PSP Caveats (or How I Learned To Love the DS)

A friend of mine emailed me the other day, mentioning that he was rather excited about Sony's new portable, the PSP. I'm a Nintendo fanboy, but I've never written a console off until I had solid information about it and in most cases had actually played it. Most recently, I realized the N-Gage was a complete and utter waste of plastic/silicon. Mind you, Penny Arcade just the other day mentioned that they may have found a few games that play well on it, but it took them long enough.

Nintendo has just released it's newest piece of hardware, the DS. I've played the system. It's a fun piece of hardware with an interesting concept and wireless multiplayer. That's a start, but having Mario 64 as your flagship title and with intriguing titles like Feel The Magic to back it up, I know it's gonna be a good one in a few months. The DS has come out of the gate on fire. They're selling out everywhere(even at Target, where we had a surplus of units) and it benefits from a built in software library of over 500 titles(it plays Gameboy Advance carts).

Next up will be Sony and their fabled PSP. This isn't a gaming unit. It'll play music, play movies, play games, even give you a backrub. It's an all-in-one gaming-wonder machine. The size of it is comparable to the DS and the button configuration is relatively similar as well. However, this is where the comparisons end.

The DS runs on cartridges, has a rather long battery life(a proposed 10 hour limit from Nintendo, but many people insist it does much better) and an innovative way to play are all included. It seems the PSP may not even include a battery. I'm convinced this thing is a flop in the waiting and and here are my reasons (quoted from my email:

1: Battery Life
There has been nothing to disprove the reports that battery life of the unit is MAX about 7 hours. But here's the kicker, that's assuming the DVD-drive isn't running much. But if you play a game, watch a movie, whatever, you're GOING to run that drive, a lot, which seems to suck the battery down immensely. So you're looking at maybe 3-4 hours on one charge. AS WELL, it was also reported that the battery is so large it is seperate from the gaming unit and has to be strapped to your ARM (or stored in a pocket, but has to be close to the unit itself)

2: Games
Nintendo has so far garnered impressive third party support as well as their own impressive first party support. The PSP will get a LOT of games, but they'll
all be mostly ports of PS2 and PS1 games. Certainly, the DS will have lots of ports as well (2 so far, since Spiderman 2 is apparently much different from the console version) but Nintendo has a PROVEN track record with the kind of games that go on handhelds. That's part of the issue here. When you play a handheld, you want a game you can pick up/put down at ANY time. You shouldn't have to put a serious time investment into it. If you do, it has to be a fantastic game, probably unlike anything you can play on a console. Final Fantasy Tactics takes about 20mins a battle, but you can save/quit at any given time. Now, consider this, and think of whether or not a game like Jak & Daxter is playable in 10 minute increments? It's not feasible and it's just not really possible. This will be a major problem. I didn't even go into how MORE third parties are supporting Nintendo than Sony. Sony has their close bunch, but Square is developing a number of RPGs, EA is making a lot of games and several others. It should see third party support. You'll know more by February, when the gaming library flourishes.

3: Media
The DS runs on cartidges. Two advantages: They can't be scratched, ruined (easily) and they're relatively cheap to make. The PSP runs on UMD, Sony's new (proprietary) media format. It is a disc so it is scratched, easily, if jolted around(and we're using it in a PORTABLE gaming system!) and more expensive to make, at least at first. While the price may come down on UMDs, the shock capability is a BIG problem as I see it. Portable gaming systems are meant to be portable and tough. While the DS screen is obviously scratchable, as evidenced at target, so is any scren. But here's the big problem: what has the PSP got that the DS doesn't? It plays movies, eh? Well, how do you GET those movies? The UMD is a proprietary medium and sony has already said they're not planning to release any kit to allow you to make your own. So, any movie you want to watch, any music you want to listen to, well, you've gotta buy them. Since they're only being made by Sony, we'll assume the choices will
be limited and they won't exactly be cheap.

I think you can see why I'm a non-beleiver, but this next part will convince you that the PSP is perhaps the spawn of lucifer himself. Nintendo Now has put together a comprehensive review of exactly what the PSP claims to do and what it will actually be doing. It's a lengthy read, but important to anyone who wants to educate themselves on the coming gaming market. Check it out here and check below the break for some choice quotes:

1. "When will the Disc Read Errors Begin?"
We all know the truth about Sony's consoles. If you don't, you have been living in a cave. DRE's or "Disc Read Errors" have become synonymous with Sony's poorly built machines. Some people even think they design their systems like this ON PURPOSE. And I am one of them. It's an idea called "Planned Obscelescence" and it's something automobile manufacturers have been doing for years.

