2009: The Year Of The PSP

You know, the PSP’s a great machine.  I remember importing a Japanese model on launch day alongside Ridge Racer and didn’t once look back, although I have upgraded to a Slim version since.  Despite considerable piracy and the relatively poor sales of UMD movies, Sony has kept on pushing the machine, remaining ever buoyant about the portable machine’s capabilities.  Sales had flagged recently, though, and at the start of this year news of future software was starting to thin.  Thankfully, a surprise press release in February brought about monumental changes in the public perception of the PSP: Assassin’s Creed, Rock Band, Motorstorm and – yes – LittleBigPlanet were all heading the way of the Portable PlayStation, and they’d all be coming this year.

Let’s face it, when you think PlayStation you think PS3, but it’s the PSP that’s played just as important a role this generation for Sony and its fans.  There’s been some remarkably innovative things you can do with the handheld, not least linking it directly to your PS3 for Remote Play enabling you to effectively control your PlayStation 3 from another room – watch TV, check your friends list, even play games – but here in Europe we’ve had the camera, GPS hardware (and software) and no small amount of clever games including the sublime Loco Roco (and it’s sequel) and the wonderful Patapon, the follow up to which can now be regarded as the precursor to download-only distribution, obviously the path that Sony are opting for with their new PSPgo.

Before we touch on the two ‘big’ games heading our way for the PlayStation Portable, it’s worth revisiting the most recent E3 and the official unveiling of the PSPgo.  Its slide-up screen and smaller form factor might suggest that this isn’t for the core gamer (and Tretton himself referred to the Go as something for the gamer yet to sample the PSP range) but we think that’s just Sony trying to be coy: every gamer worth his salt now wants the new model because the PSP consoles have always held those slick, desirable qualities and the price, although initially apparently quite high, simply serves to create the notion that the PSPgo is indeed for the hardcore and will no doubt boost demand when it’s launched this October.

Whether or not the Qore ‘leak’ was indeed accidental is now almost academic – the PSPgo is at the forefront of PlayStation fans and its unique new feature, the digital download distribution model, will serve as a brave move forward for videogaming.  It’s natural, mind, that Sony edges its bets a little: with the PSP 3000 still being manufactured, sold and supported there will always be games on UMD should the Store-only method not be successful, and by keeping the ‘classic’ model in circulation there won’t be buyer remorse for anyone that has recently splashed the cash on a regular Slim model.  Whichever route you decide to take with the PSP, there’ll always be games, media and a valid warranty from Sony so the customer doesn’t lose whatever happens.

But then back to those big guns: the duo of games announced and trailered at E3 this year, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and Gran Turismo PSP.  Seriously, Sony couldn’t have got any more PlayStation without throwing in a new WipEout, too – both the MGS brand and the Gran Turismo badge have long signified exactly what SCE have always tried to do with their consoles, right from the first PlayStation, and it’s great to see considerable publisher support behind the PSP this year.  Naturally both Polyphony and Konami have been avid followers of all the Sony consoles, but these two were exactly what fans were looking for – the revelation that Gran Turismo PSP is pretty much done and will launch with the Go! was a masterstroke, too.

As I’m typing this my PSP-2000 is sitting here happily charging away for the first time in some months, and it would appear I’ve got some catching up to do as I’ve not yet picked up the critically acclaimed God Of War which is down on my things-to-buy-from-GAME-this-lunchtime list.  You’ll start to see a lot more PSP content around these parts from now on in, because with the fantastic support the portable is getting from Sony it would be rude of us to not show the same kind of respect – the games coming out are AAA quality titles, the machine is still technologically way ahead of the competition, and who doesn’t want a PSPgo?  Whatever happens with the PSP from here on in, we’ll be there to cover it.