Reasons the Playstation Portable (PSP) Failed (And How the Vita Can Undo the Damage)

Ever since the Gameboy's release in 1989, Nintendo had pretty much dominated the handheld market. Many companies have tried to usurp the crown as the handheld king, but all have fallen, despite their handhelds’ technical superiority to the Gameboy. When the PSP was unveiled during E3 2004, many were ood and awed by its technical superiority and by what the PSP had that the DS didn't. For many, it seemed that Nintendo's days of holding the monopoly on the handheld gaming market had come to an end.

But shortly after its launch on March 24, 2005 in North America, the issues quickly surfaced like a bloated corpse that wasn't tied down properly. Shortly after, support for the PSP quickly fizzled out and was put on life support during its entire duration in North America while it thrived in Japan. With the PS Vita out, Sony has made it clear they’re not backing down and are more determined than ever to dethrone Nintendo as the handheld gaming superpower. But they can’t do it unless they learn from their past mistakes, and learned they have. I'll be counting the reasons why the PSP floundered in North America, and how Sony is not going to be repeating the same mistakes again.
The Top Ten
1 It didn't make any serious effort to compete with Nintendo

What were they thinking? Did they think the systems would sell themselves? Of course not. The reason why the Sega Game Gear lasted as long as it did was because it stuck it to Nintendo's face. Cream Spinach Color vs. Bright Beautiful Color. Remember those ads? Sony had nothing of the sort, at least what I saw. And a lot of PSP ads I did see were just retarded, especially the one with the Mexican dust balls. I'm not joking. And the "Dude, Get Your Own" versions weren't much better.

What's Happening Now: The majority of the PS Vita ads I found made sense. "The World is in Play" ads were actually really good, especially the Japanese commercial for Gravity Rush.

2 UMDs

They seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, back then, discs were superior over cartridges in terms of storage and video/audio quality. Not only did the PSP have to expend battery power to read these things, but they were fragile to boot and hard to clean and maintain. Just one crack in those things and they were kaput. Not to mention that these things take time to load. Throw in the fact that they took up more space than a DS card by around 5x and you have an idea that sounded good in theory, but bombed in practice.

What's Happening Now: The PS Vita game cards are pretty small, but they pack a lot of data. It's unsure if it's superior to the UMD in terms of storage, but with the ability to store it without much trouble, I'm not gonna complain. Just be careful not to lose it, or you might not see it again.

3 The pathetic battery life

This one's pretty self-explanatory. In the world of handheld gaming, long battery life is a must. State-of-the-art graphics and whatnot don't mean much (if anything) if you can't play the games for very long. When the PSP first came out, the battery life was terrible. Clocking in at only 2 hours fully charged, it was the battery-devouring Game Gear ordeal all over again. Older gamers like myself will remember how the Game Gear lasted only four hours on six AA batteries, while the Gameboy lasted eight hours on four batteries. And the redesigned Gameboy Pocket doubled the battery efficiency, lasting the same eight hours on only two AAs. Yeah. Same deal. The newer versions of the PSP did much to rectify the situation, but it was already too late. At least you could safely recharge the batteries this time.

What's Happening Now: Sony is taking battery efficiency much more seriously. While the current PS Vita's battery isn't as efficient as the 3DS's (and that's with the 3d effects turned off), the difference is less than an hour and Sony is working on a new model of the Vita that has a longer battery life, among other improvements.

4 Where's the second analog stick?

Imagine this: You meet a hot girl and she invites you over. She decides to let you fondle her breasts, but you only get the one. Yeah. That's the same stunt Sony pulled. When the PSP launched in 2005, First Person Shooters were becoming the in thing. With only one analog stick to work with, making FPS for the PSP was all but difficult. Not to mention that PS2 ports were nigh impossible without a second analog stick to control the camera effectively.

What's Happening Now: Obviously, the Vita has 2 analog sticks this time, and they've up the ante by including not only a front touch screen, but a touch pad at the back. And while I'm on the subject of breasts, please don't remind me of that weird French magazine ad.

