Monday, January 31, 2011

psp2roundup - January In Numbers

The first full month of activity on psp2roundup has seen 2,099 page views, over 100 tweets, 63 Twitter followers, 47 blog posts and two people who clicked on adverts - thanks to them (they fed my cat this month!) is it really so hard to click an ad? Guess I don't bother as much as I should.

Unsurprisingly, the most popular post was this one. Readers stayed on site for an average of 43 seconds which I guess is enough to read most articles I post.

You can see some Twitter stats here - topics, links and so on. I suspect there will be a bit of a lull between now and MWC when the PSP Phone (Xperia Play) gets unveiled, but I'll keep my ear to the ground on news from PSP2 developers and what they're up to.

Oh, and zero comments. Doesn't anyone just want to talk any more?

Good News: PSP2 to Offer Backward Compatibility

Now that Sony has confirmed it will (and is going to ask third parties to) provide digital (and apparently retail physical) versions of PSP UMDs, that means that when you switch on a PSP2, you should already have loads of games to play.

Assuming you only have to enter in your PSN id, then I've got a whole bunch of games linked to my digital account. We just have to hope there is a smart upscaling routine to make full use of the screen's improved resolution.

The only thorn will be if you have to pay to convert a UMD into a digital copy. Ideally, there should be a PSP app that reads your disc, gives you a code which you enter into your PSP2 for a free digital copy, then *somehow* registers or borks the UMD so that it can't be used again.

If they want to do it the hard way, how about offering free trade-ins at stores? Even if its something like buy a PSP2 game, get two PSP games converted for free - it'd help owners keep their beloved collections intact. That could also be used to flog off those last few PSP Go units (hey - I'd buy one if it was under £100, just as a backup for my ancient Mk.1 Japanese PSP)

Even if that isn't possible, there is little value in old UMDs, so losing a few sales due to duped codes won't kill the developers now concentrating on ultra-secure, *cough*, unhackable PSP2 games.

Of course, those pesky licensing and rights issues could create a lot of issues, as they have with PSOne games for the PSN store. Also, I have some Japanese and U.S. UMDs, bet they wouldn't work.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tekken Dev Says He Wants to do Tekken on NGP

The esteemed Harada Katsuhiro, producer of the Tekken series, posted in a tweet that he in interested in developing the game for the PSP2.


I want develop for 3DS and NGP(PSP2). But still considering.

The series did pretty well in two outings on the PSP and was one of the better looking games on the platform. It is good to see the head honchos taking an interest and making public statements about the NGP already, I'll have to look and see who else is murmuring about developing games for it.

But how could they use the unique PSP2 features like the rear touchpad to enchance the experience?

I supposed location-based punches and kicks would be a good move, based on where you tap...

It could also add a match-making service over the location-based system

Otherwise, just port the game already and let the punching commence

Watch the NGP launch in Hi-Def

If you were squinting a bit at the low-res feeds of the Sony PSP2, you can now take a more leisurely look as the Sony US site his it in lovely HD. I doubt it'll get rid of some of the shaky-cam stuff - but until we get our hands on a unit, its the best look we'll get at that lovely OLED screen.



Thursday, January 27, 2011

Why is the PSP2 (NGP) so powerful?

Some questions are being asked about the PSP2's massive power in its quad-core processor and a quad-core graphics chip. The answer is quite a simple one. Sony's PSP had a five to six year lifespan and Sony needs the PSP2 to have the same longevity to make a decent return.

While mobile phones, tablets and rival devices are only just entering dual-core territory, Sony has to look to three or four years time when these perennially upgraded phones will start to match the PSP2 for power.

So, while the PSP2 looks like a power demon now, in a few years it will be matched and then overtaken by other devices. If Sony ever decides to upgrade the PSP2, it could run into a host of compatibility issues (such as minuscule timing problems/command function and pipeline changes) that hardcore games developers come up against, something that casual games like Angry Birds never will.

If Sony can leave the hardware unchanged then it makes more money and can guarantee the same experience across the 50-100 million consoles that it wants to sell. Perhaps, Sony does have an upgrade path in mind, but the console tradition is one device with tiny, incremental upgrades - it will be a radical change is Sony starts fighting at the level of feature-phones.

Sony PSP2/NGP LiveArea - So, XMB Is Dead Then?

There was a brief look at the new, big-button interface for the NGP at Sony's unveiling. It combines your trophy achievements and social gaming activities in one and provides access to the store, a browser and games.



Using the touchscreen, its a lot more iPad then it is PSP, which is probably a good thing. Getting around will be quicker and hopefully the ability to theme and skin the console will lead to lots of distinct styles.

I think that pausing a game and nipping off to do some socialising and then going right back in won't be a problem and hope the browser is a more modern affair than the wimpy PSP experience.

Sony's Other Announcement - PlayStation Suite

Right, think I've got most of the NGP stuff out the way in my other post. So, on to Sony's other big news, a new PlayStation Suite store with massive availablity of PSOne-era and (hopefully) PSP games for Android phones. This opens up a lot of games to a whole new market (notably those who grew up with PSOne but gave up gaming as they 'grew up').


Using virtual buttons, it looks like most simple games will play okay, but its going to get kind of busy with button-heavy games. So, Sony is now offering:

  • 1st gen games on Android phones (os 2.3 and above)
  • Its own Android Phone with some PSP+ class gaming sytem
  • NGP with current console-class games and more to come

That pretty much covers the market and the in-effect "free money" it gets from flogging old PSOne games will help keep prices down on the NGP, possibly. Of course, there are the old licensing issues that keep lots of games out of particular territories, but hopefully Sony's army of lawyers have been earning their keep on that one.

