so when we had the opportunity to catch up with Zeno Colaço, vice president of publisher and developer relations for Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, we thought it only fair to get his opinions on the burning topics of the day.
Pocket Gamer: Considering PSP is Sony's first gaming handheld and you've successfully entered a previously 100 per cent Nintendo dominated market, now annoying is it that PSP is always compared to DS?
Zeno Colaço: It is frustrating from the point of view of it being seen a direct comparison. Both companies and both products need to be complimented for what they have achieved. There's been 300 per cent growth in the handheld market over the past couple of years.
But with PSP what we're now seeing is continual synergies with our business, whether that's the Go!Series of applications and services or PlayStation 3. But we have to be realistic. A lot of this boils down to developer choice and making a PSP game is more like making a console game than a portable game. PSP is so powerful, you can make games that look like PS2 games and developers are still approaching it from that point of view.
Do you mean the cost of making PSP games?
Cost and depth of play. But I think, to a degree, these are conventions we can challenge. We now have a service where you can download games onto the PSP; as we're demonstrating with the PSP PC Store where you can download games direct to your Memory Stick and purchase them that way.
That's not a particularly straightforward process at the moment though?
No, but in future as it's incorporated as part of the network services, people will get used to it. There are other elements, too. One example is we have a republishing model so publishers can republish games originally released on UMD digitally. There will be some limits in terms of how long they have to be available in the market – a bit like Platinum [budget re-release range] for PlayStation 2 and 3 – but it's providing an opportunity for a secondary distribution of PSP games, and it shows how we want to take this product forward.
You were talking about developers' attitude to PSP. How can you change that?
I think it is a classic case of developer choice. We need to revitalise the developer community to get behind PSP. For example, it's easy to make a DS-type game for a PSP game in terms of cost and speed of development and we will be looking to do encourage that as we continue to develop the PSP. I'm not just talking about the hardware but the services and the business models and the support, too.
Our sales for PSP is over 37 million units, which is huge, particularly when you take into account the level of third-party sales there are for PSP compared to DS. So from my perspective, what's important is we continue to tell publishers and developers that there's an opportunity to make money on PSP, which is something that will become apparent over the next two years as the network services are developed.
Do you think there is a current lack of games for PSP?
Well, one of the issues when you rely on a business model that relies on 25 per cent games from Sony and 75 per cent from other publishers is that if they start to refocus, you can't recover that space because you don't have the internal capacity, so we've probably suffered from that.
Also, do you think you've focused enough on games compared things such as the Go! applications?
We've had a requirement to push the boundaries of what PSP could do and that's something only the platform holder can do. Hopefully one outcome is that some of these peripherals such as the camera and GPS will give other developers the opportunity to use that install base and expand the gaming experience. We've seen similar things with EyeToy and the SingStar mics on PlayStation 2. I think it's important to expand the experience, but not all our concentration is in that area.
We're publishing first-party games, too – God of War has been very successful, and there are a lot of games coming out in the Christmas period. Summer is always a difficult time to judge, but I'm pretty happy in terms of what I am tracking. It will be a very good Christmas and hardware sales are very positive.
And the PSP's ratio of hardware to software sales is quite high, isn't it?
The tie-ratio is about four games to each PSP, which is very healthy. What I think is interesting is that people compare PSP to PS2, which has a huge tie-ratio of over ten, so sometimes we suffer from our own successes. But we've learnt a lot with PSP. It's our first foray into this space and we are pushing the boundaries.
And finally, as with other PlayStation hardware, do you expect PSP to have a ten-year lifespan?
We definitely have the ambition for it to feature very strongly in the future, both on its own and also complimentary to PlayStation Network environment and the PS3. But we'll have to wait a while before we can fully reveal the direction we're going in. Ten years is certainly the long-term plan though.
Our thanks to Zeno for his time.