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To PSP or Not to PSP

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March 24th marked the Sony Playstation Portable launch in North America. As usual, there were the hardcore gamers that pulled all-nighters in anticipation for the little gaming beauty. They slept outside stores and camped until midnight on the 24th.

It was your average system launch with nothing really standing out to consider it different from any other debut. But why?

The PSP is not your average gadget by any stretch of the imagination. This toy is a BIG DEAL. Not only does it utilize it’s own proprietary disc medium the UMD (Universal Media Disc), but it can play videos, music, display digital photographs, and most importantly play video games that rival the graphics and gameplay of it’s older brother, the Playstation 2. Even more, it has a Memory Stick Pro Duo slot allowing you to save games and to play media. And if all this wasn’t enough, it can connect to the internet via Wireless B WiFi. Anticipated firmware upgrades (accessible through its WiFi) are said to include a web browser and other net apps. So why can you still get one at any electronic retail chain (besides game-only stores)? I’ll tell you why.

There are a couple of reasons the PSP launch was just another day. First off, the marketing campaign for the PSP was sub-par at best. Print ads were the first to pop up but were unable to stir any kind of interest. The TV ads only began to sporadically appear only 2 days before the launch preventing any excitement to be digested. If it wasn’t for the large amount of press it received throughout the past week, even more consumers would have been in the dark.

On the other hand let’s be honest; March 24th is not exactly what you call videogame season. If anything it’s almost as bizarre as a console launch in the middle of the summer. However, I suppose because the unit is portable it may have more of a stomping ground than a TV stricken console.

Pricewise, the PSP falls in just under $250. However, you are probably going to want to buy a game or two (which range $40-$50). Did the price effect the PSP’s immediate popularity? Possibly. It is a lot to pay for a handheld but once you actually hold the device, it’s hard to admit that $250 isn’t a steal.

That’s another thing; holding the PSP. Sony should have had PSP demos in every single store where it was to be sold. I’ve never seen a product that immediately blows you away once you’ve held it like the PSP does. It’s like you’ve imported a machine from the future.

It may be too early to call the PSP launch a disappointment. There is no way that such a remarkable device will go unnoticed. Sony has to step up to the plate and let it be known that they really did make a remarkable product.

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About Jeff Bakalar

  • The launch was at least a little overshadowed by all this Terry Schiavo coverage, hence the people interested in the PSP launch are the hardcore gamers and the rest of the regular gamers and non-gamers probably didn’t realize there even was a launch on Thursday.

    For example, the local Walmart — one of the biggest ones in the Seattle/Tacoma area had 50 units on launch day and we bought the 6th one. My wife was there last night (Friday evening) and she said they still had “dozens” left. Did they get another shipment the next day? Doubtful.

  • Lou

    I must say that I was quite disspointed with the release. The ads are cool, but I didn’t see one until 30 minutes before I left to get my PSP. I had several friends that decided not to buy one because they couldn’t play it in store (Best Buy said it would be a couple of weeks before they had a tester). I also like when there aren’t enough units. The lack of PS2’s stirred so much interest in the weeks following the release, we may just be overloaded.

  • “The launch was at least a little overshadowed by all this Terry Schiavo coverage”

    That’s like saying the price of oranges have a direct effect on the price of apples — which they don’t.

  • eric

    I first heard of the psp 2 months ago. I was supprised sony didnt advertise it but its a market stradegy word of mouth. All I have to say is the psp has an awsome screen you have to see it to beleve it.

  • Robert Vassar

    I have a tough time thinking about getting a PSP due to the proprietary media disk and proprietary memory stick.

    Sony is a has-been. If the PSP fails, they are gone!

  • How many MP3s can it hold? There’s no hard drive?

  • Opting for propietary technology instead of standards may be a dead end in the long term but quite profitable in the short term. But this all depends on whether all those clammering to buy the handheld will fork over money for the accessories and games and movies and larger memory sticks. I bet they will!

  • Matt Thomas

    I got two PSP’s. One for me and my brother from Walmart with the Gretzky bundle. They had a lot of units left and at the EB games store they had quite a few Pre-Orders that seemed rather pointless. I didn’t see much of a stir at all over this little beauty. Walmart was about $30 cheaper than EB too.

  • I can not justify spending $250 buying PSP due to the proprietary media disk and I can live witht the memory stick duo. I shd be able to watch my DVD movies on any PSP like device I pay $250 for. Great idea for other vendors to mount a VCR vs. Betamax like marketing strategy. You heard it here first!