Sony NGP (PSP2): Info and Reaction, and What Next?

I'm putting all the PSP2/NGP news here: new news and principal thoughts at the top in bullets, details below.

After a lot of mucking around, today Sony finally unveiled:
  • A non-final hardware design, (every picture [gallery here] says design and specifications subject to change).
  • NEW - Only some models (probably sold by phone shops) will have 3G enabled, the base version will be Wi-Fi only.
  • NEW - Backward compatible with PSP games - digital and boxed copies of old titles likely for PSP2.
  • Some lovely looking games technology demos from many industry big hitters. What I think will happen is lots of game+ editions (MGS4+, MHP3Turbo, etc) with new content, extra levels and so on.
  • A code name - NGP will not be the final system name.
  • Battery life is being quoted at 4-5 hours
  • Sony will sell the unit at a loss, so price could be lower than expected
  • Initially available in Black and White
  • Some big names still not on the publishing list (near the bottom of this post)
  • The slightly bigger design and obvious appearance of some western-oriented games covered suggest Sony is aiming this more deliberately at the west.
  • No sign of a HMDI-out, if this thing can play HD content, then outputting it to a big screen has to be a must.
First thought - If Apple had released this, the world would be covered in embarrassing stains this morning! (Although there would be less buttons)

So, the system specs are:

CPUARM Cortex ™-A9 core (4 core)
GPUSGX543MP4 +
Screen Touch Screen (16:9), 960 x 544, 16.7 million colors, organic EL display Multitouch (capacitive)
Touch pad backMultitouch (capacitive)
CamerasFront-facing camera, rear camera
SoundBuilt-in stereo speakers Built-in microphone
SensorSix-axis sensing system (three-axis accelerometer 3-axis gyro), 3-axis electronic compass function
LocationBuilt-in GPS Wi-Fi enabled location services
Key SwitchesPS Button Power Button Directional buttons Action buttons (△, ○, ×, buttons □) Left stick, right stick START button, SELECT button Volume control
Wireless CommunicationsMobile network communication (3G) IEEE 802.11b/g/n (n = 1x1) compliant (Wi-Fi), Bluetooth

And here's the pretty machine in all its prototype-glory:



After having a couple of hours to digest everything, here are a few thoughts:

Overall it does add up to a very big deal. For a start having a quad-core processor offers power way beyond anything on the portable market (be it phone, console, tablet and even laptops are only just getting there.

The 3G Data Connection is enough to keep the unit alive and portable - way beyond what the PSP could offer - but also distinguishes it from the PSP Phone and rival systems. Everything else in the spec just adds to developer's flexibility to create great games.

As for what's outside the box, well the current design is rather retro compared to all the mock-ups and renders. I'll have no trouble loving it, but you have to hope a PSPGo-like model emerges at some point.

The in-progress interface looks a lot closer to how phones work than the PSP or PS3 do, which I guess is a good thing, the bigger screen space has been put to good use and as the front is a touch screen, there is no need for button-based navigation.




And finally, to the games list, along with trophy support (yay!) Being this powerful, almost any PS3 ox Xbox game could make it over to the NGP, but the list of games on show, in their prototype forms were:

  • Call of Duty
  • Uncharted Portable
  • Killzone
  • WipeOut
  • Resistance
  • Monster Hunter
  • Lost Planet
  • LittleBigPlanet
  • Yakuza
  • Gravity Daze
  • Little Deviants
  • Hot Shots Golf

Now, while all the big names are there, and that is essential for the success of the console. I'm more interested in the new stuff - remember it took a little game like Angry Birds to really make casual gamers realise the iPhone could be a big place for gaming and it'll just take the buzz of a couple of similar titles to create a lot of interest in the NGP.

Publishers: The list is massive, in fact it is easier to list the notable exceptions:

id Software
Bungie (now they're free from Microsoft)
Blizzard (still no sign of a leap out of PC gaming)
EA
THQ
Ready At Dawn (which is a shame as they gave such great service to the PSP with God of War)
Bethesda

Finally, price - not surprisingly there is no mention but everyone seems to be fixating on the £280-£299 mark, which would be okay and a date, any time after October seems likely.

Note to self - start hitting the developers for screens, video and project schedules. Create publisher and title pages, start populating.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Even Engadget's Preview Can't Reveal PSP Phone's Secrets

So, Engadget got themselves a PSP Phone (Xperia Play). But even their technical prowess can't get them inside the real power of the machine, reduced to playing only a couple of Emulators and Android games.

So, the power inside this beast, that is now showing some roaring benchmarks according to the post, remains hidden until Sony unlocks its own special little store and the rest of the PSP part of the equation. A mild round of applause to Sony Ericsson for keeping that part well wrapped up, so that even with the inevitable leak, it still has a bag of tricks for the real launch.

Still, as an Android model it looks like the only one a real game player would want and that alone should see it do pretty well in a bustling market. Bring on tomorrow, or Mobile World Conference in Feb when the final unit gets the big unveiling.

As for Engadget, they've done little more than the many Chinese leakers, only providing some better quality pics. Quite a poor show for such a 'big' site.

Another new PSP game hits No.1 in Japan

For months it has been Monster Hunter Portable 3, last week it was ACE-P and now its the remix of Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep taking over the No.1 spot in Japan.

The full chart over at Andriasang, has four PSP titles, but ACE-P dives like a plummeting mech from 1 down to 11. Sales are all pretty weak, but Venus and Braves manages to sneak into the Top 10 with just over 10,000 sales.

PAL PSP Store Update 26 Jan

Not surprisingly a bit of a quiet week, given the news to come tomorrow. Still, a couple of new games and a couple of videos if you haven't got a clue what these games are.

