Friday, September 02, 2005
Sony PSP sets sights on UK gamers
BBC News | By Alfred Hermida | Technology editor, BBC News website | Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 August 2005, 07:50 GMT 08:50 UK
Sony's new handheld games console, the PlayStation Portable (PSP), is finally going on sale in the UK on 1 September after months of delay.
The PSP is arriving in Europe nine months after it hit Japanese stores and six months after the US.
The gadget is a games console that can also play films and music, and be used to browse the web wirelessly.
It marks Sony's first foray into handheld entertainment, which has been dominated by Nintendo's GameBoy.
Some shops in the UK have already sold their allocation of machines, which retail for £179 (249 euros). In the US the console sells for $249 (£138) plus tax.
"It is only so often that an iconic gadget comes along. The iPod is one of them and this is the next one," said Jason Jenkins, deputy editor of T3 gadget magazine.
"There is something about it that transcends a normal product. This is definitely the must-have gadget for Christmas."
So far, Sony has sold more than five million PSPs in the US and Japan. The company is looking to sell a million in the UK by Christmas.
For the games industry, the PSP offers a much needed shot in the arm as it is expected to tempt more people into the world of gaming.
It's difficult to see where Nintendo goes from here. The PSP is so good and can do so many things, I can't see what their strategy is going to be
Jason Jenkins, T3
"History suggests that the video game market is driven by new technology launches," said Simon Soffe, spokesperson for Game, Europe's largest retailer of video games.
"We've been taking orders for a long time and are geared up for a lot of demand. We expect demand will outstrip supply, at least initially."
More than 30 games titles will be available at launch, including the critically acclaimed Wipeout Pure and Ridge Racer.
The release of a PSP version of the best-selling Grand Theft Auto, probably in October, is expected to boost sales.
But Sony talks of the PSP as a portable entertainment device, with more than 30 film titles already on sale for it and more coming.
The head of Sony Computer Entertainment UK, Ray Maguire, said the PSP was designed to appeal to more than gamers.
"We want to engage people through interesting content," he said, explaining how Sony plans to use built-in wi-fi to offer downloadable video and music clips.
The machine is Sony's first portable games machine, challenging the dominance of Nintendo's handhelds such as the GameBoy Advance and the DS.
But Mr Maguire shrugged off the notion that Sony was going head-to-head with Nintendo.
Nintendo GameBoy Micro
Nintendo is fighting back with a sleek version of its GameBoy
"The PSP is in its own space," he said. "The PSP delivers so much more than any other individual device.
"Ours is a market of people who are looking to go further than current devices."
Nintendo is the daddy of handheld gaming. Its GameBoy is the best-selling console ever, while its latest machine, the DS, has sold more than six million units worldwide.
"It's difficult to see where Nintendo goes from here," said Mr Jenkins of T3. "The PSP is so good and can do so many things, I can't see what their strategy is going to be."
Nintendo is fighting back by releasing a new, smaller version of its GameBoy, called the Micro, in November.
It is also counting on new releases such as Nintendogs for the DS, where players look after a virtual dog, to keep sales of its hardware buoyant.
It is hoping that Nintendogs will help it reach a sales target of a million DS consoles in the UK by Christmas
"As happened in the home console market, there is room for several brands as they appeal to different kinds of customers," said Mr Soffe from Game.
"Each different brand is doing so many different things. There is so much to attract consumers."
Sony promotes vision of mobile video
By Darren Waters
BBC News entertainment reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 August 2005, 06:49 GMT 07:49 UK
Sony's Playstation Portable (PSP), which launches in the UK this week, is being touted as the first true mobile entertainment device.
The PSP is released in the UK on 1 September
Designed primarily to play games, it also stores digital photos, plays MP3 music files and video.
Hollywood has rushed to embrace the device and scores of films have been released including Spider-Man 2, Swat, Dodgeball, and Kill Bill.
In Japan, Sony has started a basic TV service, offering film trailers and TV programmes for download and playback on the PSP.
