Square Enix seems like one of the strong PSP supporters with the recent announcement of the 3rd Birthday and Final Fantasy Agito XIII shifting from mobile phones to the PSP. However, just a few weeks ago at E3 there weren’t many PSP titles shown. Resistance: Retribution was the most notable announcement from the show and the title Sony Computer Entertainment America seemed most excited about. The reminder of this year’s PSP forecast looks light on the games and this isn’t limited to North America. Even in Japan where the PSP remains immensely popular, thanks in part to Monster Hunter, it feels like retail releases are dwindling.
For further examination I put together a set of graphs with the number of released retail games by a handful of publishers throughout the PSP’s life to date. Before we get to the data, please note most of this data is based on games published in Japan. The exceptions to this rule are Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, and Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) which use data based on the number of games published in North America. Pre-merger data for Namco and Bandai were added together to create the Namco Bandai number. Also the 2008 figure has been marked with an asterisk since it is only representative of games announced for a 2008 release to date. For example Dissida: Final Fantasy, Garnet Chronicle, and Patapon 2 were counted in the 2008 figure. Yuusha no Kuse ni Namaikida Or 2 was not since Sony has not announced a release date or window to the public. The 2008 number may, and probably will, change.
The explosion of PSP games appears to be in 2006 where most publishers peaked. Sony Computer Entertainment Japan (SCEJ) tops this list with a number of internally developed games like P-Kara, Boku no Natsuyasumi Portable, and LocoRoco. SCEJ also picked up the rights to publish Mercury Meltdown, a series of Blood+ titles, and had RPGs like Blade Dancer and Jeanne D'Arc. A handful of PS1 to PSP ports like Bomberman, XI Coliseum, and a revised version of PaRappa the Rapper also helped bump SCEJ to first place. It appears that SCEJ didn’t slow down in the following year and was ramping up in the previous. This trend is due to a number of Yarudora Portable, anime adventure novels, released in 2005 and four volumes of the GPS powered Minna no Golf Jou series released in 2007.
Throughout the life of the PSP Sony Computer Entertainment America published fewer games than Japan. Third parties such as D3 Publisher, Atlus, and XSEED took care of SCEJ published titles such as WTF, Monster Summoner: Jewel Kingdom, and Wild Arms XF respectively. The other reason behind the difference in releases is simply not every game published by SCEJ got localized. We never got any of the Bleach games in North America. Sony didn’t bother to release their series of Talkman language helpers here and we missed out on many titles in the Ape Escape series. However, SCEA published games that SCEJ didn’t in Japan like the Syphon Filter series and the Con. Ertain who publishes the peaceful series of DS Zen games took care of the Con in Japan.
Sega and Konami are very interesting to analyze since their releases in North America and Japan are largely different. Sega didn’t bother publishing games based on their own franchises like Alien Syndrome, After Burner: Black Falcon or the Sonic Rivals games in Japan. Actually, Japan is just getting Crazy Taxi: Fare Wars this year under the name Crazy Taxi: Double Punch. Sega opted to release Brain Training style titles like Nou ni Kaikan: Aha Taiken, a Kanji trainer, and a GPS powered astronomy guide called Homestar instead. These titles were not released domestically. Konami had a similar situation where a number of Western franchises like Winx Club, Hellboy, and Death Jr. appeared on the PSP in North America. However, these games were not released in Japan most likely due to licensing issues. Konami chose to license Western games like Untold Legends and Spider-Man 2 for Japan in 2006. These titles complements to their trio of arcade shooter collections based on Salamander, Twinbee, and Parodius. Unlike Sega, Konami contributed to the PSP with worldwide releases of their key properties such as Castlevania, Yu-Gi-Oh, Winning Eleven, Silent Hill, and Metal Gear Solid. Namco Bandai brought some of their prime properties to the PSP too such as Gundam and Tales. While we only have one Tales PSP game in North America there are tons of Tales PSP remakes in Japan.
Capcom is a really interesting case. While they are making a fortune from the PSP they didn’t really release many games for the platform. After Monster Hunter Portable was released in 2005, Capcom remakes/re-releases surged in 2006. Mega Man: Powered Up, Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins, Street Fighter Alpha 3, and three Finder Love games came out in that year. In 2007 Capcom quietly moved away from the PSP except for making more Monster Hunter games and the Fate/Tiger fighters based on the Fate/Stay Night license. Perhaps Capcom is thinking of quality over quantity.
As you can see in the second graph Square Enix, another perceived PSP supporter, doesn’t release many games either. So far the bulk of Square Enix published PSP titles have either been remakes or ports and that number just peaked last year. This is changing though with games like Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep and Dissidia: Final Fantasy on the horizon, but will a few original games from Square Enix be enough to satiate PSP owners?
After the explosion of 2006 came the drought of 2007 where the number of PSP releases took a significant dip in Japan. Electronic Arts and Ubisoft were still proud supporters of the PSP in North America during this period, but in 2008 Ubisoft seems to have abandoned the PSP. The only game Ubisoft released this year is Chessmaster: The Art of Learning. In the past everything from Ubisoft seemed to get a PSP port.
While giants like Electronic Arts seem to be looking elsewhere niche publishers like Irem are sticking with the PSP. This year Irem, the developers of R-Type Command, will publish three games for Sony’s handheld. This is not an insignificant number considering Irem sometimes only releases three games in a single year. Global A (not shown on the graph) is also continuing to support the PSP with simulation/RPG hybrids like Chuumon Shiyouze! Oretachi no Sekai and Acquire just published Ken to Mahou to Gakuen Mono.
The well of games has not run dry, but the downward slope seen in 2007 is notable. In 2008 development seems to be sloping upwards, a good sign considering we're only partially through the year. However, seeing the lack of first party releases from Sony Computer Entertainment Japan is alarming.
Graphs made by Siliconera. Images courtesy of Sony.