Happy birthday, PlayStation Portable!
On March 22, 2005, exactly one year ago, Sony's PSP handheld first went on sale in North America.
What a wild year it has been.
Despite a $249 retail price, the system's initial shipments flew off store shelves, no doubt helped by a strong launch line-up that included games like Lumines, WipeOut Pure, Ridger Racer, and Twisted Metal: Head On.
We're still playing WipeOut Pure, now 12-months later, thanks to all of the free download content that has been made available through the game's Internet-based "downloads" menu. Few companies have taken advantage of the PSP's ability to deliver on-demand content from the Internet, but Sony's WipeOut Pure team sure showed everyone how to do it right. If you hadn't noticed, Sony made a few secret ships available a few weeks ago.
After the initial launch period, the release schedule slowed to a crawl, allowing Nintendo to sell a few more DS systems. Summer gave way to fall though, and gave PSP owners more to love in the form of Burnout Legends, SOCOM: Fire Team Bravo, and Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories. To date, GTA: LCS is the system's best-seller, having sold more than 820,000 copies in North America alone.
We have to give special credit to Sony's own SOCOM: Fire Team Bravo, for being the first game to support the company's microphone peripheral, allowing gamers to voice-chat while blowing one another away. SOCOM: FTB was also the first game to support connectivity between the PlayStation 2 and PSP. Gamers that own both games can unlock side missions that aren't otherwise available. Daxter, which was just recently released, also supports the feature, allowing gamers to unlock new crafts in Jak X: Combat Racing for the PS2.
The PSP also changed the landscape of the flash memory industry. Back in March 2005, it cost nearly $200 to bring home a 512MB Memory Stick Pro Duo (if you could find one). Up to that point, Sony's memory format was primarily a niche oddity reserved for people that owned Sony's digital cameras and camcorders. Thanks to the popularity of the PSP, however, people began to buy Memory Stick Pro Duo cards in significant quantities. Sony and Sandisk responded to the increase in demand by ramping up production, introducing higher-capacity models, and lowering prices. Currently, 1GB memory sticks can be had from online retailers for less than $70! High-capacity 4GB and 8GB cards are on the horizon, ensuring that prices will remain affordable.
In recent months, new game releases, once a rarity, have become the norm for the PSP. Third parties have blessed us with such standouts as Mega Man Maverick Hunter X, Street Fighter Alpha 3 MAX, and Exit, all of which have been met with critical and popular praise.
How are Sony and other companies observing this milestone anniversary? By releasing more games, of course!
Daxter, Mega Man Powered Up, and Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror just hit shelves last week.
This week, we've got to shell out more cashola for Capcom Classics Collection Remixed, Me & My Katamari, and Metal Gear Acid 2.
It doesn't get any easier for our wallets in the coming weeks, as games like Untold Legends 2, Outrun 2006: Coast to Coast, Field Commander, and Gradius Collection are just around the corner.
If you don't yet own a PSP, now is a great time to get one. In addition to all of the great games that have come out and are soon to come, Sony has started shipping a $199 Core Pack, which shaves $50 off the price of the Value Pack by eliminating the included 32MB Memory Stick, headphones, and soft case.
What about summer 2006 and beyond? Most companies won't unveil their upcoming products for the latter half of 2006 until the Electronic Entertainment Expo in May, but we're already chomping at the bit for two key releases that were recently announced by Capcom and Namco — Extreme Ghosts N Goblins and Tekken: Dark Resurrection. Extreme Ghosts N Goblins is a jazzed-up remake of the classic arcade and NES hit, whereas Tekken: Dark Resurrection is a handheld version of the Japan-exclusive Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection arcade game.
Perhaps the best indicator that the PSP is here to stay is Sony's recent announcement that the company is developing an EyeToy camera for the handheld. If all goes as planned, the camera and games supporting it will go on sale sometime in the fall, just in time to be put on holiday wish lists.
All in all, the PSP has been a smashing success. Yes, the system is pricey, and yes, there have been slow periods where new games were nowhere to be found… but look at all of the great, high-quality games we're now able to play thanks to Sony's diligence. With the PSP, the company has managed to break into a market once solely owned by Nintendo, and we're all better off for it.