Full Games

  • Spectral Souls: Resurrection of the Ethereal Empires £13.99 (video below)
  • Ys: The Oath in Felghana £19.99



PSone

  • Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation £7.99

minis

  • greenTechPLUS+ £2.49 (Video below)
  • Denki Blocks! £3.49



New Yakuza Game to be Unveiled at Sony PSP2 Launch?

A hat tip to @acidcrashx for pointing out a snippet on Andriasang where Toshihiro Nagoshi, the big cheese behind the Yakuza franchise updated his blog saying that he has a "busy day" tomorrow.

Tomorrow is, of course, the hoped-for launch of the PSP2 at Sony's PlayStation Meeting. So perhaps there's another new PS3 game, but it seems more likely that after a decent PSP outing with Black Leopard, a sequel to this big hitting Japanese franchise is all the more likely.

Note to self - check the tweets of all big name developers to see if any are flying off to Japan today.

PSP2 Using Same Chips as iPad2? - A Hard Sell

This rumour (that the PSP2 uses the same chips (see rumoured list below) as the upcoming iPad2/iPhone5) has been floating around for a day now, and I don't quite buy it.

The thing with the component (chips, RAM, screen glass, sensors and so on) supply chain is that Apple rules it with an iron fist and uses that power to hinder and limit all competition. Apple is hardly likely to let ARM flog Sony a million ARM processors when it can't get enough to make iPads.

Also, why would Sony abandon the Cell processor which has successfully scaled down over the years where it could be a competitive mobile product? If it stuck with Cell, that means it could also convert over a lot of PS3 games and code engines without much fuss.

Looking back Sony sold 185,000 PSPs on its launch weekend in the UK - so let's figure it needs a 1.5 million units across a global launch. Even if it could get them, there has to be a big question if it could keep getting the supplies after the launch for continued production.

I also recall problems that were delaying PSP2 were down to an NVIDIA chip - for Sony to dump a major partner quite far into development would be a big step. Of course, the chip market is a big place and there are other users of these processors, but I seriously pray there are no Taiwanese earthquakes this year, otherwise a lot of gadgets are going to sit unchipped and a lot of consumers will be very unhappy.

- Dimensions: 17X7.4X2.3 cm
- 5" OLED multi-touch screen (12.7 cm)
- Multi-touch trackpad
- Resolution: 960 x 544
- Quad core ARM Cortex A-9
- PowerVR SGX 543 MP4+
- 512MB LPDDR2 RAM (1GB devkits)
- 16GB flash + SD slot
- Wifi, 3G, bluetooth
- Acelerometers, GPS, gyroscope, front and back camera

PSP - JRPG Story of the Last Promise Site Updated

Japanese site Dengeki links to an updated site for JRPG Story of the Last Promise, which has the usual English captions to help you navigate through some small pics, a movie (below) and other information. Looks a bit prettier than the rest, but hard to get too excited.

The game is out in April in Japan, doubt it'll ever see the light of day here. It offers high-tempo battles and is produced by Uda Yousuke who was behind Persona 3. It doesn't seem to go a bundle on decent screens though, but from the thumbs it looks like a lot of effort has gone into the art side.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Our Survey Says: PSP2 Price Poll Results Are In

Earlier in the week [here] and on a couple of forums, I ran a poll asking people what they would pay for a PSP2 from a range of prices. The results are in and, based on a highly unscientific sample of 72 responses, the most popular price is £300 or £189. With over well over 50% of the vote.


I think that a lot of those gamers will be unhappy, given the high cost of all the technology that's supposed to be in the PSP2. But, for Sony's benefit, at least 10% of voters are prepared to pay up to $500 or £310. Of course, if it goes on-sale in phone shops on a contract, then initial pricing could be irrelevant - but frankly, if Sony has listened to the market, then PSP2 will be premium priced - but not insane.

Thanks to everyone who voted. If you didn't, what do you think it'll launch at? Let us know!

Is this a real PSP2?

Some sites are hawking this as the first image of a 'real' PSP2.

Oddly enough, I'd say not because the PSP2 will more likely use MicroSD OR M2 Memory cards and you won't be able to use a stylus on a rear facing touch screen.

Nice try - but no! Also, when launching a new PSP, Sony are contractually bound to put a pic of Gran Turismo 6 as a sweetner up there instead of a fake looking memorystick.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

PSP2 Takes the Kindle Approach to Roaming Connectivity

News in from Japan [Andriasang] originating from the Nikkei offers a hint of the PSP2's feature set. As with the Amazon Kindle, it will use a non-call 3G connection to allow users to download information when away from the home Wi-Fi point. Kindle users don't pay (directly) for the connection, Amazon takes the cost and builds it into their overall cost model.

Now, downloading a few 100K of book text is a lot different to game demos or low-latency gaming data, so its not the solution I was hoping for - a high-cost 3G or expensive 4G connection would be needed for decent gaming purposes. Still, at least at means the PSP2 can stay in touch when away from home.

Phone (PlayStation) Home

If Sony does offer the console through phone shops, then I suppose a contract is doable - but how many people want to suffer multiple phone contracts and how expensive would it be for lots of data use? Even then, 3G isn't really fast enough for downloading demos and the like - small content perhaps - we'll have to see.

This also opens up the question of who Sony will go with in the U.S. (AT&T or Verizon) and the UK (Vodafone, 3, O2 etc). In Japan its good old DoCoMo who have the widest ranging network in the country.

The other information revolves around an OLED screen which should be super-power efficient and a new HD processor, presumably a super-scaler for playing on the go, or outputting to a decent HDTV. That side of the machine is looking good, but at what price - the specs sound awesome, but with all these features must come a whacking great price tag?

