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The PlayStation Portable (officially abbreviated as PSP) is a handheld game console released and manufactured by Sony Computer Entertainment. Its development was first announced during E³ 2003, and it was officially unveiled on May 11, 2004 at a Sony press conference before E³ 2004. The system was released in Japan on December 12, 2004, the United States and Canada on March 24, 2005 and in Europe and Australia on September 1, 2005. The PlayStation Portable offers the ability to play video games, watch videos, listen to music, view images, as well as Internet browsing functionality. However, most people would agree that the games, for the most part, are fucking horrible.
Variations and accessories
The PlayStation Portable is available as part of the Value Pack or Core Pack, and in most territories it is also available as part of a Giga Pack and an Entertainment Pack. In Japan a base unit package or Core Pack was available at launch and was later released in North America and Europe. The Core Pack contains the console, a battery, and an AC adapter. The Core Pack retails for USD $199, CDN $229.99, EUR €199, AUD $299.99 and GBP £149.99.
The Value Pack contains everything the core does, as well as a 32 MB Memory Stick Pro Duo, earphones with remote control, a slip-case, a wrist strap, and a Sampler Disc (in some territories). The Value Pack retails for USD $249.99, CDN $279.99, GBP £179.99, JPY ¥26,040, SGD $455.00, EUR €209, AUD $399.00 and NZD $429.00. In some areas, the Value Pack has been superseded by the Entertainment Pack, containing the items of the Core Pack plus a copy of ATV Offroad Fury: Blazin' Trails, the UMD movie Lords of Dogtown, and a 1 GB Memory Stick Pro Duo. The Giga Pack is similar to the value pack, except the Memory Stick Pro Duo is upped to 1 GB, and includes a USB Cable and stand. It retails for JPY ¥29,800, USD $299, CDN $349, and GBP £214. The Giga Pack is still available in all territories except North America, as the deal was based on a special offer that ended after the 2005 holiday season. Various other packages also exist.
Optional accessories offered by Sony include the PlayStation Portable headset, carrying case, extended-life 2200 mAh battery, headphones with remote control, battery charger, car adapter, accessories pouch and cleaning cloth, AC adapter, and system pouch and wrist strap.
Playstation Portable is currently available in five colors: black, white, pink, blue, and silver. The white variation is available in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, and Europe, while the pink variation is available only in Europe and Japan. The silver and metallic blue variations were released on 14 December 2006 and 21 December 2006 respectively in Japan exclusively.
There have been new releases of downloadable PlayStation games via emulation for the PlayStation Portable. Currently, this feature is only accessible through a service for PlayStation 3.
Despite its movie and music playback capabilities, the PlayStation Portable has primarily gaming-oriented controls (as opposed to the controls typical to television remotes or MP3 players): two shoulder buttons, the PlayStation face buttons (triangle, circle, cross, square), start and select buttons, a digital 4-directional pad, and an analog stick. There is also a row of secondary controls along the underside of the screen, for controlling volume, music settings (either switching the audio off and on in games or selecting different equalizer presets), screen brightness, and a "Home" button for accessing the system's main menu.
The PlayStation Portable's analog stick, often referred to as the analog "nub", is a circular disc which slides rather than tilts. The analog stick can also be easily removed and replaced with an alternative third party stick.
Demos for commercial PlayStation Portable games can be downloaded and booted directly from the Memory Stick Duo. Demos are also sometimes issued in UMD format mailed out to certain Playstation Underground (Gamer Advisory Panel) members or packed with some gaming magazines.
Greatest Hits titles
During E3 2006, Sony Computer Entertainment America announced that the Greatest Hits range of budget titles were to be extended to the PSP system. On July 25, 2006, Sony CEA released the first batch of Greatest Hits titles. The PSP Greatest Hits lineup consist of games that have sold 250,000 copies or more and have been out for 9 months. Every PSP game in this lineup will retail for $19.99 each.
