PSP, We Hardly Knew Ye

pspimage-610When Sony Computer Entertainment launched the PlayStation Portable in late 2005, I (felt like I) was the first to salivate over the device, which appeared to be the Holy Grail of handheld gaming. Having been bitten before, however (Atari Lynx, DreamCast, need I say more?), I bit the bullet and continued to salivate over the colorful TV ads, living vicariously through my 50” HDTV. Refusing to shell out $200+ for a device that might end up on my Wall of Shame, next to the Lynx, the DreamCast and the Atari 7800.

After Sony released the PSP-2000, however, I took the plunge. The price had come down, into the more reasonable sub-$200 price range; and I even knew the first game I would purchase.

Being an IT consultant, my advice to clients planning on purchasing systems is always this: buy the software first. By that, I mean if you don’t know what software you’ll be installing on your new system, how could you possibly know your required system specs? The principle is similar when considering a game system. For instance, I didn’t get my XBox 360 until I discovered a ‘must-have’ app – Halo 3.

Taking my own advice, I chose my first must-have game, God of War: Chains of Olympus. As luck would have it, Sony had just introduced a GoW red PSP-2000 game bundle, so (for me) it was a no-brainer.

Unpacking the unit and getting started was akin to a religious experience. The brilliant 480×272 TFT screen with its 16.7 million colors was everything the television ads promised. The device was lighter than the black PSP-1000, which was a mixed blessing. On one hand, it was less imposing and its presence during gameplay less noticeable; on the other hand, it felt less sturdy and bricklike, making it seem fragile. You see, even though I hadn’t purchased one until then, my frequent trips to FutureShop were incomplete unless I stopped by the PSP display and admired it, a two-year long ritual that led to my purchase.

I ignored the weight issue, though. It’s the price of progress and the bright red PSP, complete with a silkscreen image of Kratos on the back of the unit, made up for it. Besides, the game itself was astounding, and every bit deserving of the awards showered upon it. Although I miss the extra analog joystick that I came to expect with the PlayStation brand, games that are designed specifically for the PSP – meaning, not direct ports – make the omission forgivable.

Subsequent games that were on my must-have list were almost as enjoyable: Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters, Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror and Syphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow, and Daxter. All games worthy of purchasing a system for the sake of the software. After the ‘A’ list, however, the titles trail off dramatically, and while I’ve played numerous – too many to count – games on my PSP, it has been collecting dust for the past 6 months, awaiting a title worthy of a much-needed recharge.

I don’t want to knock Sony. I think the PSP is a phenomenal piece of technology, and certainly ahead of its time (at the time). But an oft-discussed lack of new games, the advent of the iPhone and a slew of new devices with multi-touch screens have left the poor PSP in a rather tenuous position. SCE has been vocal in its view on a lack of titles stemming from PSP piracy, but I tend to reject arguments like this because we’ve heard it all before with other systems, like the PC, for instance, and piracy has had little effect on PC game sales and the dearth of titles still being released. Since the PSP hardware has seen healthy sales since its inception and relatively healthy software sales, I don’t buy that piracy alone has shuttered development.

PSP2 – coming or GOing?
Recent rumors have abounded about a next generation ‘PSP 2’ or PSP Go! and while I’m intrigued by the fan-created concept art (such as the image to the right) which has swept the Internet, I’m a little concerned by reports that Sony will scrap the Universal Media Drive, or UMD. Never a huge fan of the discs, I still believe the PSP has to have roots in the outside world – outside of direct downloads only, as Sony is purported to be pushing. The UMD was a slick idea at the time, but today they seem kinda kitschy. I own twenty or so of the proprietary discs and would like to have the option of using them on the next generation PSP.

Perhaps Sony didn’t do a great job of marketing the discs, as they do offer some versatility. While the concept never took off like Sony undoubtedly envisioned, movies on UMD are an interesting idea and I’m not convinced that it should be scrapped. Considering that my only two UMD movies – Superbad and The Family Guy – weren’t purchases, I suppose I have to concede Sony’s point, though.

If I seem to be waffling, it’s for good reason. I just don’t know. It appears that we won’t have to wait long, however, as Sony is expected to announce its new system in June. While no one should expect those other rumors about a PSP phone coming true, I would bet good money that the next PSP will have me salivating once again.

Hopefully the announcement will mark a renaissance for a device which sits faithfully beside me, waiting for a charge that may never come – if I like what I see in the new device.

Leave a Reply