    Sony is a great company. I still have my original walkman. It will be burnt with me when I die. Maybe I will donate to Sony hall of fame!

  • Brett B.

    Look, while I think game play on this thing will be great, to tout it as a multimedia machine is stupid if I have to buy content I already own again to be able to play it on this thing. I owned a minidisc player for several years and I absolutely loved it. The fact that it used a somewhat proprietary media didn’t bother me because I could copy my music onto it without a hassel. At the time, it was state of the art. But as far as I can tell, the PSP and the suppossed Universal Media Disc offer no such option. If I could hook this up to my CD and DVD players and copy content to the UMD it would be worth every penny. But if I have to go buy another copy of a movie that I can only play on the PSP, it’s a waste. I know it offers memory stick options too, but at $250 I could get a 6 gig ipod mini. WAY MORE STORAGE!!! It still may be worth every penny for the game play alone, and to those buying it for that reason I don’t have a problem, but Sony is trying to pass this off as a multimedia solution and that’s just bunk.

  • It’s not hard to see why they chose proprietary media. For one, the design of the system is way too small to accomodate DVDs.

    Another big reason is anti-piracy. I’m sure Sony must have tired of all the mod-chipping and burning going on with the system’s predecessors.

    I think the whole movie thing is a bad idea though and I’ll be surprised if it catches on. People aren’t going to want to shell out for movies they can only watch on a proprietary portable machine when DVDs offer much wider viewing options.

  • IT HAS A 1.8 gb hDD

  • “That’s like saying the price of oranges have a direct effect on the price of apples — which they don’t.”

    No, that’s not what I’m saying or what I said. Try re-reading the text carefully, schiano.

    So you disagree that more news wouldn’t have gone to the PSP launch if news agencies weren’t preoccupied with other coverage?

    I’m not making excuses for Sony, but news agencies will report on what they have to work with and what’s popular at the moment.

    The PSP launch clearly took a backseat to other more compelling stories. Less news coverage, which is free coverage BTW, means less exposure and less exposure means less people running to the stores to buy it.

    Also the timing is certainly suspect which is mentioned in the piece above.

  • Coolidge

    The problem is that Sony needs to think beyond the multimedia world and have the PSP be able to run Palm software (and sync with my PC/Mac). 802.11 wireless is cool, but wireless internet is smart. The guys over at Nintendo will have my money if they can make the DS more than just a gaming machine(which is rumored)that I would only use on the crapper 😉

  • The PSP doesn’t have a hard drive. Each UMD disc which is a small cd-like disc inside a plastic case can hold up to 1.8 GB. All memory is stored on the Memory Stick Duo cards (which are about the size of SD cards) which come in 32, 64, 128, 256 and 512 MB sizes.

  • And BTW, someone already has a guide up for how to transfer a DVD to a Memory Stick Duo card.

    Apparently somebody was able to crunch down “The Incredibles” (2 hours plus) down to about 250-300MB and get pretty decent resolution.

  • I almost bought a PSP on launch day at a Virgin Megastore because I was surprised that they still had any left. But I decided to hold off mainly because the selection of games simply doesn’t offer anything compelling yet. I’m going to wait until the pickings are better before biting on this one. As for movies and the whole UMD debate, I suspect that TV shows rather than movies will be the main mover for nongames media on the UMD because TV shows fit a typical commuter’s time better than movies.

  • If you like puzzle games, blueZhift, Lumines is pretty cool. It’s no Tetris, but I like it. Tony Hawk is OK. Darkstalkers is easy. Haven’t played any others yet.

  • 7777

    me poor i have no money me cant buy psp too much money.

  • Sandro

    I think everyone needs their information straight before they start putting down the PSP. First off, Sony’s first goal was to get early adopters, like hardcore gamers into the product. That’s why I think there wasn’t much advertisment, because if you play games, even sparingly, you knew PSP was coming. Now, Sony is going to open up the UMD format, so eventually you will see UMD-R discs. This isn’t easy to do, first of all because unlike MD players, the PSP can’t record, so you’ll need manufacturers for UMD Writers. This doesn’t bother gamers much because their main reason for getting PSP was the games. I also think this thing will be bigger as soon as the accesory makers start coming up with cool accessories, like a cradle at the very least. But hopefully in the future we will have actual software for the PSP. Imagine downloading a Google Map into your PSP and not needing to print out directions.. Better yet, a GPS accesory that would give you directions? The possibilities are almost endless for the PSP.


