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Game Theory's Flawed PSP Theory
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on August 10, 2007   |   Episode 131 (Show Archive)  

   

A word to the wise: Whatever you do, don't watch movies on your PSP while walking up stairs (it's dangerous)!
Because of my job I find that I am listening to a lot more video game podcasts than I probably should. It would not be an exaggeration to say that there's a new game-related podcast entering the crowded online space each and every day, most revolving around regular gamers pontificating about what they know ... or think they know. The good news is that if you dig around hard enough you'll probably find a few gems worth checking out, such as GameSpot's The Hotspot and the always entertaining Games for Windows Radio over on the 1up Network.

If you're looking for news about the industry then chances are good you've already found the Game Theory podcast, the spiritual successor to the short-lived Next Generation podcast (which in turn was an offshoot of the short-lived Next Generation magazine from a few years back). Hosted by industry veterans Colin Campbell and Gary Whitta, Game Theory takes us on a weekly journey behind the scenes of our favorite game companies and hardware manufacturers. Because of the serious nature of the show, Game Theory tends to

Who knew that Janis Joplin would be so into her brand new PSP?
attract some of the most important figures in the video games industry, including Sony's Phil Harrison, EA founder Trip Hawkins, Shiny superstar David Perry and many more. If 1up Yours and IGN's Game Scoop are the Inside Edition of video game podcasts, then Game Theory would be 60 Minutes or Nightline.

Regardless of how refreshing it is to have a podcast that tries to take the games industry seriously, not everything Colin and Gary report as facts necessarily holds water. That's not to

I would like to believe that the Next Generation of the 1990s was a little more fair and balanced than its current iteration!
say that they are purposely trying to mislead their audience, but there are more than a few occasions when the two co-hosts seem perfectly happy to omitting some (if not all) of the important information in order to make their opinions sound more reasonable. Obviously Game Theory is free to do what they want with their MP3 podcasts, but I feel that if they are only going to tell half of the story them somebody should stand up and try and fill in the rest. In this case that "somebody" just so happens to be Defunct Games.

These days Game Theory's Favorite punching bag seems to be Sony, or more specifically the Sony PSP. In the past month Colin and Gary have singled out Sony's first handheld in two lengthy segments, both of which featured non-stop negativity and half-truths. Regardless of whether they are talking about Sony's redesigned PSP at E3 or the future of the handheld, Game Theory seems to be basing their information on personal feelings and not the marketplace. I wouldn't dare think about taking away Game Theory's ability to speak

This crummy picture is from E3 2007 where Kaz came out and showed us a new PSP that looked almost exactly the old one ... and then Chewbacca showed up!
their mind, but after weeks of passive aggressive insults and uninformed comments, I'm starting to wonder if Colin and Gary might have some sort of ulterior motive behind their negativity.

A recent example of Game Theory's selective reporting came the week of E3, when Colin and Gary spoke about their disappointment surrounding the brand new PSP redesign. "This would appear to be another case of Sony putting a band aid on a sucking chest wound," states Gary Whitta in Game Theory's 15th episode. Colin is equally unimpressed, stating that "the engineers have been working on it for a couple of years and they've managed to make it twenty percent lighter, big deal." For several minutes Colin and Gary complained about the lack of real improvement in the hardware, the lack of quality games, and the lack of improved multimedia support.

The problem with their complaints is that they cherry picked the information they wanted to talk about (in this case the weight and size difference) and completely ignored the

Okay, I take the previous statement back, it's definitely more dangerous to drive and use your PSP than to walk with Sony's handheld!
system's real improvements. While one could argue that Sony didn't blow everybody away with a drastically different model (complete with an internal hard drive and second analog stick), this PSP does address a lot of the problems that the critics have had with Sony's original handheld. For example, the PSP's battery life has been improved and gamers can expect shorter load times. What's more, the slimmer design makes the PSP easier to hold and more comfortable to play with.

But there's one major addition to this PSP that the Game Theory hosts decided to completely ignore - the ability to plug it into your television and use it as a multimedia player. Apparently neither Gary nor Colin had heard the news that you could use your PSP to stream music and movies from your PlayStation 3 and home PC and then display them on a television. You can even use the new PSP to play UMD movies and PSP games on your television, assuming that this is something you want to do. Instead Colin and Gary simply complained that the new PSP doesn't add anything to the multimedia functions while they completely ignored the one thing

Sure they are both handheld game systems, but the PSP and Nintendo DS are really going after two completely different types of gamers!
that will change the way you use your PSP as a multimedia player. Then again, what do you expect from a couple of journalists that actually patted themselves on the back for not wanting to go to this year's E3?

