Gaming To Go: Sony Unveils New, Smaller Portable

Chris Morris|Special to

Sony is not backing down in the increasingly competitive field of portable gaming devices.

The company today officially unveiled the PSP Go, a completely revamped version of its PlayStation Portable gaming device, which it hopes will better compete against the Nintendo DSi and Apple iPhone. The system will hit store shelves Oct. 1 for $249.

Once again combining gaming with entertainment, the PSP-Go will let users watch movies, listen to music and play games. All will be available from the PlayStation Network store, which users will be able to connect to wirelessly.

With 16GB of onboard flash memory, built-in wi-fi and bluetooth support, the system will not utilize the proprietary UMD storage medium of the original PSP. All games, instead, will be digitally distributed.

Aesthetically, the PSP-Go is 50 percent smaller than the original PSP and features many of the same characteristics of today’s slider cell phones. System and gameplay controls remain hidden behind the 3.8-inch screen until the user slides them out.

Sony will reboot the PSP-Go with some of its biggest franchises to support it, including "Gran Turismo" and "Metal Gear Solid."

In terms of video programming, owners will be able to download films and TV shows directly from the PlayStation Network.

"It’s going to be easier than ever to download video or gaming content directly to the PSP," said Kaz Hirai, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment.

Sony does not plan to discontinue the existing PSP-3000 — and will sell both at retail.  (The existing PSP costs $169.) This echoes the strategy Nintendo employed when introducing the DSi earlier this year.

The company will continue to manufacture games on the UMD storage system for current PSP owners who prefer to own a physical copy of their games.

The portable gaming market has quickly become one of the fiercest battlegrounds of the gaming industry. Nintendo remains the dominant player, as it has since the introduction of the Game Boy 20 years ago, but the number of competitors has greatly increased. In addition to Sony’s redoubled efforts, Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch have captured gamers’ imaginations.

Games and hardware for the systems are cheaper, which is particularly appealing in the current economic climate. And the ability to play games or watch video programming wherever and whenever you want is an increasingly big draw for players.

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Sony’s initial effort in the space fell far short of expectations. At the time, Sony was the king of the video game hill, but was unable to make any notable impact on the field.

The company prides its products on having a 10-year life cycle. This revision of the PSP may represent the system’s best chance at having that sort of longevity.

News about (and video of) the PSP-Go leaked last week, prior to Sony’s E3 press conference. The company acknowledged the gaffe with good humor.

"We consider ourselves to be industry leaders and press leaks are no exception," said Jack Tretton, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America.