And the piracy world has also got in on the act - illegal copies of films and TV programmes that have been formatted for the device can be downloaded.
So is the PSP the future of mobile TV and video?
"Previous devices haven't sparked the public's imagination but the fact it has [film] studio support could mean that it could be a successful format," says Paul Callaghan, an analyst with trade journal Screen Digest.
Its appeal is that it is a broad personal entertainment machine
Sony Picture Home Entertainment
A number of pocket computers, mobile phones and media players can already play video - but unlike the PSP, none has been given strong support by film and TV companies.
Films for the PSP come on a new disc format, the Universal Media Disc (UMD). The small disc can hold three times as much data as a CD - enough for a DVD-quality movie.
More than three million UMD movie discs have been sold in the US with two films - Resident Evil 2 and House of Flying Daggers - selling 100,000 copies each in the first month.
Major studios Fox, Universal, Paramount, Buena Vista, Sony and MGM have all pledged films for the device, with Warner and Dreamworks still to embrace the format.
More than 20 films are available on UMD for the PSP
Mr Callaghan says: "One of the problems that early portable video players faced was a lack of studio support."
The lack of built-in copy protection or discs for sale meant studios were unwilling to provide movies, he adds.
The fact that most major studios have backed the format is a "strong indication the industry sees this as a market with a lot of potential", he says.
The PSP's widescreen format is designed to make viewing comfortable and immersive, while the bright screen also makes it possible to watch outdoors.
"Its appeal is that it is a broad personal entertainment machine," says Andy Armstrong, marketing director of Sony Picture Home Entertainment.
PSP vs DVD
But while the UMD has been a hit in the US, it is not doing so well in Japan.
A recent survey of Japanese PSP users found that only 10% had used it to watch a UMD movie.
Analysts say the UMD will never be as ubiquitous as the DVD.
More than 65 million US households own DVD players, while the UMD market is expected to grow to 25 or 30 million households.
"No console has ever reached the same penetration levels as the DVD player," says Mr Callaghan.
And while DVD sales are slowing in many countries - including a sharp fall in Japan - it will still be the home entertainment format of choice for some time to come.
There are also concerns from some users that UMD movies can be more expensive than the DVD equivalents.
The forthcoming release of 1984 film Ghostbusters costs £13.99 on UMD from Amazon's UK site but can be bought on DVD for £4.97.
Mr Armstrong says UMDs will be "complementary" to DVDs.
"The pricing reflects the investment behind the new UMD format. In time, that might be reviewed."
But the PSP can play video from other sources too. Content downloaded from the net can be saved to Memory Sticks for viewing on the go.
At the moment, legitimate TV content is thin on the ground - but pirates are filling the void.
Most pirated films and TV programmes downloaded from the net can be easily converted to watch on the PSP.
Some pirates are already providing "PSP friendly" versions of films and shows.
Elsewhere in the gadget market, a video iPod from Apple has long been anticipated - but the company has always denied interest in the market.
Mr Callaghan says there are still barriers before PSPs provide mobile video for the masses - such as the capacity of storage cards.
"Mobile video may never be as successful as the portable audio market," he says.
Sony PSP Finally Makes European Debut
Friday September 2, 2005 11:26 AM EST - By: Melanie Tan
Source: Red Herring
Sony brings to the European market its popular PlayStation Portable (PSP) mobile gaming system, and UK gamers are falling in line to ensure they can get one. It has been a long wait for the Europeans. The PSP was launched only now after a five-month delay due to a shortage of the gaming device. To ensure that supply meets demand, Sony is making 2 million PSP units available for the first two weeks of this European launch. It hopes to sell a million units by Christmas.
The PSP marks Sony's entrance into the US $4.5 billion portable game industry, which is currently dominated by Nintendo. It plans to play catch-up and sell 13 million units by 2006. Although Sony actually surpasses Nintendo's consoles in the market, it is behind the company when it comes to variety of portable games. So what Sony has done to make things more lucrative, is add movie capabilities to the PSP. In fact, about 30 UMD-formatted films are also being sold now for the Sony PSP. Critics think that it was not wise of Sony to rely on its proprietary UMD-format because then the movies can only be played on the PSP.