Unfortunately this is not the first time Game Theory has ignored facts to make attacks on the Sony PSP. Two episodes earlier Colin and Gary devoted a whole segment of their podcast to the future of the PSP, where both commentators

I have no idea why Paris Hilton has a PSP and honestly I really don't care!
agreed that Sony should just give up and focus on a dedicated multimedia portable. "In a funny sort of way the new PSP could be a real impressive machine if it wasn't a games machine at all, if it was simply a movie viewer or a video viewer that you could carry around in your pocket with a nice big screen and awesome battery life," says Colin despairingly. I guess Game Theory doesn't care that the PSP currently has dozens of great titles available for the system and dozens more on the way.

Actually, the Game Theory hosts won't even acknowledge that the PSP has good games. Early in this segment they concluded that the PSP "really hasn't had that many half decent games." For a system that hasn't had "that many half decent games," the PSP certainly does seem to have a lot of big games for the system getting solid reviews. Last year alone GameSpot gave 30 PSP games an 8.0 or higher. And they were on the conservative side; IGN scored 36 PSP games an 8.0 or higher. Compare that to the

If you haven't used your PSP all year then you missed out on some of the best game of the last eight months, including Crush by Sega!
Nintendo DS where GameSpot and IGN only gave a fraction of the games an 8.0 or higher (8 and 24, respectively). Like it or not, the PSP has a solid line-up of games, many of which seem to score high marks no matter what website or magazine you read.

"I can't remember the last time I got [the PSP] out and did anything with it," Gary argues. Well, perhaps that says more about Gary Whitta than it does Sony's handheld. This year alone we've seen a number of solid PSP games, including Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters, Crush, Puzzle Quest, PQ2: Practical Quotient 2 and Burnout Dominator. The fact that Gary and Colin have completely ignored the PSP this year means that they missed out on some of the best puzzle games of the year, including the strongest version of D3's amazing Puzzle Quest. The fact that some podcaster hasn't played their system recently doesn't mean much, especially when this year's line-up has been so strong.

But the one thing Game Theory seems to come back to time after time is the fact that the PSP is not selling as well as the Nintendo DS, a point that nobody can disagree with. Make no mistake

Using Game Theory's rationale Microsoft should throw in the towel because the Wii is outselling the Xbox 360 each and every month!
about it; the Nintendo DS is the undisputed leader of the handheld market, thanks in large part to its broad appeal and unique interface. But then again the Wii is outselling the Xbox 360 and you don't hear Game Theory (or anybody else for that matter) concluding that Microsoft should just get out of the next-generation battle. Heck, the PSP is actually outselling the Xbox 360 month after month, yet Game Theory never seems to pay attention to those figures.

In fact, Game Theory doesn't seem to be paying attention to any NPD figures at all. The podcast that suggested that Sony should just get out of the handheld games business came out only a week or two after the NPD reported that the PSP sales have increased to 221,000 units (surpassing the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 2). Game Theory decided to completely ignore the fact that in May the only system to actually do better than the month before was the PSP, every other system (including the Wii and Nintendo DS)

... at least somebody does!
actually did worse in May than they did in April. But stating this fact would actually undermine Game Theory's off-base theory that the PSP is a sales flop and should just go away.

And what's more, you don't hear Gary and Colin talking about how the PSP numbers just keep improving. I wonder why Game Theory decided not to talk about the June 2007 numbers (where the PSP sold 290,000 units, an increase of 70,000 units from the month prior) or the strong PSP showing at E3. Apparently it's easier to ignore the positive PSP stories so you can continue to make potshots at a system that seems to be picking up a little more traction each and every month.

But then again Game Theory is hardly the first podcast to completely write off Sony's PSP. Around

Clearly Shane Bettenhausen is more of a cat person!
this time last year 1up.com's weekly podcast, 1up Yours, was spelling doom and gloom for the two year old handheld. What a difference a year makes, these days Garrett Lee, Shane Bettenhausen and the rest of the 1up crew have done a 180, hyping games like Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles, God of War and Crisis Core: Final Fantasy. All of a sudden the one podcast that seemed to be the most down on Sony's handheld now seems to embrace it, a shocking turn of events indeed.

Perhaps the same thing will eventually happen to Game Theory. Maybe Colin and Gary will actually pick up their PSP and discover that they missed some truly remarkable games over the past two years. One can only hope that in a year the usually fair Game Theory will get the chip off their shoulder and actually report all the news about the PSP ... not just the stuff that helps their one-sided arguments. After all, games journalists shouldn't want one system to fail or succeed; it's in everybody's best interest to see all developers succeed. Does Game Theory actually want us to go back to a time when Nintendo was the only one making portable game systems? If that's what they're after then you can count me out.
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