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Interview: SCEA's Eric Lempel on PSP minis, scrapped UMD conversion


In the second part of our interview with SCEA's Eric Lempel, we chatted about the simultaneous release of PSP Go and PSP minis. In addition to discussing the hands-off approach Sony is taking with the pricing of minis, we talked about the possibility of the minis program moving to PS3, and eventual Mac support for the PSP's MediaGo application.

Joystiq: Are any Sony first-party studios working on PSP minis?

Eric Lempel: Right now, to my knowledge, they're not. That could change, again, but right now, I don't believe any of the studios are working on minis.

What determines the pricing of PSP minis?

There are a couple of rules, or maybe there's just one rule. They have to come in at $9.99 or under.

If someone wanted to release at $1.99, they could?

Yes, absolutely.

As a consumer, I don't see the value of buying minis, especially when they come with fewer features than regular PSN games and cost about the same. That's not really a question ...

There are a few differences between the minis and other games. First off, you're not allowed to use online functionality or any of the online services in a mini, so that's one piece right there that might discourage people from doing it. The other part is minis go through a different process to get to the Store, and it's an easier process. The whole goal with this is to make it easy for a lot of, in some cases, less experienced developers, or in other cases just developers who don't want to go through the whole evaluation process to get their stuff on the Store. It all came out of reducing the development tool costs earlier this year, and getting a lot of these new people on board to develop this content for PSP. So, people have the choice of what route they want to take, depending on what they want their content to be, ultimately. As far as pricing goes, the publisher of the title sets the pricing. So, they give us the price and then we have a standard markup.

It really comes down to how those developers want to price their content, and how they want to compete. Sitting here from the PlayStation Network and PlayStation Store perspective, it's really on them to get on and compete and do what they can to get their titles sell and make them successful. I think they have to carefully look at that, carefully price their content. Minis was intended to be something a little different and we wanted to see a lot of different types of content through minis. If it's not priced correctly, consumers may be turned off at the proposition and say, "I'd rather just go for this kind of stuff instead of minis."

"We've seen, basically, our largest number of downloads ever for a week's time period."

It's been a week since the launch of the minis. How's traffic been on the PlayStation Store? Have people been clicking through to the minis?

It's been tremendously busy on the storefront. We've seen, basically, our largest number of downloads ever for a week's time period. It was our second highest week of revenue in the history of PlayStation Network, so we're seeing a huge lift of PSone classics just because we put out a ton of new ones last week. So overall, all of it is really exciting.

Do you see the minis program expanding to the PS3?

It's possible, but we haven't opened up the minis program to PS3 developers, or PS3 development at all. But I wouldn't rule it out. We always look at our models and minis is a pretty good experiment for us and we're kind of seeing how this goes. Depending on how this goes, we may change the program significantly.

Mac users still can't use the PSP MediaGo program to access the PlayStation Store. When can we expect Sony to offer Mac support?

That's also something we're looking into. We've done several enhancements to MediaGo. We're looking at getting the right resources in place to open that to the Mac audience, because we do know that it's a significant part of the user base, or the future user base, for that matter.

Why were plans for UMD conversion scrapped?

It's a combination of what's technically possible, but a bigger part of that is the rights to the content that's been available. PSP has been out for many years now. There weren't digital rights secured for all of this stuff, at no cost. So, there's lots of legal issues we'd have to get through to get a lot of content cleared. And also, we'd have to protect that content. So, with a good technical process so you can't pass around the UMD or do something else with it. So, it's a combination of things. It's something we'll continue to look at, but for the time being, it's just where it is.

Any plans to implement a loyalty program, similar to what Europe launched, for PSP owners that "upgraded" to the Go?

No program today. We always do other types of programs. And we've got lots of efforts underway. On the loyalty side, we do lots of things for our loyal users. At this time, it just happens Europe went out with a promotion, we didn't. Similar to when we launched PS3, we went out with a promotion, we had a BD in the box ... and other regions don't. It just really comes down to that was kind of something they did right now, that was their SKU plan, and wasn't part of our plan.

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