The Sony PSP hits retail stores for ₤179 (US $310) in the UK and 249 euros (US $327) all over Europe.
Sony PSP sets UK console sales record
The Register | By Tony Smith | Published Tuesday 6th September 2005 11:26 GMT
Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) sold 185,000 PlayStation Portable handheld consoles in the UK this past weekend, smashing the previous three-day record, set by Nintendo's DS in March.
Sony's sales, said market watcher Chart-Track, which provided the statistic, makes the PSP's UK debut the most successful console introduction in the territory yet.
The PSP went on sale in the UK on Thursday, 1 September, and Chart-Track's total combines sales on that day plus those of Friday and Saturday.
Nintendo sold 87,000 DS handhelds in the first three days' of the device's availability.
Many of the sales had already been made, thanks to pre-order campaigns run by retailers and online suppliers once Sony formally announced the handheld console would ship on 1 September. The PSP had originally been planned to arrive in the UK at the end of March, just after the DS debut. But the demands of the US launch, scheduled to take place in the same timeframe, forced SCEE to delay the European ship-date.
Chart-Track said 24 games were available at launch, more than any console has shipped alongside here. Twenty of them went straight into the company's Top 40, and nine entered the Top Ten. Sony's Ridge Racer took the number one slot, pushing the previous sales leader, Brian Lara International Cricket 2005 into second position.
Last Updated: Thursday, 1 September 2005, 07:43 GMT 08:43 UK
Handheld games console face-off
Handheld consoles have come a long way since the Nintendo GameBoy, offering better graphics and more functions. On offer is something for everyone, from multimedia capabilities of the Sony PSP to the quirky gameplay of the Nintendo DS.
Click the links below for our guide to the current crop of handheld consoles.
GameBoy Advance SP
Last Updated: Thursday, 7 April, 2005, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
PSP embraced by DIY technicians
More than two million PSPs have gone on sale]
DIY software and hardware experts have been quick to embrace Sony's PlayStation Portable console.
A glut of "homebrew" features for the device have already been released, many of which were not part of Sony's official plans for the machine.
The PSP is a handheld console, which has wireless capabilities, and can play music as well as video games.
Tools for web browsing and online chat are among the first to appear since the console launched in the US and Japan.
The developments are not sanctioned by Sony but the firm has not commented on the homebrew tools.
The $249 (£130) PSP handheld video game player went on sale in the United States on 24 March and within 24 hours one man had a working client for Internet Relay Chat (IRC), an older online messaging platform.
"I was on IRC, and someone mentioned how cool it would be to use their PSP on wi-fi at Starbucks to talk to people over IRC. I said, 'I can do that', so I began working on it immediately," said Robert Balousek, creator of PSPIRC in an e-mail interview with news agency Reuters.
European gamers have to wait to play PSP
Mr Balousek said about 100,000 people had visited the IRC client, and he is starting work on a new project that would let PSP users chat on the AOL Instant Messenger network.
Hacking new video game hardware is not new but the speed at which people have started to produce their own applications for the PSP is impressive.
Other "hacks" include a way to transfer TV shows recorded by the Tivo digital video recorder to the PSP, a program for reading e-books and a viewer for comics downloaded from the internet.
While many of the tools are probably in development by Sony in an official sense, some PSP owners just could not wait to get started.
Much of the new PSP functionality comes from using the web browser built into the racing game Wipeout Pure, which was meant to go to a Sony site.
By changing some of the PSP's network settings, the browser can be pointed to an internet portal.
A number of people have already set up such portals, formatted to fit in the PSP's screen and offering links and a place to enter web addresses.
Other "hacks" include getting the PSP to play all games wirelessly over the internet and playing multiplayer games with only one copy of the game.