Hype, Games, and Magic

I realize that such a comparison between the Apple iPad and the Sony PSP is inherently fallacious. Comparing the sales performance of the iPad to the PSP is like comparing the performance of a boat to a plane; they’re completely different. For one, the low end iPad costs almost twice as much as the PSP at launch. On the other hand, the iPad has far greater utility and a lot more software and media available at launch. The iPad also has a browser and mp3 player that isn’t painful to use. So in some ways it evens out.

The one thing that distinguishes both launches is the amount of hype. While the PSP had a bit, most of it was contained within the already excitable gamer demographic. The mainstream press, while making mention of it, casually passed it by. There certainly were no marquee features in the likes of Time magazine, written by Stephen Fry, or anything of the sort. There was no hyperbole about the PSP saving media/journalism/print/whatever. It was just another game device.

Today it was revealed that the iPad sold 300,000 units on launch. People are claiming it’s a success. It sold more than the iPhone originally did, and look how that turned out! Big numbers!

You wouldn’t know it if you went by the buzz alone, but when the PSP launched in North America it sold, in two days[1], 500,000 units. It was considered a flop.

It’s pretty safe to say that the PSP under-performed over its lifetime and didn’t make the in-roads that Sony hoped it would, but it’s also pretty far from a failure despite public perception. There are over 50 million of them. I don’t care what you’re selling, if you sell 50 million of it that’s pretty damned good. You wouldn’t know it by the hype, and this is where that media perception comes in, but that means there are 20 million more PSPs sold than iPhones and iPod Touchs combined.OK, yeah, that’s an old number. There are more of those than PSPss now. But still fewer than DSs. See comments

I find this interesting from a media perspective. When I see the actual numbers being so disproportionate from the actual buzz around the devices, I come to two conclusions: 1) Apple’s marketing is that much better than Sony’s; 2) Videogames, despite their obvious ubiquity, still get no respect in the media and the PSP, being a games-first machine, was duly dismissed. Let’s not even mention that the Nintendo DS is approaching 150 million sold.

The revolution with simple, accessible computing in magical devices happened long ago. They’re already all around us.

  1. I realize I’m comparing one day sales to two day sales, but with launches like this the vast majority of sales are on day one. There’s no way that the iPad sold more on day two than day one, so I believe the PSP still has the edge.
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