Here's a quote from a controversial interview given by Shinji Mikami. Mikami worked with Sony for almost a decade before he finally had the courage to speak out:

"Shinji Mikami, producer of Resident Evil and Devil May Cry, strongly criticized Sony and Square in a recent radio interview in Japan. Mikami accused Sony of purposely designing their consoles to break easily so that gamers will have to buy a replacement. He also said that Sony's high sales figures are helped by the fact that many gamers, himself included, have had to buy a second PlayStation and PlayStation 2."

From there, Mikami went on to accuse Sony of doing the same thing with their line of PCs, Walkmans, and cell phones. He asked why no one has complained about this and said that it was almost like cheating and committing a crime. The radio DJ tried to interrupt Mikami and shift the conversation to another topic, but when Mikami was asked if he thought Sony's customers are foolish, he replied, "Yes."

...2. "90 Minute Battery Life/Overheating?"

Gamespot brings us word that two industry watchers, PJ McNealy and Piper Jaffray & Co, are predicting a delay for the launch of the PSP. They cite numerous reasons including Sony's propensity for missing hardware launch dates. They take it further, however, and point out the more serious problems that they are having with the PSP including battery life (90 minutes) and heat.


Just in case you don't know, PJ McNealy (from American Technology Research) and Piper Jaffray & Co are two of the most respected and well known Analyst Firms of their type. Their reputation rides on the truth of their information. However, these two industry analysts aren't the only ones who have raised serious concerns about the PSP battery life and how it WILL effect games.

Now, people have tried to counter this article by saying "That's old news." However, this piece was written only a few weeks ago. The 90 Minute Battery life was discovered by several writers observing the event (TGS). Here’s a link to a new article that raises some of the same concerns.


Here's some interesting comments made by Sony’s own Ken Kutaragi. His comments in this piece are quite telling to say the least.

“A puzzle game will last longer, but Ridge Racer will probably be shorter than that," he told the site, referring to the battery life statistics released by SCE last week - which claimed four to six hours of battery while playing games.

"The figures quoted by SCE rely on playing with headphones, without using the wireless multiplayer capabilities of the device, and with screen brightness set in a specific range - leading to widespread speculation that using the full power of the system will bring the battery life down closer to the originally rumored two hour level."

Kutaragi's comments seem to confirm that games which use the features of the console more intensively will drain the battery life faster, and are backed up by the firm's efforts to restrict developers from using features such as data streaming from disc (as used in a large number of PS2 titles) due to their "high power consumption."

"The implication is clear, however, and Kutaragi's comments will undoubtedly be taken as a tacit admission that there is a problem with the PSP's battery life - and that the firm may be hoping to fix this in a later revision of the hardware."

Later Versions? Two Hour Battery life? It seems like we keep hearing the same thing over and over again. There is a term in the legal practice called “A Preponderance of Evidence.” This means that if the evidence is overwhelming then it must be true.

Well, are the overheating and the battery life complaints legitimate? I’ll let you, the readers decide.

...4. "Price: It Still Matters"

As it stands now the PSP is estimated to cost around $199 US. However, what about accessories and games? We all know that the average gamer will buy at least ONE game and the needed "Memory Stick."

Well, the "Value Pack Bundle" that includes Earphones, Carry Case and the Memory Stick will cost an estimated $249 US.
However, you still need at least one game, bringing your PSP launch day budget closer to $300. Either way, you'll also probably need a Screen Cover (if you buy the basic system) and an extra PSP Battery Pack, in case you plan on traveling, adding even more cost to your initial investment. The PSP Battery Pack will cost an estimated $44 (4800 Yen = around $45 and it is NOT included in the "Value Pack Bundle.")

When IGN.COM reported the price list for the PSP and it’s accessories, they deliberately left all of the prices for the system accessories in YEN, probably because they didn’t want the public to know that Sony was going to sell a battery for almost $50! They even went so far as to LIE about the battery saying that “the battery's user-removable, and cheap."


Wow, $50(!) for a battery pack? That’s not "cheap." That's like saying "Bend Over Consumer!!!"

Meanwhile, you can buy a Gameboy SP for $79 and a Nintendo DS for $149. Now, if you buy a game with your DS you still are below the $200 range, and as many have already predicted, the DS will see a price drop just around the time the PSP launches in the States. If Nintendo is really smart, they may even include a pack-in game, other than the MPH demo, that is. In my opinion, this would really give the consumers the VALUE they deserve.

...5. "The Truth about PSP , Mp3s, and Movies"

Many people still erroneously believe that the PSP will up seat the iPod as the new MP3 player of choice. (What a laugh)!
However, the reality is this. You need to store MP3's on a Memory Stick (sold separately). The Memory Stick that is planned for release with the system is nowhere near large enough to hold a decent amount of songs. And of course, it’s only compatible with the PSP. So if you already have a memory stick, you won’t be able to use it with your PSP.