How much would you pay for the PSP2?

Note - I mean the PSP2 that's being announced next week by Sony, NOT the PSP Phone (Xperia Play) That's a different gadget - read the blog for information on the different devices.

Please add your reasons in the comments!
How much would you pay for a PSP2?
$299 (UKP 189)
$350 (UKP 220)
$400 (UKP 250)
$450 (UKP 280)
$500 (UKP 310)
Results

Latest PSP Famitsu Scores, Valkyria Chronicles 3 & More

After a quiet few weeks, Famitsu had a bumper crop of PSP games for review this week, and while none of the them could match the might Wii-exclusive The Last Story (that bagged 38/40), PSP games still scored pretty well (links to official Jap sites where possible, some have English subtitles):

Valkyria Chronicles 3 – 9/9/9/9 (official site link)
Kenka Banchou 5: Otoko no Housoku – 8/9/8/8 (official site link)
Tsuku Monogatari – 8/8/8/7
(official site link)
Toaru Majutsu no Index – 7/7/6/6 (PlayAsia Link)

Valkyria is definitely headed our way, not sure about Kenka Banchou but it looks doable, and definitely not the other two.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sneaky page hunt for PSP2 details

I read a while back about all kinds of information being dug up by clever folk just by thrashing through likely URLs for a site, product or update. For example, most company quarterly reports are updated by 3Q, 4Q etc and by looking for the next one in the sequence you can sometimes find data on a public site before it is supposed to be published.

In that spirit, are there any tools that can run through whole site structures on the hunt for handy strings, like "psp2", "launch", "playstation meeting" and so on? Some massive companies have cocked up like this, so Sony or the big developers must be in with a chance.

Just a thought, comments welcome.

Posted from my iPhone

PSP2/PSP Phone Round Up of the Week

Well, the good news is its all happening next week, on the 27th. But last week we still found out some new stuff and had some curious thoughts. The worst news is Sega cancelling Thor, not because I'll miss another movie conversion but it sends a signal to all the other developers that its time to start moving on.

Now, hopefully, smaller developers will see a gap in the market for lots of quick and fun games, remember how long THQ and a few others stuck by the GBA? But the big boys will start to follow the herd and cull anything that's not a guaranteed seller.

1) What role will Qriocity play in the PSP2 infrastructure?

2) A plea that Sony and devs have lots of original ideas and MMOs for PSP2

3) A quick theoretical comparison of 3DS vs PSP2

4) The ever-shrinking PSP 2011 release list

5) Most popular article of the week - Are PS2 games coming to PSP2?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Another Century's Episode Portable knocks MHP off Jap Chart

New PSP release Another Century's Episode Portable has managed to finally knock Monster Hunter Portable 3 off the top of the Japanese charts, but the blame is being put (at least by IGN) on hardware shortages.

I guess you could add gamers waiting for the Monster Hunter PSP bundle to the number of PSP-less Japanese gamers but ACEP still sold 70,000 compared to MHP's 68,000. Both decent numbers in a quieter market.

The PSP itself dropped from 100,000 sales a couple of weeks back down to 29,000 which does suggest there is a shortage somewhere in the production line. But how hard can it be to reflash units destined to be unsold in the US or European markets and sell them locally? Or release MHP on the Jap PSN Store and I'm sure PSP Go sales would rise from their usual 1,000 a week.

Still, MHP has now sold over 4,000,000 copies putting it in gaming phenomenon territory, just behind New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Alas, 3rd Birthday would have hoped for more, languishing on under 250,000.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

MMOs to power the future of PSP2 and PS3?

Sony has made some comments today to trade mag MCV that gamers want more MMOs and online adventuring play in their lives. Now the PS3 is a given with DC Universe making a reasonable start.

Compared to more mature PC games like EverQuest II, EVE Online and others that have been around for years, it shows its lack of breadth and depth that it will evolve over time. However, the big question is - will there be a PSP2 edition so gamers can carry their heroes around on the go.

Or, take the engine and trim it down for the PSP2 platform and offer a more traditional MMO RPG that could become to America and Europe what the Monster Hunter franchise is in Japan. There are plenty of unloved developers at the moment, even old hands from Blizzard (the World of Warcraft geniuses) who know their way around the MMO scene, in need of a job and Sony has the budget and power to create the right universe and game for massive success, just a thought!

PSP2 connectivity, will Qriocity be huge?

Having seen lots of Sony stands at CES and in Japan with Qriocity - the company's new online media service - stamped all over them. The question is, will this be the media engine behind Sony's PSP2 movies, music and other content sharing that answers a heavily quoted Bloomberg article which says:

"Sony will be outlining a strategy to use its networked entertainment services to share games, movies, and music among handheld products, TVs, and other devices." That strategy has to involve Qriocity - something I'd like to try but since I have a Jap PSP, it refuses to play ball.

Given that it was added to PSP and PS3 recently, plus Bravia TVs and other devices, it looks like this is Sony's iTunes - done bigstyle unlike its previous media disasters that have been the niche of the niche and quietly shut down.


PSP2 vs. 3DS

Its hard to critique an announced product against an all-rumour one, but I'll give it a quick go based on what I saw from yesterday's myriad of Nintendo announcements.

First, there is no way on earth my kid (currently a happy DSi player) is playing with a 3DS, in the real world, I buy him the right sized shoes to keep his feet healthy so I won't buy something that might screw with his developing eye-sight, even though he's nearly seven and out of Nintendo's defined no-play age range.

Also, I'll want a damn good play in-store before deciding if I can use it without getting eye-strain or headaches. In fact, if I was a more consumer awareness-type, I'd want a medic in every store to check potential buyer's eye condition before purchase. Now, that would give the tabloids a field day.

