Despite being a far inferior piece of hardware, the Nintendo DS continues to outsell the Sony PSP by a factor of 6. The PSP has a bigger, more beautiful screen. It’s got more sophisticated controls. It supports removable memory cards and works pretty decently as a video and audio player. And its graphics kick the Nintendo DS’s chunky 90s-era pixelvision into the gutter. When we reviewed the two platforms a year ago in Mobile, it was obvious which was the better choice. The PSP was revolutionary, cutting-edge, and inspiringly designed. The DS, by contrast, was a clunky, unlovely package of retread technologies.
So why can’t Sony get ahead in the market? Nintendo’s massive installed base of Gameboy players, huge library of Gameboy Advance games (which are playable on the DS), and a bigger library of DS-specific titles. Also, it helps that the DS is cheaper and more durably built. Considering Nintendo’s huge pre-existing lead in the handheld market, it’s amazing Sony is doing as well as it is.
It’s a story that you see again and again in the tech market. An inferior technology with a lot of content or applications and an early start easily trounces superior technology with little content. Betamax vs VHS. Mac vs PC. OS/2 vs Windows. MP3 vs Ogg, AAC, or WMA.
Still, I can’t help but hope that Nintendo has the sense to come out with a handheld that has decent graphics and a screen that’s a bit larger than a Post-It Note. Not likely, though–this company has its sights set on making everything smaller.
See how it happened: Graph of PSP vs DS sales through the end of 2005