  • Couple points. This is a minor launch for a few reasons. People who want one already knew about it. No need for heavy advertising. They don’t want another disaterous PS2 launch where everyone was scrambling and people were stupid, paying $1000 a pop on eBay. That’s money out of Sony’s pockets.

    It’s best to have some left in stores for those who didn’t know about them when they see the ads. This is the perfect time of the year for that. Get a million systems out there, send another second batch of the same amount, have another 4-5 million ready by Christmas for the rush. This is one of the smarter laucnhes in a long time.

    As for UMD movies, once you see one, you’ll understand. While they won’t take off like Sony thinks they will, once you see that picture… Just amazing. It has some trouble with darker colors, but other then that, we’re talking HD quality here. However, why they chose to crop Spiderman 2 to fit the screen is a bit suspect. Oh, and no chapter selection screen? Weak.

  • rudy

    The PSP is a great device. The moment I had one in my hands (2 months ago), I knew I had to have it, although I’m not a gamer (don’t have a PS2, don’t own xbox, etc.). However, I immediately imported my PSP from Japan. I considered it a must have and haven’t regretted it since.

    I got one two weeks later (have been using is for 6 weeks now). It came with a couple of games in Japanese. Both RigdeRacers and Lumines are fantastic. I prefer the latter, because of the wonderful music and the awesome grafix. It makes for a overwhelming sense blocking experience.

    For plain music I prefer my iPod over PSP any time of the day (can’t beat 40Gb with a 512Mb mem stick, can you?). And I also don’t use it for showing pictures. Can’t even put music under a slideshow (like en iPod photo can!!).

    BUT … and I consider this really something: the on-the-road TV capabilities rock! I don’t have much time to watch television, but nowadays I record talkshows, put ‘m on memory stick and watch the shows on the road. Fantastic!! There are good tools available for Mac and Linux to do the automatic resizing fileformatting for PSP, so they probably will be around for Windows too, although the won’t be as nice as those for the Mac (of course, pfffff, hahahaha).
    The PSP might be the vPOD we have been waiting for… all we need is big memory sticks, rewritable UMD’s or an expansion HD. Wonder what will come first?
    The strange thing is that, while I have a very decent notebook (Apple PB 17″), I never use it to watch TV or movies on the road, but with the PSP I do. Why? Size, I guess.

    The Wifi connection is also nice. Playing against people on the other side of the planet, while sitting somewhere in a bar in Amsterdam or whatever.

    WiFi is what will win the day for PSP …. wait till in a month the free downloadable productivity suit (office, IM, browser, mail) and small external keyboard will hit the shops. Add TV on demand through WiFi and there you have it…

    Right now it is mostly for playing games (and some TV) and it does it fantastic. I haven’t met anyone that didn’t wow over it seeing one of the games I have been playing in bars, pubs, etc in Holland or Israel.

    BTW … I also bought a DS for one of my nephews, since the DS is available in Holland and PSP isn’t. But believe me if I say that the DS really is a kid’s toy compared to the Sony PSP. Or maybe I have to put it like this: the DS is just another game console, while the PSP really is something special.

  • tim

    listen people its a handheld ps2 and i dont know what all the fuss is about. a mini dvd player and it does alot more, i mean come on what do you expect from a small system. gba didnt have any of that and the ratings on that were big at a time my personal opinion is that sony really out did thereselves and they should pat themselves on the back. one other thing, there is really no reason to buy a psp if you already own a ps2. well off to play my psp.

  • iceman


  • Dodger

    I pre-ordered my PSP way back in January, before I even had a release date to look forward to. I just want to say how impressed I am with the device. I bought it for the games, (I have an Archos 20 gig Jukebox that takes care of my mp3 fix Booo to IPOD). I picked up Wipeout Pure and Ape Escape (for my fiance). Wipeout is AWESOME. I’ve been a big fan of the series since PS1, and this is the best version so far IMHO. The PSP screen is bright, detailed, and very colorful. Seriously I’m no Sony fanboy, (my PS2 has been gathering dust next to the well used Xbox) but they have done something very right with this maching. Put it next to a Nintendo DS and there is no comparison. Go play Pokemon, and 10 year old Mario brothers with that DS. I’ll take my futuristic Wipeout racing any day!!
    As far as the launch goes, there was no reason to advertise since there are only a million available. They had to delay the European launch to make enough for North America…

  • mike

    Exactlly. Why advertise when the U.S. isnt going to get new shipments for another 3 months or so. Plus most of the features arent working yet but by the time the next shipments come in they will be running. So far i love the PSP and i think its only going to get better. As far as the DS goes the games are not that good and the chat mode is worse. No one has one and i would much rather play a game with someone then talk with some kid than is a block away from me. Also Nintendo has been the top dog in portable game systems and people have learned to trust them so it will take some time for the PSP to catch on.