Back to the games, the line-up for the 3DS looks solid enough now, but its all old-hat - I'm looking for new things to play. With PSP2 I'm looking for real, high-calibre FPS titles, online RTS and RPG games - and bags of NEW games. I want it to do the big console experience on the run but I also want stuff that no other console has.

I think the 3DS gives developers one more go to rehash their old wares in a slightly new way and give the minimum of effort. Hopefully the folks working on PSP2 games have a little more time and creativity to come up with a new wave of games.

Clearly, the PSP2 is going to be a powerhouse and more expensive than the 3DS and that will count against it on the shelves, so I don't expect the tables to be turned in this generation but all PSP2 has to do is offer something that little bit different to tempt me. Roll on the 27th.

Of course, I'll probably get both in the end, but the core gamer in me wants more than the 3DS is offering - a Wii with legs, I don't really think so.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

PSP PAL Store Update Jan 19 - mild mini madness

Already tweeted about the January sale, with lots of offers. But, can Sony come up with something to divert from all the Nintendo 3DS news today? Um, no - what we get is a bunch of minis including a cunning puzzler, Shift: Extended




Plus something called Metara that I can't find much out about and a host of card games under the Basha label. Then there is Soccer Bashi (a former WiiWare title) that brings back fond memories of Arkanoid:




Finally there is Pipe Madness, a pipe building game where you don't even get to control the direction of the pipes, hmmm!

Monday, January 17, 2011

PS2 games coming to the PSP store?

Here's an interesting one, I saw a post on the Digital Spy PlayStation forum at the weekend about Vice City (not Vice City Stories - which triggered an eyebrow but not my brain) being available for free on the PSP store. I leapt for my PSP, having already grabbed Manhunt 2 in this manner, followed the instructions, only to get the message "Only available for PSP Go".

So I thought - bugger it - and thought no more about. Until this morning when Spong ran this article. So, either there was a minor case of brain fade on the behalf of a Sony person or something is going on in the background. It'll be cool to find out which, particularly with the PSP2 being easily powerful enough to run PS2 games.

Friday, January 14, 2011

PSP 2011 Release List

Here's what to look forward this year on the PSP (UK list, compiled from various sites - but should be broadly similar around the world) . Will add a PSP2 list as news leaks out, if I've missed anything here, let me know.

Jan

Feb
04 Lord of Arcana (Square Enix)
11 Test Drive Unlimited Essentials (Namco) (CANNED? - NOTHING ON NAMCO SITE)
25 Tactics Ogre (Square Enix)


Mar
08 Phantom Brave (Nippon Ichi) (UMD and PSN in US, PSN only in Europe)
12 Dissidia 012 Duodecim (Square Enix)
17 God Eater Burst (Namco)

Apr
01 - WWE All Stars (THQ)
01 - 3rd Birthday (Square Enix)
12 - Patapon 3 (Sony)
22 - Final Fantasy IV Complete Collection (Square)
29 - Thor (Sega) - CANCELLED

May
06 - Guilty Gear XX (PQube)
17 - The Little Battlers (Level 5) (US Date)

Q1
Battle vs Chess (Topware)

May

July
Captain America Super Soldier (Sega) (Was listed as PSP, but there is no PSP logo on the site and given that Sega has canned Thor, suspect this might go the same way)

August
TNT Racers (Keen Games)
Black Rock Shooter (jrpg) (Japanese release, but hope it gets an official western outing)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How can the PSP2 be as powerful as a PS3?

Sony, by way of a press that in no way likes to inflate such claims, is saying that the PSP2 should be roughly equivalent in processing power to the PlayStation 3 and be capable of games similar to those developed for the launch of that console.

Looking at the sleek lines of a PSP and the bulk of the original PS3, and even the new PSP3 slim isn't that slim, its a big claim to swallow. Still, lets take a look.

The original PS3 had a 3.2GHz CPU with six synergy cores (plus one for the OS and one disabled). Plus 256Mb RAM and 256Mb Video RAM, plus the RSX graphics chip. It launched in 2006.

[UPDATE] Battery life - having just seen the Xperia Play with a 1500mha battery, which is a little larger than most Android phones and given the original PSP came with an 1800mha battery that dropped to 1200mha for later models, I guess power management has improved enough for the PSP2 to manage for a few hours on at a 2000mha battery or less and given Nintendo is only claiming 3 hours for the 3DS, anything around that will be considered fair game.

In comparison, the original PSP was launched in 2004, runs at 333MHz (after Sony unlocked it from the original 222MHz) and had 32Mb of RAM. Now, I could dive into the fill rates, bus speeds and so on, but got bored of that years ago, when ATI and Nvidia launched so many graphics chips a year, it made your head spin. So I'll try and concentrate on the basics.

Rumour is the PSP2 has a four core Cell processor, so is only a third down in power on the PS3. It should also be noted that most early PS3 games did NOT use all of the cores as developers got to grips with the system. This matches up against one claim that the PSP2 will be more than half as powerful as a PS3. So, we're halfway there.

Size wise, the original Cell was a 90 nanometer part. Since then it has been shrunk to 65 and 45 nanometers (found in the PS3 Slim edition). Whatever the PSP2 uses, it will consume a lot less power than the original and the size of the processor is now small enough to fit in a portable. Heat may still be an issue in the confines of a handheld and you have to wonder if there will be a red ring of death syndrome?

For the extra performance, we have to look at the output, even at best the rumoured 5" screen will only be running 720p HD, and if there is HD-Out to a TV then upscaling should be easy to achieve.

