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PSP v. DS: Round 2

With Sony's pricing announcement, the handheld wars heat up.

By James Stevenson and Troy Roberts     October 29, 2004


Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSP).
© Sony Computer Electronics

Sony recently announced that it would sell the PSP in Japan for $185, and $235 in a value pack with battery headphones, carrying case, and memory card. This is well below the expected $300-350 price point that analysts and Sony insiders had been predicting. In this week's Gamers' Thumb, James and Troy talk about what this means to the DS vs. PSP debate.


The announcement that the PSP costs $185 in Japan really blew me away. I was totally, completely shocked. I didn't know how it was possible, Sony reps had been quietly floating me $300-350 price points, I told them I thought it would be a slow start, and that was going to be even more true after Nintendo announced a $150 price point. Apparently Sony figured it was going to have to take some early losses to join in the portable fun, much like Microsoft with the Xbox. I've seen estimates online that Sony is losing $200-300 a PSP unit sold. That's an incredible amount, and given the demand for this thing at the roughly $200 price point, they could lose hundreds of millions of dollars on this.


Nintendo can't be happy though, for fifty bucks more, the PSP looks really attractive as a game system. Still, Sony hasn't

Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSP).

answered all the questions. The battery life of four to six hours was with the sound at medium, the screen slowly lowering its brightness, and no wireless. Amp that all up and we're looking at maybe three hours? Who knows, but I doubt it's that great. Plus, the low price point doesn't count all the neccessary accessories such as the memory card and maybe more importantly, a carrying case. This thing doesn't look as durable as the DS units I've played with, and the big screen just screams "scratch me". One other interesting facet is whether or not Sony will have a killer-ap that will sell these things. At this point, PS2 ports might not do it, although with the sleek sexy look, it may be something casual gamers can get behind.


All in all, I think this makes this handheld fight a lot more interesting. Sony is now infringing on Nintendo's territory with the price point, something I didn't feel it was doing at a $300-350 point. Before Nintendo would be content to sit and take its market and let Sony have its section, now it may be a bigger dogfight. How much you want to bet SUPER MARIO BROS. DS (the new 2D Mario game) or another huge Nintendo first-party game (MARIO KART, ANIMAL CROSSING) hits the same day as the PSP? -JS


Obviously, Sony's announcement comes as much of a surprise to us, as well as the entire gaming community. Many people were expecting Nintendo to have a lead going into the first handheld wars in some years, but with Sony's announcement that the PSP will be under $200, that could change the tide of things. I for one can say that I have thought twice about picking up the Nintendo DS next month now.


There are a few concerns I have for the PSP though. With the system not having a flip screen like the DS or GBA SP, the screen seems more prone to scratches. Especially with it being as large as it is. One look at my original GBA will prove enough concern for me (and I'm relatively easy on systems). The battery life doesn't do too much for me. While Sony may tout the four to six hour battery life, when you throw in wireless gaming with a bright screen and you're looking at probably half of that.


The system looks really sharp though. I keep becoming more and more impressed with the screenshots and video I see of it. NEED FOR SPEED UNDERGROUND really does it for me. I have a feeling that Nintendo won't go down without a fight, but I really think Sony just upped the stakes. -TR


TIDBITS



Blizzard Entertainment has announced the end of the closed beta for WORLD OF WARCRAFT...Bungie has announced that HALO 2 will not support LAN or online co-op play. The only way to play co-op is on a single system. Fans will weep upon release...Namco's RPG BATEN KAITOS has gone gold...Eidos has revealed that BACKYARD WRESTLING 2 will not support online play...


 


ON SHELVES



Big week for games starting with a huge

LORD OF THE RINGS: THE THIRD AGE.

Game of the Year Contender in RATCHET AND CLANK: UP YOUR ARSENAL. I haven't played SAN ANDREAS or HALO 2 through yet, but right now they'll have to be impressive to beat out UYA. Sony's first-person shooter KILLZONE hits - but can it divert attention from Bungie's upcoming sequel? Finally, RPG and LORD OF THE RINGS fans will dig EA's THE THIRD AGE, a FINAL FANTASY-style RPG that features new characters that weave in and out of the events in the film. Thus begins one of the biggest months in videogaming history.



Gamers' Thumb is our weekly Video Game column.



Questions? Comments? Let us know what you think at GamersThumb@cinescape.com.

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