Gaming: What the PSP Really Needs

By Mike on 4:20 pm

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I recently purchased Sony's PSP. Released in 2004 at the hefty price of nearly $300, it has come down to about $199 but I managed to get one on sale for $180. As you know, it is in direct competition with the Nintendo DS, and it is not selling as well as its rival. The PSP has numerous advantage and disadvantages to the DS. The primary advantages comes in the fact that it is a self contained media device capable not only of games but also music, photos, movies, and the internet. Sony has also released a PSP camera, which is similar in quality to modern cell phone cams, and a PSP GPS receiver is on its way. The PSP reminds me in many ways of Sega's landmark game gear, and not simply because of its similar design and it's superior hardware of its contemporary rival, but also its attempts at becoming a media device. Not many may remember the TV tuner for the game gear which was one of the first attempts to merge portable gaming and portable media.

The primary problem with the PSP is the fact that it's a jack of all trades system. It does a good job at many things but nothing exceptionally well. This is the DS's strength in that it's just a gaming system. I've come up with a list of 10 things that might turn things around for the PSP in order to outshine its cheaper rival.

1. Storage: The PSP uses memory stick duo flash cards as its primary means of on-board storage. While other flash cards have been expanded to a hefty 8gb , the biggest MSD cards are still only 4gb, and they're expensive. In fact, a MSD card can be quite a bit more than similar sized SD cards. The cheapest 4gb SD card costs only slightly more than a 1gb MSD. The cheapest 8gb CF costs the same as a 4gb MSD.
The PSP camera and GPS has proven that the USB connector on top of the PSP is not just for connecting it to your computer to transfer files. So I ask, why can't Sony give the PSP hard drive support. Either through the use of a 1.8'' HDD that clips to the back of the system, or common portable 2.5'' enclosed drives. This would effectively remove the storage limits of 4gb up to a beefy 80gb, which is the current max of 1.8'' HDDs. This could allow for up to 80 high quality feature length movies without the need for a stack of UMDs. It simply makes sense and would probably not be more of an electrical draw than its proprietary disc drive. So I ask Sony, give us PSP owners some more space!

2. Open it up to homebrew: Sony removed the ability for people to make unlicensed, homemade software for the PSP. Yet, the PS2 and PS3 can run Linux and the Nintendo Wii will offer indie software for sale through their online service. So why must the PSP be limited? Are they afraid of piracy? Possibly but there is nothing to fear. Let indie developers make their own software and games to further increase the usefulness of the handheld.

3. We need a Keyboard: The PSP badly needs some kind of a keypad for entering text into its web browser. PDAs have had these for a long time. This would finally make internet features useful.

4. More Audio/Video Codec Support: Sony should update the PSP's firmware to include more common codecs. Common, patent free codecs such as OGG Vorbis would be a big plus.

5. Upgrade Audio Playback Functionality: Give us an equalizer for god's sakes. Even the cheapest Creative MP3 players have an equalizer to adjust bass and treble. It should be a basic feature in digital audio players by now. Yes, the PSP has presets but there is no way to adjust them.

6. Larger Variety of Games: The PSP has many games but most are lackluster. Rather than focusing on exclusive titles, the PSP needs to attract more developers. It also needs to open the door to more retro games as other systems have. Start by giving us more games from retro Sega systems (as they have with the Genesis Collection) and maybe throw in some PS1 games too. Even some older PC/Mac titles would be nice. Not everyone likes shooters and car racing Sony, and even those ones out for the PSP suck.

7. PDF Support: Would it be too much to ask to give us Adobe PDF support for the web browser so us PSP users could read off-line documents and articles on the road?

8. A Better Online Service: Sony has a great opportunity to beat the DS out by providing an online service similar Xbox Live or Wii Channels to the PSP. Since UMD movies aren't selling, make them available for download at a reduced price, and DRM free. Same goes with music and games.

9. Wireless connectivity with PC and Mac: Right now, if you want to stream movies and music to your PSP, you need a Playstation 3. Of course Sony is doing this to get people to buy the PS3 but I hardly think it's worked successfully to increase sales. Especially considering the PS3 costs $700 and most PSP users already have a computer. So therefore, allow users to stream these media files right from their computer. Take that iPod. It would certainly solve some of the storage issues with the portable console as well. The PSPs max Wifi rate of 11Mbits/s is enough to stream CD quality audio and compressed movies up to 1400kb/s download. This is faster than most typical broadband services in North America.

10. Maybe it Does Need a Redesign: There was a rumor going around that Sony was going to change the PSPs design in a similar fashion as to when Nintendo redid the DS into the DS Lite. Sony squashed these as simply being rumors that weren't true. Well, maybe they should rethink that. The original Gameboy was redesigned at least three times. Why should today's portables remain static. What the PSP needs is to be made more ergonomical. A common complaint amount many PSP users, myself included, is that it get uncomfortable after a while in your hands. I think they designed it for people with stubby fingers.

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