So, the processors can work on more of the game content, physics AI and so on than it does wrangling textures and polygons to whatever graphics chip it uses. Finally, if the PSP2 does use a Cell processor then the engineers and developers now have almost 10 years of experience with it, Cell is now a known quantity that can be handled like a more like a house cat, than a feral beast.

Advances in coding techniques and middleware should see developers able to concentrate on the game code and not worry about fighting the system. Those improvements alone should see the PSP2 produce games on a par with the PS3 without melting the hands of the user due to heat and raw current.

Hopefully some chip details and raw numbers will be revealed on the 27th and then people smarter than me can crunch those numbers and prove to the nth decimal point just how powerful the PSP2 will be.




PSP2 Physical Media - Disc or Cards?

So, as the rumours go the PSP2 will use physical media in some form, allowing shops to sell games in their quaint, old school way. But "which form?" Is the big question.

Discs in the modern age are just too slow and noisy, especially on a portable. So, I think it has to be memory cards in some format. The price of all forms of card storage has tumbled over the years. I now pay the same for an 8Gb MemoryStick as I did for a 128Mb stick when the PSP first came out.

So, I would imagine a custom new card format that has a bunch of copy protection features built into the chip would be the way to go. Perhaps registering the code for that copy of the game with your PSN account and stopping more than three or four other users from running it. So, you can lend it to friends, but can't torrent it (theoretically).

Package that in something that children can't eat or destroy and it could end up looking like the good old Atari Lynx carts with more pins thanks to the wider bit buses of today. That would also limit the need for extra system RAM (as opposed to storage RAM) on the machine with just a smaller buffer needed than for wonky old UMDs that, I guess, were prone to read delays from bumping and jostling.

[UPDATE] - Some sites are reporting the use of mini Blu-ray discs, which numbs me with dread, I hate that whirring sound and its still going to be slower than reading Flash data.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

PSP Store Update 12/1

With the news of a possible PSP2 launch event, hopefully a decent PSP2 store interface will make these posts redundant, you know offering video and pics of the game you want to splash out on. Also, if you've got one - remember to grab the iPhone PSN app that launched earlier in the week.

But, for today, we have:

New
Angry Birds - £2.49 (no need for video of this one I think.)
Buzz: Ultimate Music Quiz £21.99
Crystal Mines £11.99 (demo available)
Jane's Hotel £2.49 (game site)

Sales
Tomb Raider Chronicles £7.99
Blood Bowl £9.99
Pro Cycling 2010 £13.99
Driver (PSOne) £2.99
Alien Havoc (mini) £2.49
Bubble Trubble (mini) 2.49


PSP2 Launch Event Rumoured in Japan

January 27 is the day to book off school or work if multiple rumours [VG24/7 among others] are to be believed. So, just two weeks to see exactly how many horses this beast has under its sleek shell and what kind of storage, shop and other essentials it packs.

[UPDATE] - The event is confirmed and is to be called "PlayStation Meeting."

Basically, this device needs to be a:

  • PS3-class gaming machine
  • Playable on big and small screen
  • Vast catalogue of emulators and games
  • High quality store with good price range
  • New IP games to encourage western multiplayer gaming (get the HMP effect going)


That also leaves two weeks for some more leakage to occur, but Sony are doing a better job than Sony Ericsson of keeping this thing largely under wraps.

So, expect a very late night on the 27th if this turns out to be true and a lot of hectic translation. Any one know how much a ticket to Tokyo is these days?

What else do you think Sony should have in the bag to make this a success?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

PlayStation iPhone App Now Live

The logic of this is quite daft, but you can now check your PSN account details, trophies and the like on an iPhone. As a PSP-only user, the app is rather limited in that respect, since Sony never bothered with Trophies on PSP, but PS3 users can probably get more from it.


Where it does come in handy, is you can finally see screens and videos of games that are on the PSN store before you decide to buy them, something that PSP users can't do because of the PSP store's limited interface without resorting to a computer.
Still, the app looks pretty enough and offers news, small features and other information, showing just how little Sony are bothering about the little console. You can also catch the Sony blogs that offer a little more detail. Just begs the question why this app doesn't exist for the PSP? Get it here.

PSP Phone Specifications Outlined

Just to clarify, the details for the PSP Phone are as follows: (nicked off various Chinese sites) and I've added some links to the components so you can take a closer peek.

Actual Name: Xperia Play
Launch: Around April 2011
Price: $499.99 (¥45,000)

Spec:
OS: Android 2.3
GPU: NVIDIA Kepler (which wasn't due out until 2H11, so someone got a wiggle on, or the leaked date is wrong)
CPU: Adreno 205 - this is also a GPU, so the leaker is all over the place here, or translation is failing.
RAM: 512MB
Memory: 512MB

External storage: MicroSD

The following translated text also rambles on, if you can figure out a clear meaning, good luck:

PlayStationStore only available for download to PSP, such as titles and HomeBrew Apps
Adopted as the main display touch screen Android can do, similar to smart phones
PSP is equipped with a standard emulator, PSP compatible emulation by invoking Title
Launch in February at Mobile World Congress officially announced

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Future of PSP/PSP Phone/PSP2 Game Pricing

Having watched the PSN store closely for most of its existence, it is clear there is a new trend emerging that will be important for the PSP2 and PSP Phone, as and when they become established.

It isn't rocket science, but the roughly observed trend is:

Launch at full price (£32.99 is common)
Reduce price a month later (£22.99)
Call a sale a further month later (£13-15.99)
Release as "Value" some six-ten months on (£7.99)

So, the hard core fans rush out on day one and pick it up. Cost concious buyers are sucked in the next two months at the right bite point and, finally, everyone else gets tempted in due course.

