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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

Xbox One X
Nintendo Switch
PlayStation 4

Game Profile
 Written by Adam Woolcott  on March 24, 2006

Specials: Where nobody is pleading for Death Jr. 2

It started with a bang. Then dropped to a thud. Then a mere whisper. Ultimately though, it finally regained signs of life, and only recently has the PlayStation Portable recovered from a coma induced by a library of ports, crippled takes on popular console franchises, mediocre original titles, and a wildly varying focus from Sony, who spent the first 6 months trying to figure out what the hell PSP is really supposed to be and how to market the thing and what audience should be targeted. But this is a day of celebration, as the PSP turns 1 year old, and now we can reflect on those first 365 days and take a peek at what went right, what went wrong, and what the future holds for the handheld, especially as Sony moves towards the PlayStation 3 and with the rapid rise of the Nintendo DS. Who knows what PSP will be like in another year, but it sure will be fascinating to observe and participate in.

What Went Right?

Most important of all, Sony launched the PSP in outstanding fashion, a complete 180 from the hardware and software snafus of the US PlayStation 2 launch. Though it was risky to launch a piece of hardware in March (even if March is traditionally a big month for releases that missed the previous fall season), and not during the vital Christmas season, it panned out well. With 1 million systems available for the US, it didn't sell out on the first day but with over a half-million sold over that first weekend, it definitely had a solid first showing and better yet, people could actually find one on the shelf without a pre-order, a rare thing when it comes to any console launch whether it's a portable or home system. Better yet, the software available on the first day was varied and mostly very good, meaning anyone interested in PSP likely could find something to enjoy.

It saw the return of old favorites like Ridge Racer, Twisted Metal and Wipeout Pure (3 games that gave the original PlayStation its identity), it saw variants on popular franchises such as Need for Speed, Dynasty Warriors and Metal Gear, and even managed to get some original titles, with Lumines and Untold Legends, the latter of which is some sort of a miracle since an RPG at launch never happens. More importantly both games were successful and prove original franchises can do well in the right circumstances. There were even some launch games that were playable over the Internet, though they were only 989 Sports games that weren't really all that great, save for MLB, and that came out a couple weeks after launch. It's the idea of being online at launch that was really promising, seeing it never really happened before until the Xbox 360 hit, unless you count the minimal presence of the Dreamcast. In general, the combination of hardware availability and game variety meant Sony had pulled a reverse PS2 and satisfied nearly everyone interested in the system, and won over many skeptics with a well-rounded lineup of games to boot.

Though not without controversy, Sony's proprietary UMD format turned out to be a winner in the movie department. Notwithstanding the fact that the discs could only be played on a PSP, the disc costs exceeded the same film on DVD (and lacking the same sort of bonus DVD features) and there was no sign of a stand-alone player in sight, the format ended up performing above expectations and suddenly the market was flooded with titles, from money-hungry studios who could easily port their movies over to UMD and make a quick buck even if they didn't sell millions of copies, with very few original releases. At the peak of UMD Mania last year, there were more movies on shelves than games, obviously creating some confusion in the marketplace as to whether or not the PSP was for movies or games. The market has cooled in recent months and many studios have eased off UMD releases save for titles that appeal to the 'gamer market' (i.e. Doom appearing on UMD but your average chick flick not), but it definitely performed well despite naysayers.

When Sony started putting the PlayStation 2 hype train in motion some 7 years ago, one thing they pushed hard was convergence; putting all sorts of options on one piece of hardware to create a box that did everything and thus became the only piece of electronics you need. Ultimately while PS2 played DVD movies and helped that format thrive, played music CDs and of course games, many of these PS2 visions never came to pass, as things like a web browser and the ability to download content to a PS2 hard drive went ignored and only have resurfaced with PS3. However where PS2 faltered, PSP has succeeded and the device truly has mixed 4 vital forms of entertainment into one small device, creating astounding portability. Obviously the PSP plays games, as that's the primary function. But there's so much more, and thanks to Sony's XMB (Cross Media Bar), it's easy and intuitive to do so. Once it's on a memory stick properly, anyway.

The surprising success of UMD is one facet. The ability to rip DVD videos or video downloaded from the Internet and then format the files into PSP-ready bites to be placed on a Memory Stick Pro Duo is another in a counter to the UMD craze, as people could just save money and use what they already had, even though Sony has done a lackluster job of making the process easy for the technologically challenged. Many websites even started formatting video into the MP4 coding for instant download and transfer. In their attempt to topple the iPod phenomenon, the PSP plays MP3 and Sony's own ATRAC3 files, though once again the process is a bit cumbersome, though once you figure it out, MP3 playback is solid and if you have a cover art associated with a song, it will display it. In the very near future, Sony will be hoping to rescue its lagging Connect service by allowing PSP systems to...err...connect to Connect where you could buy and download music directly to the hardware in the ATRAC3 proprietary format.

These things made the launch interesting as people could do many things with the PSP aside from playing games. When summer hit, the PSP finally did something that Sony had been promising for years; the ability to surf the web through one of their game consoles. It's not really pretty as most sites don't translate well to the wide screen of PSP, it's much slower than conventional broadband access, and sucks the living hell out of the battery after using it a while. But it's a start. To make things better, many PSP-specific websites have sprung up, that are both quick to access and designed to make browsing on PSP enjoyable instead of a chore. There's even an option now to use Sony's Location Free Player to stream television over the 'net, and thus watch your favorite channels away from your TV. But it's a very costly thing right now. When you combine this with all the other options of PSP, you get a portable console that could replace your iPod, your portable DVD player, and your laptop on vacation or business trips, meaning less stuff to carry with you. That is the idea of convergence, after all, and it's arguably the strongest aspect of the hardware even if gaming isn't the total focus. Just don't get caught watching pr0n on your PSP while on a flight or anything like that.

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