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Going, Going, Gone

PSPgo is laid to rest. Weeping is unlikely at this funeral.

Published as part of our sister-site GamesIndustry.biz's widely-read weekly newsletter, the GamesIndustry.biz Editorial, is a weekly dissection of an issue weighing on the minds of the people at the top of the games business. It appears on Eurogamer after it goes out to GI.biz newsletter subscribers.

18 months on the market isn't exactly an impressive tally for a games console - especially for one carrying the powerful PlayStation brand. However, just a couple of weeks over that year and a half mark, Sony has confirmed that the PSPgo is to be put to rest, with manufacturing and shipments already ceased. From now on, only those units already in the sales channel will be available.

Sony Japan's statement on the matter, as reported by Japanese site Impress Watch, was rather less equivocal than the one which came from Sony UK shortly earlier - in which the company pledged to "continue to meet... demand" for PSP products. Yet Sony UK's statement cuts to the core of the matter - there simply isn't any demand for the PSPgo, and it's questionable whether there ever really was.

If you want to see evidence for the PSPgo's complete belly-flop, take a look around the market in which the PSP has had by far the largest success. In Japan, Monster Hunter Portable has provided the platform with a killer app late in its lifespan which has turned it into a must-carry item for a huge proportion of young males - yet you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone sporting a PSPgo.

In six months living in Japan, I've seen countless PSP-3000s of all hues and designs - usually clutched by groups of high school or university students ardently tucking into Capcom's monster-slaying feast on subway trains, in fast food restaurants or in cafes. Along with the younger groups equally eagerly engaged in their DS' Pokemon titles, this everyday image is one of the most obvious outward signs of Japan's enduring video games culture.

Yet even in the land of ubiquitous handheld consoles, among people whose lust for the latest must-have gadget is second to none, the PSPgo never found a foothold. Nobody wanted it here. What hope did it ever have elsewhere?

Instantly, PSPgo was much less interesting than we'd all hoped; the criticisms of it being more money for less functionality (given its lack of a UMD slot) rang true from the word go.

It's hard to believe now, but when the first shots of the PSPgo were leaked ahead of its official announcement, there was actually quite a bit of excitement around the device. UMD had never been a popular format - it's fairly bulky, noisy in operation, drains battery life and generally doesn't do the PSP any favours. Moreover, the PSP had gradually sprouted a variety of interesting but unwieldy accessories, including a camera, a microphone and a GPS receiver.

The prospect of a console with solid-state storage, all of those accessories built in and perhaps even a touch-screen interface - hinted at by the almost buttonless facia of the device when closed - was an enticing one. It wouldn't be PSP2, of course, but it could be a significant enough revision to comprise an extremely strong relaunch for the existing platform.

In reality, what we got is a device that's been botched from the outset. There was no touch-screen, of course, relegating it to the realms of an offshoot of PSP rather than a relaunch of the platform, and none of the accessories were built into the new hardware either. Instantly, PSPgo was much less interesting than we'd all hoped; the criticisms of it being more money for less functionality (given its lack of a UMD slot) rang true from the word go.

Yet the distinctly unimpressive hardware wasn't the real reason for the PSPgo's failure. No, the true problem with this platform lay not in hardware, nor even in software, but in services - in Sony's utter failure to provide a content platform for a version of the PSP that lacked a UMD drive and therefore couldn't use retail-bought software.