Pocket Pool

PSP owners are quietly praying the device takes off. Even though it’s able to pump out those all important polygons at a faster rate and higher resolution than other handhelds on the market, Sony has a rough road ahead of them if they think they’re going to swipe the last remaining bread basket in a field Nintendo has dominated since 1989. People who’ve weathered console wars in the past know many of the gaming industry’s grim truths, but one reality is paramount: All that matters is the titles.

Think about it. The Dreamcast’s oft-told sob story, the great graphics and hype – it fell flat on its face because Sega couldn’t crack through the impenetrable wall of recognizable faces Sony and Nintendo managed to construct. Sony isn’t quite Sega, though, and some well placed marketing has them in a position to at least contend with Nintendo’s DS. Sony can win, too, because they have invented a better gimmick, or at least a more profitable one. Say what you will about the touch screen, but it’s never going to play Debbie Does Dallas in widescreen resolution. Believe it or not, that’s what it’s all about.

On June 2, Japanese porn publisher Glay’z announced its intentions to produce porn using the UMD format. Most giggle at the idea, but others frantically google. When the porn industry moves, timid industries follow in the wake. Talking heads have claimed the porn industry was one of the final nails in the (Sony-designed) Betamax format’s coffin. Pornographers, opting to use the cheaper VHS to distribute media, incentivized a seedy underbelly of married family men toward VHS players because, hey, you could watch both versions of Bambi. Porn became a welcome friend in many homes, with VHS players making an activity that used to require leaving the house far more personal, private, and affordable.

The porn industry’s move to DVDs, an even cheaper technology, helped catapult sales of players early on, driving society toward optical media. Now that the UMD format is taking its first baby steps into a new multi-faceted playground, Sony has to rely on others to generate the credibility they need to stake a place in the yard. They don’t just need Square-Enix’s help, they need Vivid’s.

Ghost in the Shell and Ninja Scroll are making their way to the PSP video; is it much of a stretch to include the animated schoolgirl porn that captivates so many? While it may sound like a smut rallying cry, it’s just good business. If there’s a demand, companies owe it to themselves to supply, right?

It’s been reported UMD movie sales have topped 100,000, not counting the copies of Spider-Man 2 bundled with US collector’s editions. American PSP sales are estimated at about 500,000, so at best one in five people have picked up a $20 flick to enjoy on a plane. While it’s encouraging to people who purchased the PSP with UMDs in mind, it’s definitely not cutting into DVD sales yet. Sony knows it, too. They’ve called Glay’z’s move “undesirable,” but they also haven’t done anything to stop it. If porn’s presence negatively affects sales, however, we might see quite a bit more commentary from Sony.

It’s amazing how deeply porn penetrates western society. From quick snapshots on cell phone cameras to highly produced films illegal to make in 49 states, Americans can’t keep themselves from watching people enjoy the company of others. Porn spreads liberally into new mediums in which to sell itself before most industries have even become aware of their very existence. Glay’z is the first pioneer, UMD’s Davy Crocket, a company with the moxie to prove there’s gold in gamers’ pockets.

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Not only would it be great fun to scare off a flight attendant with Mile High Club 38, being able to take adult entertainment anywhere you’d like is alluring to… some people. Not to say it isn’t already an option. There are numerous free programs able to rip common video formats into the PSP’s, provided your memory card can store it, but that’s not as easy a method (or as profitable) for porn to bleed its way into a developing medium. Porting successful titles to the UMD format could offer consumers new ways to enjoy suggestive content on the go. It might be a bit creepy, but it would also tap into the lonely businessman market. Imagine someone on a business trip, alone in his hotel room on a weeknight, and instead of buying a cheaply produced hotel movie, he pops in his UMD version of his favorite skin show.

However, UMD is still fighting an uphill battle. Portable DVD players sport longer battery life, bigger screens, and a well established library. The current price point for normal movies in UMD format ranges between $20 and $35, with Glay’z’s prices at $15 and $37. This just isn’t competitive with DVDs. But prices always drop when it comes to media. If publishers can drag things down to the $5 impulse buy range, we could see a very interesting focus market develop. The porn industry traditionally can’t do that alone. But publishers have other avenues to exploit. Namely, the PSP does more than play movies.

Even if portable porn isn’t your style, what about Leisure Suit Larry, or even Hentai games? There’s yet to be a handheld billed as an adult device, but the technology has grown up, and so have the prices. The PSP is roughly as powerful as a PS2, and costs twice as much. I’ve yet to see anyone much under 16 toting a carrying case; the PSP is for the iPod generation, new yuppies with a flair for gadgetry. Why not provide content for the age group? Beyond just porn, tossing out some “Adult” rated titles has a chance at moving more units off the shelves, just by piquing curiosity.

Porn has helped make decisions and stimulate growth in emerging markets before, and it might just do it here, too. The voyeuristic addition to the world’s oldest profession packs a financial wallop few people like to admit to, but even fewer are able to ignore. With Glay’z’s recent announcement, Sony is in a good position to bolster interest in not only Japanese porn, but their “legitimate” UMD titles as well. And with memories of the Betamax still floating around, they’d make a tremendous folly to look a gift horse in the mouth twice.

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