Friday, April 1, 2005

My first experience with a PSP

I love gadgets. I'm a gadget crazed maniac who spends hours every week perusing Engadget and Gizmodo, drooling over the latest electronic bling-bling. I've been really quite curious about the PSP.

What I found was a mixed bag of features that targets hardcore gamers and leaves out the rest of the world. Do fanboi's really need another game platform?

The basics
The day it came out, several guys at the office grabbed a few of the shiny monstrosities. Let it be known that my first portable love is the Gameboy SP. It is small, cute and graphics be damned has some great games. The first shock of handling the PSP is how large it is. Both the DS and the PSP are not portables...they are luggables.

The next thing is inevitably the screen. Nice. Not "Wow, I'm going to sell my children to keep this", but "That's pretty neat" It is big and bright, yadda yadda yadda. Read other folk's impressions if you want to hear about the screen. Even better than the screen was the little details of the design. Clear plastic shoulder buttons? Mmm. The yellow power plug hole? Very cool. Whoever designed this case deserves a raise. It screams "I am a geek and I have the most powerful gadget ever. I will rock your world in a geek pissing contest."

But honestly, I don't really care about that sort of thing. I'm all about how a gadget 'feels' when you use it. Is it practical? Is it elegant? Are the buttons placed correctly? Give me a good UI in a decent case over a list of features any day.

Um...can I play the game now?
So we pop in Wipeout Pure. Cool intro screens and funky loading bar. Okay...That's fine. Now I'm in the menus and start wandering around to find the big shiny 'start game' button. Hmm...I can load games. Oops, there's that loading screen again. Finally, I get a game going.

But by this time I was bored. I generally have about 10 minutes to play a game on a bus ride going into work. If I have to spend two minutes screwing around with some attractive yet ultimately meaningless UI, it isn't even worth playing the game.

I guess I'm spoiled by 'press the on button. press start. play game.' I should be able to play the game in under 10 seconds.

The games
It is cruel to judge a system by it's first few games. They tend to suck since the developers are still building up their tricks of the trade. Having said so, Lumines is sweet. Admittedly, this is a game that takes about 1/50th of the PSP's processing power, but it loads quickly and is fun to play. My hope is that future developers will take this lesson into account.

The winner app
I read a post from an older fellow who said that he was happy to get a PSP because he and his wife watch TV in the evenings and he doesn't always like to watch what she watches. With his PSP, he can play games instead. The irony is so intense, I can't bear it. :-) "The PSP: Giving adults a way to ignore each other when they sit together in the living room"

All in all, the PSP is an intriguing device that will sell by the boatloads to geeky people everywhere. I can't imagine very many women purchasing it. Nor can I see it being used on commutes. The hardcore of the hardcore will buy it and they will spend dearly on it. The mags, which are populated by hardcore people, will gush over each new game. The Sony press engine will role on. Sony will hopefully make a good amount of money.

If a device like this dominates the portable game market, we further alienate the casual gamer. Maybe if we can grow the hardcore audience fast enough, that's okay. Still, a sexy device. If they ever come out with Animal Crossing on it, I'd buy it in a heart beat.

-Danc.