Consumers might be happy... but not retailers. Image: Sony.
The smaller, more lightweight PlayStation Portable Go (PSP Go) may be sparking consumer interest thanks to its snazzy slide-out screen and pseudo smartphone aesthetic, but its lack of UMD support is causing traditional retailers to squirm uncomfortably on the high street.
More pointedly, Sony’s decision to completely abandon the ailing UMD format in favour of a hardware platform capable of downloading and storing all of its content at source means retail videogame outlets are on the verge of being completely cut from the supply chain.
Also, with digital distribution steadily growing through services such as the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Marketplace – not to mention that the PSP Go all-but erases second-hand software profits for the GameStops of the retail world – the writing certainly appears to be on the wall for walk-in stores.
“With this PSP Go and its download-only system, is Sony saying they don’t need us in the retail distribution channel? We’re no use to them?” asked one unnamed retail source in an Itai News report.
“But we’re business partners aren’t we? Shouldn’t there be some way we can improve distribution?” the disgruntled retailer added. “If they go ahead, specialist shops are going to be in trouble. My own motivation is really suffering from all this uncertainty.”
As progressive videogame platforms continue to offer consumers access to an ever-larger expanse of on-board data storage, the possibility of a gaming industry without traditional retailers becomes more and more likely.
While the PSP Go can only store data on 16GBs of flash memory, which restricts its download capabilities somewhat, the future doesn’t bode well for retailers considering that users can considerably expand their data ceiling via an external memory card source.
Similarly, home-based platforms such as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 offer sizeable multimedia storage via hub hardware that can host complete game downloads along with the instant playback of streamed movies and TV shows in high definition.
The bleating of bitter retailers apart, the shift toward digital distribution has hardly been a barely noticeable tectonic crawl, it’s been clear to see for a while and has been on the cards since the current generation of videogame hardware arrived on the scene more than three years ago.
Ultimately, while retail outlets may be irrevocably damaged by the onset of digital delivery – and that’s regrettable – they offer an increasingly antiquated distribution structure and cannot claim an immovable business contract with hardware and software makers.
Consumers have always been the core focus for the likes of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, and they’re only likely to benefit from an advanced business model that provides content in minutes and no longer requires the completion of a physical purchase.
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