Last month saw the introduction of the new PSP Slim. I gave my personal impressions on the silver unit earlier, but I wanted to go more in-depth with what the system means for Sony overall. In the last few years, Sony has been on a constant downward spiral in terms of consumer popularity. With a $600 system that has very few games and a handheld system that’s been out for more than two years and still has a less than stellar software lineup, Sony’s Golden Age has clearly been tarnished.
But I will say this: Sony has restored my faith in them with the PSP Slim. It’s an amazing piece of tech, no small thanks to the newly added video-out option through separate component video cables. If you were on the fence about the the first model, I can wholeheartedly recommend getting the Slim model.
Still, as much as I love the new system (Lumines 2 on an HDTV is fucking beautiful), I do have some reservations. The PSP Slim is so good compared to the old model that Sony should have released it from the very beginning. The PSP Slim is really only amazing to the large group of people that bought the old version. If we look at the specs for the new PSP, we see a system that is what most consumers expect to get in the first place. Things like better load times, more efficient battery usage, and a usable Square Button are details that should have been ironed out before the system was ever released.
The general buying populace is not going to buy a system that dies after watching one movie. Most handheld systems are used by people on the go, like commuters. If you sell a system that dies in less than two hours, you’re either assuming the name “Sony” is something that people blindly follow without any questions asked, or you’re just stupid. It’s asking a lot of the consumer to just take that, especially when the system originally retailed for $250.
Sony has redeemed themselves by releasing a new PSP that is far more efficient in terms of battery life, but in reality, it’s two years too late. Good battery efficiency is something that needs to be a part of your electronics product from the very beginning.
And then think of the formerly dreaded UMD situation. Now that the PSP can output its video signal to a TV, those UMD’s are looking mighty tempting right now. Instead of buying a DVD that can only play on your TV, you can buy a single UMD that will play both on your PSP while on the go, as well as on your LCD HDTV at home. Before, you had to purchase a DVD to get the ability to watch your movie in your home, and a UMD to watch it while you’re traveling.
If we do the math right, that’s $20 for the DVD, and $25 for the UMD. That’s $45 total for the ability to watch a movie on-the-go and at home. But with the new PSP Slim, that gets reduced to a paltry $25. Probably even less now, as most stores are trying to unload their old UMD stock.
So tell me again why this wasn’t included in the first place? Sony’s naÃ¯ve to assume people would pay more for a UMD when all they could do is watch it on a PSP. You have to give the consumer a reason to purchase your products. Sony gave their consumers a half-assed reason with the UMD, and stuck to it for two long years.
Sony assumed that, if they make a format better than what’s currently out on the market, that people will buy it. Again, they’ve missed the point entirely. Formats are popular because of how convenient they are. The UMD is anything but convenient. It’s priced higher, has fewer features, and is limited to the PSP hardware. No one sees value in that.
But with the PSP Slim, it’s all about convenience. Now you get two movies for the price of one, and the quality of a UMD when outputted to a TV screen looks surprisingly delicious. Sony has come to see the folly of their ways and did what was needed to justify the format.
But again, it’s two years too late. The UMD is on the brink of extinction. Most stores don’t even carry it anymore. Can the PSP Slim save it? Only time will tell, but at least Sony is finally on the right track.
And then we get to the faster load times. We’ve dealt with long load times before, with systems like the PS1 and PS2, but this is a handheld. When you’re at home, there’s a much larger threshold for patience when considering load times. With a handheld, it’s much lower, and Sony, in my belief, passed that threshold. People are going to notice the longer load times much more easily when you’re sitting on a subway and it takes nearly two minutes to get to the game’s main menu. Not every game has that problem of course, but the majority do. It is somewhat the developer’s fault for not streamlining the code, but Sony didn’t make it any easier when releasing a system that reads data off of a UMD at extremely slow speeds.
With the PSP Slim, they’ve fixed that issue, but not after releasing two years worth of games that were not developed with the new UMD caching system in mind. That means most games out now don’t see a drastic reduction in load times, with some that take even longer to load! Of course, once the new crop of games come out, like God of War: Chains of Olympus, we’ll see this improve, but what’s done is done, and most people assume the PSP has long load times at this point.
Sony has also fixed that weird Square Button issue, where they had to make it very stiff to keep the screen size at such a high resolution, but come on. It’s like the graphics vs gameplay thing; you can have a system that looks amazing, but forget about playing it. That’s what Sony, and more specifically, Ken Kutaragi were saying with the PSP. But I guess all is better now that the PSP Slim’s face buttons are back to a point that we’ve attained with the NES.
In the end, Sony has fixed a lot with the PSP Slim. With the original system, you had to deal with its shortcomings in order to discover its beauty. But with the new version, a user needs a lot less patience to uncover that beauty. UMD’s are more than justified at this point, the system can last longer than five minutes, and the long load times will be a thing of the past.
But still, the PSP’s image is based on the original model, just as people continually talk about the N-Gage’s side-talking problem, even when the QD model fixed that. The PSP may always be that system that died in two seconds, took forever to load, and had that funky Square Button.