Our favorite source for gaming news, the Wall Street Journal, has a piece up that examines how and why Monster Hunter Portable is so damn popular in Japan. That game has totally energized the PSP, breathing all kinds of new life into it and opening the platform to a wider audience. From the WSJ:
Many Japanese are uncomfortable with the idea of playing videogames with strangers over the Internet. That's why online games for multiple players aren't as popular here as in the U.S. and other markets... Osaka-based Capcom, better known outside Japan for titles like Street Fighter and Evil May Cry, launched Monster Hunter as an online multiplayer game for Sony's PlayStation 2 console four years ago. Sales weren't huge. Many consumers shied away from the game, which was best played with other PS2 users over an online network... But Ryozo Tsujimoto, the producer of the portable Monster Hunter games, saw a big opportunity for a PSP version because the device could be carried around easily, so gamers could introduce the game to friends. Sales figures soon showed he was on to something.
Dunno about you, but I love Evil May Cry. It's my third favorite Capcom franchise after Resident Devil and Muga-Man. Don't quite buy that Japanese people are afraid of playing with strangers over the internet. I'd say online games aren't as popular because offline consoles have dominated so long, but whatever. And if I was going to take a stab at why Monster Hunter Portable is so popular, I'd say collecting things is fun and the game's a great portable pick-up-and-play. But hey, that's just me! And I could be wrong.