Sony Computer Entertainment Europe announced at around the same time the availability of a number of titles under the Platinum range for €24.99 each in the Eurozone and £19.99 in the UK.
Multimedia and codecs
PlayStation Portable's audio player supports a number of audio codecs, including AAC, MP3, and WMA, and has the option to be played with or without a set of five visualizations. The image viewer supports displayment of several common image formats including JPEG and PNG.
MPEG-4 and AVC video formats are also compatible with PlayStation Portable. With reasonable video and audio bit-rate settings (a resolution of 320×240, a video bit rate of 500 Kb per second, and an audio sampling rate of 22050 kHz) a 22 minute video file is roughly 55 MB, enough to fit on a Memory Stick Duo as small as a 64 MB. At the same rate, a hundred-minute feature film can fit on a 256 MB Memory Stick. Many movie files, both free-to-distribute and copyrighted, have been encoded for the PlayStation Portable and are available on the Internet. Game and movie trailers are increasingly available, even from the studio's official site.
There are numerous software applications and hardware devices specifically designed for PlayStation Portable's various media-centric applications.
Camera and GPS
A camera and GPS attachment were first announced for the PSP in March 2006. The Quick Shot (ちょっとショット, Chotto Shot?) is a camera add-on supports video and photo taking. The camera was released in Japan in early November 2006 for around ¥5,000, appx. $44 USD. The GPS receiver will feature support for GPS-enabled games such as a projected re-release or update of Hot Shot Golf, as well in Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops. The GPS is set to be priced around ¥6,000, appx. $54 USD.
The PlayStation Portable can connect to a wireless network through Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11b which allows it to surf the web via the built-in Access Co. NetFront browser and connect to other PlayStation Portable units for multiplayer gaming world-wide. The Playstation Portable holds the unique distinction of being the first game console to launch with games supporting online gameplay. Use of wireless network features increases the power consumption and lowers the battery life.
Ad-hoc wireless networking allows for up to 16 PlayStation Portables within range to communicate directly to each other (typically for multiplayer gaming). One unit acts as the host for a game, which is available to other PlayStation Portable units within that system's range, and appears in a list when the client PlayStation Portable searches for available hosts. One can also use an Ad-Hoc network to send images from one PlayStation Portable to another by use of the "send" and "receive" functions that appear in the "PHOTO" menu.
The PlayStation Portable's main menu allows the user to configure the system for use across the Internet or an intranet via a wireless connection, known as infrastructure mode. The PlayStation Portable's menu can recognize protected and non-protected wireless networks within its range, and supports connecting to WEP and WPA encrypted networks.
Use of infrastructure networks in PlayStation Portable software began with a small number of titles at the U.S. launch, supporting online play. South Korean PlayStation Portables have shipped with software providing web browsing and multimedia streaming features, but only through company-owned Wi-Fi hotspots, and with a monthly fee.
Sony's Location-Free Player allows users to watch television on their PlayStation Portable over the Internet. Through the Location-Free Player, users can view and control their TV from anywhere they have access to a wireless network.
The PlayStation Portable features an IrDA port located on the top left of the device; however this is not currently used by any games or any system features, but is by several homebrew applications.
Some titles for the PlayStation Portable support a feature dubbed "gamesharing", which facilitates a limited set of multiplayer features between two PlayStation Portables with only one copy of the game UMD. A reduced version of the game being shared is transferred to the PlayStation Portable without a UMD via the PlayStation Portable's Wi-Fi connection, whereupon it is loaded into RAM and runs.
Such "gameshare versions" of titles usually have their feature set reduced because of technical limitations. This is mainly due to transfer times since data for the game must be transferred to the second PlayStation Portable wirelessly, at a rate of 11 megabits per second.
The RSS features allow the user to download video web feeds, blogs, or listen to podcasts from websites. RSS or podcast content can be saved to the Memory Stick Duo.