5 Constant firmware updates

This is another issue that turned off a lot of potential customers. Sony just refused to let up with the firmware updates. Not really an issue with home consoles and let's face the facts that firmware's here to stay, but the PSP was sensitive about the issue. You couldn't update the firmware at all if your system wasn't sufficiently charged (either from the UMD or a Wi-Fi connection) and it didn't care if you had the charger plugged in. You couldn't play the latest games without the latest firmware, and because Sony bombarded PSP users with constant firmware updates, people just stopped caring about the latest games and moved to the DS where you could just simply pop the card in, press power, and you were good to go.

What's Happening Now: Sony's being a lot more careful with its firmware for the Vita. Now, it's making sure not to overdo it and to make sure to include as many significant changes to the system as well.

6 Forgetting the Western market

When Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories debut on Sony's then new handheld, audiences were floored by the 128-bit quality graphics and was poised to change the way people saw handheld gaming. But soon, there were starting to be less PSP games that catered to Western gamers' tastes. Most of the library consisted of low-budget JRPG/dating sims of mediocre quality and with an abundance of sexuality. Even the 20th anniversary editions of Final Fantasy I and II felt like they were slapped together and thrown on a UMD with minimum effort. Why would I want to pay $30 to ogle a bunch of girls' breasts when a refined Google search can let me do that for free? Not to mention stopping warlords' mad quests for world domination does get tiring after a while. There were some good JRPGs like Lunar: Silver Star Harmony and Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7. Too bad not all companies put this much care into their products.

What's Happening Now: There are still JRPGs coming on the Vita, but now many 3rd party developers are paying attention to what people want from them. Games like Dragon's Crown and Persona 4: Golden have gotten stellar reviews.

7 Movies on UMDs

Yet another good idea down the crapper due to technical shortcomings. Low battery life, poorer quality picture and sound and lack of extras were bad enough, but they sold at the same price as regular DVDs. With portable DVD players entering the market, this idea was shot down like a one-winged duck and UMD movies were discontinued before long.

What's Happening Now: There doesn't seem to be any real movie support for the Vita. Sony learned its lesson; either do it right and all the way, or not at all.

8 Not taking downloadable games seriously

When Sony announced that people could directly download PSP games right onto their memory cards, people were elated. Too bad Sony didn't follow through whole-heartedly. This came to light when they said that not all games would be available in all regions in digital form. There's your proof right there.

What's Happening Now: Sony announced that when a Vita game was released, it would be available in both physical and digital format. They seem to have made good on that promise.

9 Constant obsolesce

PSP-1000, PSP-2000, PSP-3000, PSP E1000 and the PSP Go. It felt like the constant revisions of these systems just wouldn't end. Three years after being released in Japan, Sony kept churning out revision after revision without offering any significant changes other than smaller design and longer battery life. People liked having less to haul around and more battery power, but not many people have a large enough disposable income to keep up with the trend. And there's the PSP GO which excluded the UMD drive and thus became a download only system. It was really expensive, only $50 cheaper than a PS3 at the time.

What's Happening Now: It seems that Sony is now trying to resolve as many issues as it can with its rereleases of hardware, like that mystery power port and different colors.

10 Not getting enough bang for their buck

When the PSP launched at $250, people were rightfully iffy about it. And they were right. Not having recognizable franchises for launch and a lack of games people wanted to play were just a few of the omissions that Sony had made. The high price itself wasn't the real problem; it was what people were going to get out of that money. And it wasn't much.

What's Happening Now: Sony made sure the Vita entered the market with a bang. With quality originals like Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Gravity Rush available at launch and a few months down the road respectively, Sony definitely knew how to put its best foot forward and was able to keep up the momentum by including firmware that allowed people to download PS One games and play them on their Vitas. The system is definitely showing progress.

The Contenders
11 A lot of pirating
12 Not having any Uncharted games
13 Too many expensive games
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