First off, that’s not me getting really excited in the headline. It’s just the dilemma you get when a product name comes with its own punctuation. Sigh.
Anyway, 1UP heard from unnamed inside sources that Sony’s next handheld console will ditch the UMD drive and get a spunky new name, likely the PSP Go!, but possibly the PSP Slide or PSP Flip. This story, of course, goes into the rumor pile at least until E3, when Sony will probably show its hand.
But it’s a juicy rumor. We’ve heard rumblings about a new PSP before, most notably from Acclaim COO David Perry, who said with certainty that the next model would lack a physical disc drive. This time, the proximity to E3 and the amount of detail in 1UP’s story lends greater credibility. Besides, the “Go!” name seems to be sticking in other reports around the Web.
The new PSP will reportedly include a choice of 8 GB or 16 GB of flash memory and a sliding screen with the controls hidden underneath. 1UP says the controls will not include a second analog stick as previously speculated, but will instead closely resemble the existing PSP’s combination of D-Pad, analog nub and buttons. If the story pans out, the new model will reach Japan in September and the US a month or two later.
The biggest change, of course, would be the lack of physical media. Recent announcements of download-only games for the PSP were billed as experimental, but perhaps Sony has already made up its mind. If so, its a pretty staggering change when you think about it. Sure, the iPhone’s App Store, et al, are carving out their own downloadable territory, but no major game console has shown the daring to drop hard copy games completely.
There are concerns to be addressed, of course. What would owners of existing PSPs do with their UMDs if they want to upgrade? And how does GameStop feel about this? Would the store carry boxes with download codes, as is planned for the upcoming Patapon 2, or would it somehow sanction Sony for gradually moving customers away from retail?
If only to see how the industry transforms, I hope this story comes to fruition, and that Sony finds success with the new business model. Shelf space only constrains the amount and type of games a console can offer, so perhaps a UMD-free PSP will attract new developers and audiences, and breathe life into the brand.