Ask any gamer who'd considered the purchase of a PSPgo about its relative merits and faults, and the problem usually came down to choice. Not only did the system strip away the option to play physical media--even Sony's darling UMD format--but there were simply fewer games available for the thing. This arose from the fact that Sony never required its publishers to put out a digital version of even their most-advertised titles. If you're faced with the option to buy a PSP that can play Final Fantasy: Crisis Core and one that can't, why go with the one that can't?
Fortunately, Sony has listened. The once-shy platform holder is finally willing to require its publishers to offer a downloadable version of every game that hits store shelves, according to an interview with SCEE President Andrew House:
One thing we learnt from PSP, is that we want to have simultaneous delivery in digital and physical for NGP. Just to clarify that, all games that appear physically will be made available digitally.When a platform holder puts barriers-to-entry on their publishers, it can be a pain for everyone. Many's the smaller dev who has lambasted Microsoft's nearly-endless certification process for downloadable titles, and the Xbox 360 version of Team Fortress 2 might never see the veritable trove of free updates from the PC side, simply because of Microsoft's stubbornness about free DLC.
At the same time, however, some of these rules do raise the overall quality of the marketplace. As someone who courts the Live Arcade and Indie titles more frequently than actual disc media, I appreciate that every downloadable on 360 is required to offer a demo, and almost all of them support keeping my save file if I decide to go through with the purchase. And for the goal-oriented gamer, Microsoft's requirement that all games come with Achievements has set off a trend that - for better or worse - is here to stay.
So while a platform-holder meddling in their publisher's affairs can risk driving them to more open markets (like iOS devices or PCs), such strict rules can carve out a more cohesive, constructive vision for the customers. Sony's move to digitize all games for the NGP will hopefully not interfere with the freedom of smaller devs like those behind Flower and the PixelJunk series.
With moves like this, it appears the NGP may have enough convenience and function to match its powerful graphics. We'll know sometime this year whether it'll prove a contender to next week's 3DS!