Despite continued system sales and the upcoming PSP 3000 remodel, how long will Sony’s handheld hold up as third-party developers leave for greener pastures?

There’s no denying it; the PSP has been sailing through a rough patch with a dearth of compelling releases for some time now. The number of decent games churning out for the system has slowly dried up and the limited slate of releases officially destined to hit stores in the coming months does little to ease concerns. This week Edge offered an in-depth report highlighting just how gloomy the situation is.

The PSP got off to a slow start, but the number of software releases jumped substantially from 2005 to 2006 before decreasing slightly in 2007. What’s disconcerting is new software releases in 2008 appear to have dipped back down close to where they were in 2005. Some surprise under-the-radar game releases in the comings months may bolster the figures but it likely won’t be enough to make a substantial dent this year. Edge also reports the number of PSP exclusives have continued to decline each year. Showing a similar trend, support from third party developers is clearly not what it once was.

Sony isn’t taking the news lying down. Speaking to Edge in a follow-up interview, SCEA director of hardware marketing John Koller is quick to offer an explanation.

“Decisions made 20-22 months ago from a development cycle perspective are affecting the quantity of titles available today,” said Koller. “20-22 months ago developers and publishers were looking at the PSP hardware and thinking ‘It’s not selling as well, maybe it’s time to move our resources elsewhere.'”

Things may be looking up for 2009. Koller said Sony has been on a road show for months visiting with all of the major publishers to get them stoked about PSP software development. A number of “very strong franchise games” (which have yet to be officially announced) will be launching next year, he said, and third party support is expected to pick up as well.

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