Rumors of another hardware revision for the Sony PlayStation Portable have been flying for a long time now, but some of those rumors are starting to solidify as E3 draws near. Now 1UP has tossed its hat into the rumor ring with a report of a UMD-less iteration of PSP that includes built-in flash memory, a sliding screen, and the most markety name for a portable system since Nintendo slapped an "i" on the end of the Nintendo DS. 1UP presents the PSP Go! (that's not my exclamation mark, it's part of the Go!'s name).
Many have speculated that the update would be called either the PSP 2 or PSP-4000, but our sources claim Sony will forgo a numerical moniker in favor of a subtitle. We've heard various rumored code names for the project (including PSP Slide, PSP Flip, and PSP Go!), but given that Sony has introduced the Go! brand of add-ons (the Go!View video on-demand service and 1.3 megapixel Go!Cam) for the European PSP, it seems likely that the new system will in fact be called the PSP Go! Our sources further confirm that this redesign will be available in two SKUs, with either eight or 16 GB of built-in flash memory. The system is set for release in Japan this September with a U.S. debut coming in either late October or early November.
In addition, since the UMD is going away, Sony will have over 100 classic and new PSP titles available for download at launch (Gran Turismo Mobile is said to be one of the premier launch titles). As for the hardware itself, the redesign will include a d-pad, analog nub, and face buttons as part of a sliding unit sticking out below the screen (as seen in our mockup above). Unfortunately for those looking for twin-stick shooter controls, the new system will not have a second analog stick, but instead will remain consistent with the current control configuration.
Let's get the good news out of the way first. I like the built-in memory, although I wouldn't say no to a Memory Stick Pro Duo slot for some extra breathing room. The sliding screen? Aside from one more thing to break on the PSP, I can't think of anything wrong with it. I'm even OK with the lack of a second analog stick/nub (maybe I just don't play the kind of games on my PSP that most people seem to believe could benefit from a second nub).
Here's my major issue with the PSP Go!: we're losing the
Game Boy Advance slot UMD drive. I have a shelf of PSP games that I'd have to re-buy in digital downloadable format if I want to play them on the new unit (and considering that my current PSP has issues with a twitchy control pad and control nub, I'm going to wind up with a new PSP eventually).
It seems to me that moving away from offering games on UMD is more in the best interest of Sony and the third-party publishers than it is the interest of customers. This is all about controlling distribution and hampering those who would rather play cracked or otherwise unauthorized rips of games than pay for the actual legitimate product. There's nothing wrong with Sony wanting to protect their interests, of course. My concern is that those of us on the consumer end of things will be the ones jumping through new hoops and paying additional charges just to play the same games we already have on new hardware that basically performs the same function as what we already own.
It's still early though. Sony hasn't announced anything and there are a lot of question marks hanging in the air, and for as much as I grumble about it now, I may well spring for a UMD-less PSP somewhere down the line with the grudging acceptance that I'll have to reacquire my UMD library a bit at a time as expenses allow. Ultimately, if the PSP Go! (or whatever it turns out to be, if anything) pushes third-party publishers and developers back into the mood to create solid PSP games, then I'm going to have to support it. We'll never see games like Mega Man 2: Powered Up without a thumbs-up from the accounting and/or marketing departments, so if ditching UMD can help do that, then we're going to have to press on. Assuming that the PSP Go! isn't hiding any other format-breaking surprises, I can see myself going with a UMD-equipped PSP-3000, buying a gigantic capacity memory stick, and enjoying the best of both distribution worlds.