PSP Updates: Flash, Downloadable Games, PS1 Emu and Video Chat
So the news this morning is all about the PS3's delay until November, almost exactly a full year after the XBox 360. That's pretty amazing (though not surprising at this point), but what I found a lot more interesting was Sony's plans for the PSP. The GAF Forums have the scoop and some pics from GameWatch (in Japanese). Sony is going to launch an Eye Toy, a GPS receiver, allow downloadable games bootable from your memory stick, incorporate Flash in the next update (wow), a PS1 emulator, and a drop in price.
This is pretty amazing stuff! Sure the DS is kicking PSP ass right now in terms of innovative games, but I still have some high hopes for the PSP as it's such a nice device. Though the updates keep breaking the "homebrew" stuff, we keep getting goodies every time, like the browser and the RSS Podcast player. That Sony isn't slowing down on these sorts of updates is very cool to me - I happily paid $250 for a PSP last year with one set of functionality, and yet it's been *improving* ever since, not getting older and more out of date. When's the last time you bought a piece of consumer electronics that did that?
The downloadable games pieces is really cool - though I still don't understand Sony's insistence on UMDs for the PS1 support (I guess you're supposed to download games to your PS3 and burn UMDs? Not sure about that). There's a set of economic issues there that escapes me about the hard-media model. It just seems like suuuuch an old way of doing things - especially now that downloadable software is a proven and reliable distribution method. They can charge the same amount of money for the games, it'd be more convenient for the consumer, and cheaper for them to produce as well. XBox Live's Arcade has shown how much people really want this sort of thing - why insist on UMDs?
Personally, I think that's a major reason for the PS3's delay, not just the lack of Blu-Ray discs. Microsoft's XBox Live is a really, really well done system and Sony wants time to create an equivalent system. Using it and learning from it was more than worth the price of my XBox 360 alone (which is sitting there gathering dust as I haven't even turned it on since before I went to Europe...) The community it enables is just astounding - I can add friends, leave messages, I can chat with them using VoIP in real time, I can see what games their playing or what movies they're watching and can invite them to join in with a game I might be playing. Then there's the Arcade, which is simply a place to download new games - it's quick and easy and constantly updating. I don't think Sony had any of this, or if they did, it wasn't nearly as well done as Live.
All this said, I don't think Sony is going to lose out too much being behind a year. The 360 is still loud, it's not really usable as a media center, it doesn't have a PVR, it's still a very expensive gadget, the games on the shelves are geared towards hard-core gamers, and when it comes down to it eye-candy doesn't match the great games that are on the PS2, etc. Sure, Microsoft is better off coming out ahead of Sony (it would have been a disaster in reverse), but I think they still have a long steep climb ahead of them. I think we'll need to see a year of solid releases from Microsoft, a price drop, at least one game with lots of buzz, AND Sony will need to screw up the PS3 launch before we'll see a changing of the guard any time soon.