PSP Go will give first glimpse into download-only attach rates

Sony's latest handheld game console, the $250 PSP Go hit retail today -- the first major video game system that does not support physical media, with games offered only via download.

To kick start the device's life today, Sony has beefed up the catalog of downloadable games in the PlayStation Store with more than 100 titles ranging from $5 all the way up to $39.99, including the highly hyped Gran Turismo PSP. Sony will be giving away one copy with every PSP Go for the first ten days of its availability.

While all video game consoles today support downloadable games, they all also support removable media such as discs or cartridges (in the case of the Nintendo DS) as their primary method of content delivery. In this way, this generation of consoles has had a sort of hybrid attach rate (number of games sold per console), where both physical media and downloads have to be tracked.

The PlayStation Store is currently the only place where users can get games for the PSP Go, so the attach rate will be singly trackable.

Since no other game systems have made a similar transition, it is uncertain how well titles will sell for the new handheld. The nearest point of comparison is the iPhone/iPod Touch, which has proven to be a breakaway success as a casual and mobile gaming platform. However, with thousands of titles in the free-to-99ยข range, it won't be an even comparison. Furthermore, Apple has not issued an App Store breakdown that shows how many games sell versus other types of applications. Judging by Apple's increased emphasis on games (and claims of over 21,000 available titles) iPhone/iPod video gaming looks to be a highly successful category.

With today's 6.10 PSP firmware update, the Go gains the ability to be tethered to a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone for 100% mobile game, music, and movie downloads, which is more than can be said for the iPod Touch.

As competitive as these new platforms are, they're still in fundamentally different categories, and the PSP Go is swimming in uncharted waters.

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