Design and specifications
The PlayStation Portable was designed by Shin'ichi Ogasawara [小笠原伸一] for the Sony Computer Entertainment subsidiary of Sony Corporation. Early models were made in Japan but in order to cut costs, Sony has farmed out PlayStation Portable production to non Japanese manufacturers, mainly in China.
The unit measures 170 mm (6.7 inches) in length, 74 mm (2.9 inches) in width, and 23 mm (0.9 inches) in depth, and has a mass of 280 grams (a weight of 0.62 lbs) including the battery. The TFT LCD screen measures 110 mm (4.3 in) diagonal with a 16:9 ratio and a 480×272 pixel resolution capable of 16.77 million colors.
The PlayStation Portable's main microprocessor is a multifunction device that includes a MIPS R4000-based CPU, hardware for multimedia decoding (such as H.264), as well as a vector unit dubbed "Virtual Mobile Engine". The MIPS CPU core is globally clocked between 1 and 333 MHz. During the 2005 GDC, Sony revealed that it had capped the PlayStation Portable's CPU clock speed at 222 MHz for licensed software. Its reasons for doing so are unknown, but are the subject of some speculation. Various homebrew tools enable users to operate at 333 MHz, generally leading to a higher framerate at the expense of battery life.
The system has 32 MiB main RAM and 4 MiB embedded DRAM. There is no memory management unit for the CPU. No evidence of a TLB has been found. The coprocessor that normally manages the TLB-based MMU seems to be a custom effort by Sony and has no integrated memory.
The 166 MHz graphics chip has 2 MiB embedded memory and through its 512 bit interface provides hardware polygon and NURBS rendering, hardware directional lighting, clipping, environment projection and texture mapping, texture compression and tessellation, fogging, alpha blending, depth and stencil tests, vertex blending for morphing effects, and dithering, all in 16 or 24 bit color. The graphics chip also handles image output. Specifications state that the PlayStation Portable is capable of rendering 33 million flat-shaded polygons per second, with a 664 million pixel per second fill rate.
PlayStation Portable's battery life varies widely depending on application from less than 3 hours while accessing a wireless network and having screen brightness on its highest setting to more than 10 hours during MP3 playback with the screen turned off. A sleep mode is also available that uses minimal battery power to keep the system's RAM active, allowing for "instant on" functionality.
The PlayStation Portable's main menu interface is the "Cross Media Bar" (XMB) used by recent Sony TVs, the PSX (DVR) hardware, and the PS3. It consists of a horizontal sequence of icons, in this case Settings, Photo, Music, Video, Games, and Network, which show a vertical sequence of sub-icons when highlighted.
The main menu system allows the user to, amongst other things, adjust settings such as date, time, and the PlayStation Portable's nickname for wireless networking, play video or audio files from the memory stick, load games or movie UMDs, check on estimated battery life, and set the PlayStation Portable into a "link mode" which makes the inserted memory stick available to a PC via USB. The XMB may be accessed at any time in a game by pressing the "Home" button on the console.
The PlayStation Portable's default background color changes depending on the current month of the year, as follows:
- January – Light gray
- February – Yellow
- March – Green
- April – Pink
- May – Dark green
- June – Purple
- July – Aqua
- August – Blue
- September – Violet
- October – Gold
- November – Light brown
- December – Red
The user may also manually pick a specific color theme or specify a background from any stored image on the PlayStation Portable memory stick.
Each PlayStation Portable runs a particular version of the PSP firmware, which comprises the device's operating system and additional core functionality. Firmware updates can be obtained in three ways:
- Direct download to the PSP over Wi-Fi. This can be performed by choosing "Settings", "Network Update" from the XMB.
- Download to a PC, then transfer to the PSP via a USB cable or Memory Stick.
- Included on the UMD of some games. These games may not run with earlier firmware than the version on their UMD.
While firmware updates can be used with consoles from any region, Sony recommends only downloading firmware updates released for the region corresponding to the system's place of purchase. Firmware updates have added various features including a web browser, Adobe flash support, additional codecs for images, audio, and video, PlayStation 3 connectivity, as well as security against several security exploits and vulnerabilities. The current firmware version is 3.03.
