The PlayStation Portable is the talk of the town, after basking in the limelight at a recent game show.
But despite all the hoopla, Sony Computer Entertainment Co.’s soon-to-debut portable game console is unlikely to loosen Nintendo Co.’s grip on the global market, according to game industry analysts. They say there is no compelling reason for gamers to buy the PSP. Its rival, the Nintendo DS, they say, offers eye-opening novelty.
Nintendo’s new hand-held console, which features a dual touch-sensitive screen, will go on sale in the U.S. on Nov. 21 at $149.99 and on Dec. 2 in Japan for 15,000 yen.
Sony has not announced the price or release date for the PSP. Analysts expect it to cost between 25,000 yen and 30,000 yen, putting it at disadvantage against the Nintendo DS.
Analysts say that while the PSP has razor-sharp screen resolution and stylish design, it is no match for the Nintendo DS in terms of uniqueness. It fails as an attractive game console, they say.
“With a dual touch-sensitive screen, voice recognition and wireless communication, the Nintendo DS has a load of new features,” said Eiji Maeda, game analyst at Daiwa Institute of Research Ltd.
Nintendo says such features will allow users to experience new kinds of games and, more importantly, play intuitively, meaning they can forget about using a complicated control pad and use a stylus pen and their voice instead.
“Our intention was that anyone, regardless of age, gender or game experience, should be able to stand on the same starting line” and enjoy playing games, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata told a media preview in Tokyo earlier this week.
The single-minded pursuit by the game industry for ever-more complicated and time-consuming games will only serve to alienate potential users, he said.
The Computer Entertainment Suppliers’ Association estimates that the combined domestic market for video-game consoles and software came to 446.2 billion yen in 2003. The market for hardware fell 17 percent year-on-year, while for software, it declined by 8.2 percent during the same period.
During the media preview, Nintendo unveiled some of its new game titles, including one in which players can raise virtual puppies. The dogs respond to voice commands and can be “tickled” by brushing the screen with the tip of a stylus pen.
In another game, a player can snuff virtual candles by blowing on the console screen, the sound of which is picked up by the console’s built-in microphone.
Daiwa’s Maeda said that while PSP’s game lineup also includes popular titles, many are already available on the PlayStation 2.
“Popular titles do not necessarily make killer titles, by which I mean games that users can only play with that particular console,” he said.
And Nintendo has still other advantages.
Takashi Oka of UFJ Tsubasa Securities Co. said the Nintendo DS’ backward compatibility allows users to play games created for the Game Boy Advance, which has 500 game titles in Japan.
“It is reassuring for users to know that they can also play existing games,” he said.
Even worse for PSP, industry watchers suspect that Sony might have to delay its launch, which the firm has said would happen by the yearend in Japan, because game software makers cannot meet the deadline.
“I think it would be better for Sony to delay the PSP’s launch to avoid direct competition with the Nintendo DS, even if it means missing the holiday shopping season here,” Masaru Onishi of JP Morgan Securities Asia said.
“Instead of releasing (the console) with a weak game title lineup, it should wait until next year to get fully prepared.”
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