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The Pocket Gamer Report: How Sony Stole Christmas 2010

Pocket Gamer | 15 Aug 2009 09:00
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By Autumn 2009, most who took an interest had written off Sony as a competitor in the handheld gaming race. The device had already endured years of subordination to Nintendo's DS by 2008, and by Christmas of that year it was clear that it was fighting a war on two fronts: against all reasonable expectations, the iPhone was also in the fray, and by the middle of 2009 was pretty much the winner of it.

Sony's failures had been many. After years at the top it had grown arrogant and complacent, wilfully determined to sell to a hardcore market that was rapidly disappearing, or rather melting into the broader and more casual audience Nintendo and Microsoft had helped to create and which the iPhone's success had established beyond any doubt as the future of gaming.

Perhaps symptomatic of this invidious hardcore prejudice was Sony's refusal to price its products competitively. Both the PS3 and PSP had suffered commercially in part as a consequence of their relatively high prices, and when it emerged that the PSPgo would retail at £229.99 - considerably more expensive than either the DSi or the iPod touch - faceplants echoed around the world. Koller's subsequent defense of this price as a 'premium proposition' brought palms to foreheads a second time.

Sony's 2009 PSP line-up was strong, including as it did Assassin's Creed, LittleBigPlanet, MotorStorm: Arctic Edge, and a host of other AAA titles. But Apple's App Store was proving that it's low cost that drives consumer spending. A contemporary analysis carried out by Pocket Gamer found that the average price of a game in the App Store Top 100 was just $1.89 Premium titles were all very well, but all the evidence pointed at a market moving towards smaller, cheaper games.

Despite these obvious missteps, Sony was also planting the seeds of its own success around this time. Sony went some way in addressing the hardcore issue when it announced that it would cut the cost of development kits by 80% to encourage small developers to create games for the device, and again when it revealed during the Develop conference the same year that it had signed up 50 developers for its app store, including Fieldrunners creator Subatomic Studios. Clearly, it was taking some important cues from Apple.

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