Weapon disabled

Metal Gear SMS

Sony have just announced a deal with former UK telecomms monopolist empire BT, enabling voice, video and – urgh – text message communications for British PSPs.

Whilst it’s nice to see Sony penning deals of this kind to make use of a very capable piece of hardware, it’s not what the hardware was originally designed for. Why call it PlayStation, when it seems pervasively clear that Sony are now trying to make the PSP into this generation’s must-have gadget? As they did with the Walkman, but have utterly failed to replicate since. Anyway, back to the new deal…

With this announcement regarding text messaging, and Microsoft’s recent Xbox Live Spring Update enabling instant messaging, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to understand why these companies think inputting text with a thumbstick is a good idea. Sure, text messaging has been a boon for the mobile phone industry, but, as an interface, mobile phones are only slightly less abyssmal for entering strings of text. Why then are we now seemingly being bombarded with this technology in the gaming space?

There’s nothing to suggest that either Microsoft or Sony can directly monetise each message sent, unlike text messaging on mobile phones. More over it takes far, far longer to input a simple line of text with a joypad. Remember when you used to enter your high scores into an arcade machine, using just 3 initials, and how long that used to take? Exactly. Except now you get more than 3 letters. And you can see all the letters you can choose from on the screen at once.

The frustration factor of trying to send text messages on a PSP is going to completely kill this aspect of the service. You’d have to be extremely dedicated – not to mention a little bit sad – to carry on tip-tapping away, a single letter at a time, in order to justify using your PSP in this way.

And let’s be honest; if you can plop down £150+ on a trendy portable, you’ve likely already spent at least that on the latest 3G video-enabled, multi megapixel camera-toting, gigabytes-of-MP3s-playing mobile phone anyway. Which kind of negates anything the PSP can do beyond “play games” anyway.

Sony really need to sort their act out.

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