  • soilwork

    To anyone that has doubts about the PSP, just hold one in your hands and those doubts will immediatly dissapear. Yes, the marketing of the PSP has been remarkably low key considering how insanly amazing the product is, but these things really sell themselves. On my train ride to work in LA people were freaking out when I busted my PSP out. Who knows how many units people unintentionally sell by just playing with them in public? The responses I have seen have been 90 percent overwhelmingly positive/ready to buy one and there is a 10 percent segment of naturally skeptical people that bitch about its so called shortcomings. As is, the PSP is the coolest peice of technology I have ever seen.If sony just sat on their butts and never did a single thing to develop it more I wouldnt even care. But the fact of the matter is that sony have already released a firmware update in Japan that users can download, and we are really seeing the birth of a machine that will continue to grow. There really is a huge amount of potential for a machine that already has no competition. Sony has opened the doors to third party developers so I expect to see some exiting applications in the near future. Damn this thing is awesome!!

  • Pwopy

    Has anyone else had problems with dead pixels? I only have one white pixel, and I’m not sure if I’m going to return it or not. I’m amazed that NO coverage in the mainstream media (that I’ve seen) has addressed this. Has Sony bought off all the journalists? Or sent them perfect review copies? Or am I the only sucker wondering what to do with a near-flawless piece of hardware that has one tiny, annoying little white dot off to the side driving me nuts!!

    The manual has a disclaimer on page 13 that says “Red, blue or green spots (bright spots) or black spots (dark spots) may appear in certain locations on the LCD screen. The appearance of such spots is a normal occurrence associated with LCD screens and is not a sign of a malfunction… a very small number of dark pixels or continuously lit pixels exist on each screen.” Is this BS or what?! if I bought a laptop or plasma TV and there was even one pixel not working, I’d return it. Does that rule not hold up when I’ve “only” spent $250 instead of $1,000 or $4,000?

  • Check out http://www.mreplay.com. It offers instant sports replays in the PSP, PDAs and mobile phones. Very cool.

  • Maybe this is the Moment…the one that all Indies are awaiting..thanks to the RIAA’s intransigence, there are innummerable options for leveraging this dynamic, outside the US.

  • GW

    I was at Toys R Us. Got a chance to see the PSP today. – I LOVE IT!
    I am a business travler and thought about how much fun it would be to take this along on long plane rides.
    I watched Spider Man, and the picture was crisp and the graphics were unbelievable. This was fantastic!

    I’ll take 10 to the office and they will be gone by NOON!


  • wolf

    look at post 23 people and write a post back telling me because you wont find a reason

  • kyg

    the psp is fuckin bomb

  • cory

    For those of you talking about “proprietary disks” and like things… all video games ever created have had proprietary disks…. and you can transfer your precious dvds to memory slots… imagine a handheld with a disk slot as big as a cd or dvd… honestly then no one would buy it cause you wouldnt be able to hold it… and since I bought mine I am AMAZED at how amazing the graphics and unbelievable features are… so 250 for me was a steal considering an mp3 player, ps2 and video player would cost me about 700… and thats just for systems… this has it all in one package for an incredible price.

  • coolspot

    Yes, you *could* transfer your movies to a memory stick, but since the PSP uses MemoryStick Duo and not MemoryStick Pro you’re limited to the amount of space available.

    Sony should of used SD or CF cards – they’re much cheaper.

    I don’t think UMD is going to fly.

    And until the PSP is ~150.00USD I don’t think they’re going to be flying off the shelves.

  • Will early adopters of the PSP be bothered if they hear about hardware upgrades already planned for future models?

  • Nope, I got 5 hours of play yesterday switching between Wipeout and Ridge Racer. No complaints here. Buy a car adapter and charge it at home. You’ll never have a problem.

    And since I’ve got a moment, I’m plugging my reviews:


    Ridge Racer:


  • Pete

    The PSP comes with 32mb of memory. WHAT A SCAM. Anything of this nature should have at least a Gig.

  • Pete, be glad they give anything. They didn’t have to supply you with it. They very well could have charged you extra like with the PS2. 32 MB is more than you’ll likely ever need for game saves and that’s the systems main function. If you want to use it for anything else, that’s your buisness and you’re going to have to pay for it. The system has the capabilties. A gig stick already costs, what, $200+? The system runs $250. WOuld you pay $450 for a portable? Didn’t think so.