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gamesindustry.biz logo A host of new details about Sony's forthcoming PlayStation Portable (PSP) console have been revealed by SCEE president Chris Deering at a summit in London, including software pricing details and the company's view on the Game Boy Advance.

Games for the device will be released on Sony's new Universal Media Disc (UMD) format, rather than on memory sticks as some had predicted, and Deering hinted that the pricing system for the titles would be flexible, allowing some to be priced significantly lower than others.

Some games, he revealed, could be priced "as high as €50 or €60 no doubt", but he added that the majority of games would be closer to the €20 to €30 price range, "given the time slots these will be played in". Sony has clearly learned a lesson that Nintendo has not - portable games, for the most part, need to be priced as impulse purchases.

The PSP isn't just a game device of course - it's designed as a portable media system, and Sony will be pushing for music and movies to also be released in UMD format. Movies on UMD will retail at a price "less than a DVD", which is just as well when you consider that UMD discs will almost certainly not be able to store video of the same quality as DVDs. Music may also be released on UMD at prices lower than normal CD prices.

In a move obviously designed to help get the movie studios on board, the device will support region coding for movies, but there's no word as yet on whether this will also apply to games. Deering specifically mentioned movies when talking about region codes, and went out of his way to point out that there would be no differences between devices in PAL and NTSC regions, so it may be that region coding is being dropped entirely for games on the system.

This would point at a rather better orchestrated global strategy from Sony for PSP than we've seen from them on consoles in the past, with software and hardware releases following close after one another in the key territories. Sure enough, Deering confirmed that the PSP will arrive in the second half of 2004, and suggested that the launches in Japan, the USA and Europe would only be seperated by the "slight time difference" required to get enough units of the console manufactured for each territory.

One of the most interesting comments made by Deering during his presentation on the PSP, however, was with respect to Nintendo's Game Boy Advance - which has been fingered by most commentators as the main competition to the forthcoming system. Sony, apparently, does not agree, and Deering claimed that the PSP strategy could be "synergistic and dynamically collaborative with Game Boy".

Sony, in a tone reminiscent of Nokia's views over the N-Gage, sees the PSP occupying an entirely different area of the mobile gaming space from the GBA. "It's trying for a new part of the market to escape the TV, for the shorter leisure time slots that seem to be a factor," said Deering, commenting that the PSP - with all its media device trickery and undoubtedly quite high price tag - is unlikely to be a system people carry around all over the place and treat to the same rough and tumble experience most GBAs go through.

"Maybe it might compete with people on the planes, but in the school yard I don't think people will be able to walk around with the PSP and treat it as roughly as you do with Game Boy," he explained. So, your PS2 (or PSX, or PS3) sits at home in the living room, your GBA is randomly carried about in your pocket or handbag, and the PSP occupies a space somewhere in between - an odd concept, but one which may well work for Sony.

There has been much speculation over the internal chipset of the PSP of late, with Ken Kutaragi commenting that people may well be surprised at the power of the machine when the specs are announced. Combined with Sony's recent demonstration of its ability to fit almost the entire PS2 chipset onto a single chip, there's an obvious conclusion - namely that Sony is planning to create, essentially, a portable PSX. It may not be the right conclusion, but it's certainly a tantalising prospect

© gamesindustry.biz

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