The Angry Gamer – PSP or Not to Be

A week after the PSP’s US launch, many gamers are happily playing titles like Lumines, Twisted Metal: Head-On, Dynasty Warriors, and more on the go. I myself have been having a blast with the unit (heh heh…I said “unit”), but like any piece of gaming hardware, the PSP certainly has its flaws, physically and otherwise. Since I’m an angry man, I’m going to take this opportunity to bitch about the PSP, if for no other reason to shut up some fanboys who have labeled me a “Sony apologist.”

  • The “Value Pack.” When the PSP launched in Japan, it was very close to the DS’ price range. Or, if you wanted to spend more cash, you could buy an optional “Value Pack” that included a bunch of accessories. For the US launch, though, the Value Pack was required. This boosted the MSRP to $100 more than the DS. The only absolutely necessary item in that Pack is the Memory Stick; you don’t need an extra set of headphones, or a remote, or a case, etc. Those all should’ve been optional accessories.
  • Timing. In Japan, the PSP launched shortly after the DS, and since both were launched before the busy holiday season, that naturally boosted sales tremendously. In the US…we got a spring launch. I realize that this was a necessary evil because Sony had to produce an extra million systems, but come on; that should’ve been done in advance in order to secure a holiday spot in the States.
  • UMD movies. This is what really gets my goat. Sony and various movie studios plan to spit out full-length films in the UMD format, designed so that PSP users can watch their favorite flicks while stuck on a plane, train, or automobile. While it’s not a bad idea in theory, I take serious issue with the price. Why would anyone in their right mind shell out $20 for a UMD, when you can get the DVD for the same price, often less, with a lot more extras? And considering how much the price of portable DVD players has fallen over the past few years, I really don’t see any market for UMD films at all. Now, if UMD flicks would cost $10 or less, and/or had materials on them that DVDs do not (like compilations of anime episodes, etc.), then maybe they’d catch on.
  • Dead pixels. Just like the launch over the pond, plenty of US gamers complained about the dreaded dead pixel problem with their PSPs. While the actual percentage of complaints was pretty low (something like 0.1% or less), it does raise a quality control issue. Even though the actual LCD screens were made by Sharp or Samsung, Sony’s still ultimately responsible for the quality of their products. At first, Sony wouldn’t consider dead pixels a warranty issue; if you had them, tough shit. Massive outrage changed that, though, and Sony has since gone on record stating that if dead pixels pose a serious enough distraction, they’ll repair or replace your PSP in accordance with the warranty.
  • Battery life. The PSP eats battery power like Kirstie Alley eats Cheetos. While this is nothing new in the handheld realm (remember the Lynx, Game Gear, and Turbo Express?), I don’t see why an extra battery couldn’t have been added to the pack. Hopefully this will become a moot point over time, as battery technology just keeps improving.
  • That 32MB Memory Stick. Flash memory is cheap. Since Sony’s hyping the PSP as a multimedia device, capable of music and movie playback as well as games…why not throw in at least a 256MB Stick? The only thing the 32MB Stick is good for is game saves, and that’s it.

So there’s a bunch of obstacles for the PSP to overcome if it’s going to shoot into the stratosphere the way Sony wants it to. Only time will tell, I suppose.

Now, it’s time to get back to playing Lumines