Two things will be interesting to watch. Pro developers like EA/Ubisoft are manipulating prices on the iTunes store to get more prominence for their games. Near a big selling season, prices tumble. With the PSP2 and PSP Phone stores being all-digital, will they play the same tactic considering the more traditional gamer that the consoles are aimed at.

Secondly, with typical iPhone game prices for more 'hardcore' games being around the £6 or £7mark - how will the publishers justify charging £20+ for a PSP Phone equivalent? It'll be fun to watch the justifications start, especially with deeper iPad/Android 3.0 tablet games that run around £10-11. Ultimately, new game prices have to come down, even if they are made up for by charging for add-on content.

Finally, I wonder with this always-on connectivity that we're seeing. Will more games be released as free trials with unlocks to get people playing first and then paying up as we see on lots of Xbox 360 titles?

Resident Evil 2 playing on the PSP Phone

Just came across this video while doing some digging Biohazard 2 and Rage Racer being played - they look cool but don't think much of the menu system... unless its a PSOne emulator he was playing?

Which makes you wonder if this is an official app for the phone, or someone has just flung their PSP data onto a mini memory card and found that it works. Either, way that's an intriguing concept and while the phone won't get far on the old-games-here motif, it'll appeal to us more grizzled gamers.



Sunday, January 9, 2011

US Hardware Sales - Everything Down #PSP Plummets

  1. Xbox 360 - 378,773
  2. Wii - 294,017
  3. Nintendo DS(i) - 279,268
  4. PlayStation 3 - 159,941
  5. PlayStation Portable - 80,427
  6. PlayStation 2 - 65,843
The US December hardware sales figures show how bad things are for Sony and why it needs to get the PSP2 out as quickly as possible. The PSP barely sold more than the 10-year old PS2 and was miles behind its regular competition... with no wide-appeal games in the pipe, the time to concentrate all the effort on PSP2 is now.

But, for those into core gaming, there's a bunch of good stuff to look forward to as 1UP's latest guide shows. In fact the PSP feels rather Dreamcast like now, home to niche and cool games that the rest of the world will ignore.

PSP Sales 2010, a penultimate bad, bad year

Regardless of how reliable you think their numbers are, VGChartz has last year's sales figures across all formats and its grim news for PSP software makers. Only one PSP title makes it into the all formats chart (Monster Hunter Portable 3) while only three PSP games sold over a million copies (the other two being Kingdom Hearts and MGS: Peace Walker)

Below that, another five managed over 500,000 sales; Gran Turismo, LittleBigPlanet, Assassin's Creed, God Eater and Monster Hunter Portable 2G. Compare that to the other formats out there:

DS - 15 million+ sellers
Xbox - over 20 million+ sellers
PS3 - over 20 million+ sellers
Wii - 18 million+ sellers

That's how weak the PSP is and why development is falling through the floor. You can but hope that devs are switching to PSP2 on the quiet and Sony will have a decent launch release list (to batter the rather feeble 3DS lineup). That's about Sony's only hope of getting a decent (and global) run on its rival and offering something that gamers feel they "need" to buy.

Alongside launch games in volume, Sony needs:

A) A very high-quality app, game center and store experience for the PSP2.
B) New multiplayer IP that can replicate Monster Hunter's success in Japan around the world.
C) Massive Multiplayer portable gaming (iPhone hasn't cracked it yet and a World of Warcraft-like experience would see the PSP2 with a strong USP.
D) Interoperability with other systems, pretending that one maker's stuff just works in its own little universe is so last century.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Japan software sales: PSP Monster Hunter still raging ahead

Monster Hunter mayhem shows little sign of abating in Japan selling almost three times as much as the No. 2 game.

Third Birthday maker Square must be a little disappointed about its performance, but surely the MH-playing hordes will start looking for something else to play soon (okay, scratch that thought).

Those Idol lovers in fourth spot must be having a great time, wonder if they can jig up a version of America's Next Top Model using the same engine?

  1. Monster Hunter Freedom 3 (PSP) - 283.931
  2. Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii) - 107.487
  3. Wii Party (Wii) - 102.933
  4. AKB1/48: If I loved an Idol (PSP) - 63.513
  5. Mario Sports Mix (Wii) - 58.109
  6. Pokémon Black / White (NDS) - 57.576
  7. Ni no Kuni: The Ebony Wizard (NDS) - 53.295
  8. Inazuma Eleven 3: World Challenge!! The Ogre (NDS) - 45.306
  9. The 3rd Birthday (PSP) - 45.105
  10. Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 (PS3) - 43.283

Latest Japanese Hardware Sales Figures, PSP Still On Top

Here are the latest numbers for hardware sales in Japan with PSP still nicking it ahead of the DSi and romping ahead of other formats. But with the Monster Hunter effect starting to wear off, what will be the next big sales driver?

  1. PlayStation Portable - 108.786
  2. Nintendo DS(i) - 99.578
  3. Wii - 77.307
  4. PlayStation 3 - 76.422
  5. Xbox 360 - 3.708
  6. PlayStation 2 - 2.480

PSP Games Heading to PSP Phone, why bother?

To prove that the PSP Phone (Xperia Play) is looking like a crazy idea, I read in a Digital Foundry piece that:

Our sources tell us that existing PSP titles will be ported to the phone which makes much more sense, but this introduces its own challenges: firstly it requires a substantial investment from Sony in bringing over its flagship titles, and secondly it means that third-party publishers will need to splash the cash in order to port over their existing catalogue of PSP titles.
Apart from the top 10 on metacritic and a few usual suspect brands, most of these games have sold next to nothing. Porting them to a new device which is most likely to attract gamers who have played from before is, largely a waste of time. Sure, if these can be played on all Android phones then fair enough, but, then, what's the point in the specialist gaming phone?