In May 2005, it was found that PlayStation Portables using the 1.00 version of the firmware (meaning original, first launch Japanese-only PlayStation Portables) could execute unsigned code. What this meant in practice was that these PlayStation Portables could run homebrew software, as the mechanism for checking to make sure that software has been approved by Sony had not yet been activated. Later exploits have allowed for PlayStation Portables using later versions of the firmware to run homebrew applications, and development of both new exploits to bypass restrictions and new restrictions to limit unauthorized programs is ongoing.
Controversial advertising campaigns
- Sony admitted in late 2005 to hiring graffiti artists to spray paint advertisements for the PSP in seven major U.S. cities including New York City, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. The mayor of Philadelphia has filed a cease and desist order and may file a criminal complaint. According to Sony, they are paying businesses and building owners for the right to graffiti their walls.
- News spread on in July 2006 of a billboard advertisement released in the Netherlands which depicted a white woman holding a black woman by the jaw, saying "PlayStation Portable White is coming." Some found this to be racially charged due to the portrayal of a white woman subjugating a black woman. Two other similar advertisements also existed, one had the two women facing each other on equal footing in fighting stances, while the other had the black woman in a dominant position on top of the white woman. Sony claimed that the purpose of the advertisements were to contrast the white and black versions of its game console available for sale. These ads were never released in the rest of the world, and were pulled from the Netherlands after the controversy was raised.
- Sony has recently come under scrutiny online for a viral marketing campaign for the console, with advertisers masquerading as young bloggers who desperately want a PSP. The site was registered to and created by youth marketing company Zipatoni on behalf on Sony before it was taken down.
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- ^ Kris Graft (2006-12-07). UPDATED: Nov. Game Industry Sales Up 34%. next-gen.biz. Retrieved on 2006-12-14.
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- ^ Chris Roper. "PS Biz Brief 06: New PlayStation Portable Package, Pricing, More: US and Europe to see reduced-cost packages; more white PlayStation Portables in Japan", IGN, 14 March 2006.
- ^ 2 nouvelles couleurs pour la PSP !. Kingplayer. Retrieved on 2006-11-04.
- ^ SCEA announces that PSP Greatest Hits are available for purchase. SCEA. Retrieved on 2006-08-04.
- ^ The System.
- ^ "Online-enabled PlayStation Portable to hit Korea in May", Gamespot, 28 March 2005.
- ^ Mark Hachman. Sony Details PlayStation Portable Chip Specs. Extreme Tech. Retrieved on 2006-03-18.
- ^ Nix. Hard Charging: PSP Battery Life. IGN. Retrieved on 2006-12-02.
- ^ PS Meeting 2005: PSP 2.00 Details. IGN.
- ^ System Software Update. Sony. Retrieved on 2006-11-23.
- ^ Sony Draws Ire With PSP Graffiti
- ^ Owen Thomas and Oliver Ryan. "Sony PSP ads spark cries of racism", CNN, 5 July 2006. Retrieved on 2006-07-31.
- ^ Andrew McMaster. "PSP X-Mas Blog Spoof Video Appears", Retrothinking, 12 December 2006. Retrieved on 2006-12-13.
- ^ Brendan Sinclair. "PSP hype site draws backlash", Gamespot, 13 December 2006. Retrieved on 2006-12-13.
- Official PlayStation Portable website (Europe)
- Official PlayStation Portable website (US)
- SCEA PSP Specifications press release
- PSP on 1up.com
- PSP on GameSpot
- PSP on IGN
- Sony PSP As Personal Media Player – Detailed review on MP3 Newswire focused on the PlayStation Portable's movie and audio abilities
- Sony PSP Handheld Entertainment System – In-depth 8-pages review, Ars Technica, 28 March 2005
- Sony PSP: One year on – An in-depth review of the PSP's first 12 months in Europe, Pocket Gamer, 4 September 2006