UMD Games: Now With Installs

We PS3 owners are all too familiar with the experience; you rush home with your latest game purchase, tear off the shrink wrap, open the case and slip that blue-tinted disc into you PS3’s Blu-ray drive.  Skipping across the XMB you click on the game’s icon eager to kill, race, adventure or sing.

Almost inevitably if it is not a first-party title you will then be forced to spend anything up to thirty minutes watching a progress bar crawl slowly across the screen as the game installs data to your PS3’s hard drive.  The process almost certainly saps some of your excitement and let us be honest, there is only so long we are willing to watch Snake smoke another damn cigarette.  Of course the alleged pay off for that wait is faster load times once you are in game.  In many cases the jury is still out as to whether it makes much difference and it did nothing for Snake’s cigarette consumption as he takes similarly unhealthy pauses throughout MGS4.


Now it seems that the PSP is about to get in on the install action, albeit with optional not mandatory ones.  This week sees the release of Monster Hunter: Freedom Unite for Sony’s handheld.  The game has a ‘Data Install’ option on its game menu.  The game explains, “Use this ‘Data Install’ option to shorten loading times. A portion of the game will be saved as ‘Install Data’ on your Memory Stick Duo. The game will then load data from both the Install Data and the UMD.”  Once complete, you will find that 578MB of your Memory Stick has been consumed.

Evidently it is not like installing a digital copy as you will still require the UMD to play the game, presumably as an anti-piracy measure.  We would hope that as well as speeding up loading times within the game it will also lead to at least a small improvement in battery life as the PSP will be spending less time reading off of the UMD though that is pure conjecture.

This is another incremental improvement for UMD-based PSP gaming, the last one being that the PSP-2000 and 3000 use some of their extra RAM to cache UMD accesses to improve performance.  Will this become a common feature on new UMD releases?  We do not know but anything with the potential to improve our gaming experiences is welcome.

It is strange that this has happened so long into the PSP’s life and come at a time that may be the twilight for the UMD with PSPgo a little over four months away.  Perhaps it is only really practical now that prices for the Memory Stick Pro Duos used by the PSP are sufficiently cheap?  Perhaps it is an example of Sony ensuring that the UMD is still well supported as it hedges its bets against the digital-only PSPgo experiment not going well?  Perhaps the Monster Hunter devs are just the first to think of doing it for the PSP?

Me and my ‘3000 would welcome this appearing as an option on more upcoming games.  Though I do wonder whether sales of new UMD titles are soon to fall off the proverbial cliff as the advent of the PSPgo should see all new titles being available as digital-only releases and let us face it, arguments for UMD are quickly going to diminish.  The three months leading up to Christmas sure are going to be interesting for the PSP.