Its all starting to go a bit wonky on the focus front for Sony and Sony Ericsson, what with a special store for its own games and these other quirks coming in. Time to start wondering how Sony will manage to arse up the PSP 2 launch I think.

Sony Ericsson Fails to Launch - PSP Phone Goes Ahead Without Them


The world, his dog and its fleas were expecting the PSP Phone (or Xperia Play) to be announced by either Sony or Sony Ericsson yesterday at CES show. Instead a Chinese leaker has done all the launching for them with pics, gameplay footage and other details that are now splashed across gaming sites around the world.

Even if the "ecosystem" of store, finalised firmware and other bits and bobs aren't ready, all a man from SE had to do was stand on a stage and go "here's the device, here's the pretty pics, now go and write stories."



Instead we have grainy footage and wobbly cam shots and will do all the stories now, somewhat undermining whatever SE finally does when it gets round to the "official" launch.

When the iPhone 4 leaked from Fortress Apple, due to a drunken escapade, every other company that sells gadgets on the planet should have seen the results and ensuing media damage (remembering that most press aren't as friendly to others as they are to Apple) and established some ground rules.

1) As soon as the hardware design is finished - show it off - in all its glory! Get that out of the way and any leaking will cause minimal damage.

2) Hold the real launch! Then you have all time in the world to get the back end, the firmware and essential launch titles ready to go, get them right and then decide on a launch date without the pressure of having your big launch spoilt.

Any other approach leaves the company just waiting to be blown out of the water!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Monster Hunter, Dissidia PSP Bundles Unveiled in Japan

When you're hot, you're hot. So Sony is cranking out more themed hardware in Japan according to this story on Dengeki. The MHP3 bundle offers a 3000 model with two variants, black and red or blue and white.

The Dissidia 012 bundle is a tasteful pearl white with black inked art across the face and the logo on the back, very pretty and the pick of the bunch.



For the girls there is also a pink generic bundle that comes with a 2GB stick and a pouch, all tastefully colour matched.

MGS Peace Walker now on "the Best" in Japan

So, you've sold an extra few hundred thousand PSPs on the back of Monster Hunter Portable 3, now would be as good a time as any to offer Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, the console's second best selling franchise at a bargain price.

Here's a look at the neat boxes they get, a bit better than Europe's grey Platinum cases. It joins Ninja Gaiden on PS3 in the latest bunch of rereleases.

PSP Patapon 3 Lovers Get Extra Storage

Not sure if I get the translation right, but attendees to upcoming Patapon 3 test days in Japan will be getting a neat little bag as a reward for their participation.
Not the greatest gift ever, but still a cool extra for the Patapon Devotee, the full game is out in April and the demo is also out today. Original story in Famitsu which has a minisite devoted to the game.

You can download the demo on this Sony page, click the link and follow the pop-up windows until you can click on a white box at the top to download the demo.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

PSP Euro Store Roundup 5/1/2011

Happy New Year, here's the latest from the European PSP store, a odd-ball new action game from Russia, a cool looking mini shooter and some price reductions:

New

The Red Star £13.99 (Some sort of 3D platform/fighting.action game - video doesn't seem much cop)



Sale
Legends of War: Patton's Campaign £15.99
Blood Bowl £9.99
Tour de France £13.99
Uno 79p
Driver (PSOne) £2.99
Alien Havoc (mini) £2.49
Bubble Trubble (mini) £2.49

minis
Sky Force £2.49 (neat little shooter from the iPhone)


Family Games £3.49

NeoGeo
Alpha Mission II £5.49


Art of Fighting £5.49
Samurai Showdown £5.49

Extra content

Prinny
Netherworld Radish £0.79
Super Netherworld (free)

PSP Another Century's Episode - Portable reviewed in Famitsu


Banpresto mecha game Another Century's Episode - Portable is one of just four games getting a review in this week's Famitsu, picking up scores of 8,8,8,7 making a decent 31/40.


The game site, http://www.ace-game.jp/, has some English to guide you through and lots of content including movies and a typically anthemic soundtrack. Packed with stats, this looks like classic Japanese gaming fodder that would be fun to play over here but probably won't make it.

New FFIV pics, Monster Hunter sales and 20 PSP games for 2011

So, yesterday we got our first half-decent look at the PSP Phone (Sorry, Xperia Play) but still no gaming shots - I guess if someone activates the phone, Sony Ericsson police swoop in and bust you.

Today, there are some more shots of Final Fantasy IV in action for the original PSP - and very pretty it looks.


with lots more official pics over on Siliconera. I played the first Final Fantasy on PSP, just so that I had played a part of history really, hopefully this sequel is a little more evolved. Also, does anyone know if the Japanese version has English text, like that original did?

And, Monster Hunter has now shipped four million copies in Japan, making it the fastest selling PSP game in history, according to Capcom. I bet SCEA and SCEE had a game that had done half as well to boost the PSP in the west.

Finally, Gamrfeed has a list of 20 games to look forward to in 2011, some of these are already out in Europe and some are just run of the mill sequels, so don't get too excited.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

More PSP Phone Screens Leak

Well, it had to happen with its official unveiling either at CES this month or Mobile World Congress the next, there had to be enough PSP Phones around for someone to snap one. And here's the latest model with all the right badges on.


Similar in size and shape to its sister smartphones, you can see there is minimal Sony branding, making this a distant cousin, something the PSP2 will crap all over in gaming terms. There are more, rather similar pics at here. These leakers really should get on a photography course!

It apparently runs the latest Android 2.3 OS. Still, we have yet to see the thing playing any games and can't wait to find out how it performs. In the main though, this is just a gadget in the middle of a marketing war that will find a small niche, not much more.