Also, since the memory stick doubles as a “memory card,” gamers will have to store their music on the same device they store their game saves on, so anyone planning to use their PSP as an MP3 player will probably have to invest EVEN MORE MONEY on an extra memory stick if they want to hold a decent amount of songs. Again, a mere 128 megs is not a lot of space when it comes to MP3’s.

There have even been rumors that state that the audio quality of MP3’s on the PSP is "inferior" to those found on other MP3 players. Only time will tell if that’s true, but just considering that the average memory stick has only a tiny fraction of the storage space offered by a real MP3 player, audiophiles will probably have to make certain "sacrifices" if they want to store a decent amount of music - "Sacrifices" that could include cutting the bit rate on your mp3’s, which we all know reduces their quality.

But what about movies you say? Well as we all know, watching a movie on the PSP cuts its battery life to around two hours. What if your movie is longer than two hours? Well, tough luck. What if you want to play games AND watch a movie? Well again, tough luck. And would any sane person hold a handheld at arms length for two hours just to watch a film on a tiny screen? I wouldn’t even think about it.

...6. "Analysts Predict DOOM for PSP"

That's right I said PSP and NOT Nintendo DS. It doesn't matter what some fanboy thinks, here are the opinions of the people who matter. The one's whose decisions affect vast financial empires. They know the truth, and they aren't afraid to tell it.

New Nintendo console analysts' choice
Staff writer

The PlayStation Portable is the talk of the town after basking in the limelight at a recent game show. But despite all the hoopla, Sony Computer Entertainment Co.'s soon-to-debut portable game console is unlikely to loosen Nintendo Co.'s grip on the global market, according to game industry analysts. They say there is no compelling reason for gamers to buy the PSP. Its rival, the Nintendo DS, they say, offers eye-opening novelty.

Nintendo's new handheld console, which features a dual touch-sensitive screen, will go on sale in the US on Nov. 21 at $149.99 and on Dec. 2 in Japan for 15,000 yen. Sony has not announced the price or release date for the PSP. Analysts expect it to cost between 25,000 yen and 30,000 yen, putting it at disadvantage against the Nintendo DS.

Analysts say that while the PSP has razor-sharp screen resolution and stylish design, it is no match for the Nintendo DS in terms of uniqueness. It fails as an attractive game console, they say.

"With a dual touch-sensitive screen, voice recognition and wireless communication, the Nintendo DS has a load of new features," said Eiji Maeda, game analyst at Daiwa Institute of Research Ltd.

Nintendo says such features will allow users to experience new kinds of games and, more importantly, play intuitively, meaning they can forget about using a complicated control pad and use a stylus pen and their voice instead.

"Our intention was that anyone, regardless of age, gender or game experience, should be able to stand on the same starting line and enjoy playing games," Nintendo President Satoru Iwata told a media preview in Tokyo earlier this week. "The single-minded pursuit by the game industry for ever-more complicated and time-consuming games will only serve to alienate potential users," he said.

...11. " 'PSP: The Portable You Play at Home?' or 'PSP: Don’t Leave Home WITH It.' PSP Design Issues”

Now, this part is just my opinion and I want to make that clear before I begin. However, many of you might agree with the points I am going to bring up. First, every time I see the PSP I can’t help but think how cheap and flimsy it looks. Like the entire machine is constructed from light weight plastics. This machine hardly looks durable and since we all know about Sony’s reputation for making shoddy products, it makes me wonder, will anyone WANT to leave home with their PSP?

I mean, that’s the purpose of a portable gaming device, gaming on the go. Yet, every time I look at the PSP, I cant help but think how easily it could break. How the "open face" design of the machine will leave it susceptible to serious damage. How putting this already large system in a carry case would only increase it’s size and decrease it’s portability.

I also wonder why the put the D-Pad and the Buttons so close to the screen. There will be many a thumb print griming up that 16x9 screen. And something tells me, replacing that screen WON’T be cheap.

(In contrast, replacing a GBA screen costs around $2 and you can do it yourself).

And then there are the nagging battery life issues. What is a gamer supposed to do? Carry an extra $50 battery pack around, just in case they want to play games after they watch a movie? The whole concept seems ridiculous to me. A portable is about rough and ready, PORTABLE gaming. Not sitting at home while your handheld is plugged into a wall. There is NO WAY the PSP could ever survive the brutal world of the average portable gamer.

PSP, don’t leave home WITH it.

Of course, the PSP won't be release in America until next year, but I'm eagerly awaiting that time, so I can see it crash and burn. Of course, at this same time, I'll be buying my own DS, since the library of games will really flourish around February. Touching is good.
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