Sony’s Playstation Portable: pricey but playable

Matthew Loriso
Staff Writer

It has been just under a month since the Sony Playstation Portable, more commonly referred to as PSP, was released to the American market. This is as good a time as any to examine the status of the PSP in comparison to its rival, the Nintendo DS.

To better understand the competition between these two handheld game systems, it is important to be aware of what each system has to offer.

Sony is marketing their system as an all-in-one portable entertainment center. Besides being able to play games, the PSP can play movies stored on UMDs (Universal Media Discs – the disc format which the system utilizes), play music and display photos.

The system also contains a very wide screen; designed for watching movies or playing Playstation 2 quality games.

“It’s a very sleek machine with lots of raw potential,” said Ashley Esqueda, associate editor for Play Magazine and former ULV student. “The gameplay is superb.”

The Nintendo DS, on the other hand, is a very different system.

The DS is designed, not just to play games, but to play unique games. The system contains two screens, one of which is capable of touch control, much like a palm-pilot, as well as a built-in microphone.

“The Nintendo DS has a very unique design,” Esqueda said. “The play style takes a bit of getting used to, although in many ways it’s quite fun and has a lot of replay value.”

Both the handhelds are great devices, however, they are not without their flaws. Since both systems’ screens are LCD based, they have both had problems with “dead pixels” (when a tiny area of the screen loses its ability to change colors). Unfortunately for PSP owners, the problems in Sony’s system have been more numerous.

The PSP also had much worse problems when it was originally released in Japan. Problems like sticking buttons and, on rare occasions, unintentionally detachable pieces have been fixed for the American systems.

The PSP’s biggest deterrent for most is its $250 price tag; $100 more than the DS.

However, consumers have been able to look past these problems and have purchased both of the systems in huge quantities.

So far the DS has sold more units than the PSP. However, that statement is a little unfair since the Nintendo DS was released last November, four months prior to the release of the PSP.

“The PSP is pretty close [to the DS in terms of units sold] and it just came out,” said Mike Garcia, an employee at Gamecrazy. “People have definitely shown more interest in PSP.”

That is not to say that the DS has been a slouch in the market. During the Christmas season, it was one of the hot items for kids and teenagers, and has sold better worldwide than most analysts had predicted.

However, DS sales have stagnated recently, which many people attribute not only to PSP’s release, but also to the lack of games available for the DS.

“I would buy a DS right now, but there aren’t that many games for it,” said freshman Adam Elmayan. “When they come out with a more diverse line of games, I will consider buying one.”

Sales are expected to pick up for the DS later this year when more of the top-tier games come out.

Games like Animal Crossing, Mario Kart, Castlevania and Metroid Prime: Hunters, all due before the end of the year, are expected to sell systems.

In the meantime, PSP games have appeared to attract more people.

“PSP has a lot of the popular, casual gamer games,” Gamestop employee Bonnye Bauerle said.

PSP games like Ridge Racer, Metal Gear: Acid, Lumines and Wipeout: Pure have attracted all sorts of game-players, rather than just those looking for innovation.

The competition between the two systems is stiff, and the war to sell the most will likely continue to be close for a long while.

Matthew Loriso can be reached at mloriso@ulv.edu.

Journalism operations manager at the University of La Verne. Production manager and business manager of the Campus Times.

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