PSP Go: The Aftermath

The new PSP Go! isn’t a total shock: Sony had been advertising for playtesters for the thing since February of this year, but it’s sudden release yesterday when the next issue of online magazine Qore was accidentally uploaded has sent the internet into its usual frenzy of excitement. Whilst some are wondering whether E3 really has any surprises left for Sony, we’re fairly sure that we don’t know everything there is to know about the new machine quite yet.

The biggest change, apart from the sliding design, is the lack of a UMD slot. The PSP’s bespoke media format was never really a hit – load times were disastrously slow, the feature films never really sold and the disks themselves broke easily, and that’s without mentioning the fingerprints that UMD’s seemed to attract like crazy. So, with the Go! being download only, what does that change about the new generation of PlayStation Portable?

From the discussion on the Qore video (bear in mind we have nothing remotely resembling a press release yet) it appears Sony are pushing for smaller, download only games. As it stands, a lot of the weightier PSP titles can be upwards of a GB in size, which is clearly too much for the general public to download when they want to play something, and if the 16GB on-board memory is the maximum size, that will fill up pretty quickly. Yes there’s a memory slot, but will this allow us access to games, and is that leaving a backdoor for piracy?

What we’re anticipating is more akin to what the DS gets, much smaller game sizes, less video and lower resolution music, because on a handheld trying to push hifi standards is next to pointless. But if the Go! is purely download only, but isn’t meant as a replacement for the PSP 3000, how are publishers meant to hedge their bets if they need to create a UMD and a digital version? And if I go out and buy a Go! this year and sell my 3000, how do I get access to all my games on UMD?

What I’m personally hoping for is some kind of voucher system that enables customers to send in their UMD and get a download code in return, which will enable the PSP Go! to play all the games existing users might have in their collection. If Sony can pull off some kind of PSN Store magic, where older games are regularly uploaded at a discount price then I’ll probably be happy buying the games twice, but going off current Store prices this wouldn’t seem likely.

And if the Go! is indeed the “premium” product then where’s the camera, or the GPS? And if there’s no mobile phone connectivity then we assume that it won’t allow internet connections over 3G, just wifi, which puts a dampener on using the new PSP out in the open to download new goodies.

But this is primarily a games machine, and Sony has taken the brave step forward with making it download only. As far as we know this will be the first videogames console to go down this route, so we’re hoping that the tiny form factor (it’s almost half the weight of the current PSP) and funky sliding screen will attract enough early adopters to get the publishers behind the new sales methods. If the first batch of games in the line-up (LittleBigPlanet, Gran Turismo, Jak and Daxter) are anything to go by then the Go! has a bright future ahead.

So, Sony, I have no idea how you’re going to handle your E3 presentation now, but all you really need to do at E3 is show that the top screen is a touchscreen and you’ve still got your surprise. If it’s not, I’d suggest another advert for playtesters and a nice letter to any publishers currently creating games…