The PSP Go may have been the worst-kept secret of this year's E3 show, but Sony's press conference supplied the official details. The Go is smaller than the PSP 3000, has a slide-up screen and doesn't have a UMD (Universal Media Disc) drive. Nor does it have any game-changing upgrades, such as a touchscreen or second analogue stick. The Go will be available in the UK on 2 October for £250 -- a shocking hike on the US price of $250 (£150).
Here's a roundup of the Go's features and specs, as we understand them so far.
The Go has a 97mm (3.8-inch) screen, compared to a 109mm screen on all previous PSP models. It's said to be 43 per cent lighter than the 3000, which means it would weigh in at about 110g. The Go's design is very reminiscent of that of the Sony mylo, with the screen sliding up to reveal the controls.
The Go will offer 16GB of built-in flash memory, expandable via a Memory Stick Micro (M2) slot. There's no UMD drive on the Go. While that no doubt allows for the smaller size (and, we hope, the potential for better battery life), it also means there's no way to play existing PSP software you might own.
While the layout may be different, the control scheme on the Go is little changed from earlier PSP models: a four-way d-pad on the left, the standard quartet of geometrically coded Sony controls (circle, square, cross and triangle) on the right, select/start buttons in the middle, and the PlayStation home button to the left of the screen.
A second analogue control is always at or near the top of wish lists for PSP redesigns, so its absence is a disappointment. At the same time, sticking with the same control scheme means game compatibility between the Go and older PSPs is assured. It remains to be seen whether the single stick's placement -- closer to the centre of the control deck, rather than the outside right, where it sits on earlier PSPs -- will be problematic for seasoned PSP gamers. That said, the Go's control layout is more closely aligned to that of a traditional full-size PlayStation controller.
In addition to Wi-Fi support, the Go adds Bluetooth capability to the Sony handheld platform for the first time. That should allow standard Bluetooth headsets (and, presumably, A2DP headphones and speakers) to pair with the Go.
There's also the ability to tether the Go to a Bluetooth-enabled phone. That would potentially allow Web browsing and online gaming via a tethered phone with a 3G data connection when Wi-Fi access isn't available. Another possibility (though pure supposition) is that you could pair a Bluetooth-enabled PlayStation 3 controller with the Go.
At Sony's press conference, the company confirmed new PSP versions of many of its most popular franchises. Notable titles -- many of which will be released in 2009 -- include LittleBigPlanet, Gran Turismo, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier, MotorStorm Arctic Edge, and SOCOM Fire Team Bravo 3. The first Resident Evil game for the PSP is scheduled to appear next year as well.
PSP games will be available for download directly from the PlayStation Store over the console's Wi-Fi connection. In addition to direct download, Sony says that 'all' new PSP games will continue to be available on UMD, too. We have to wonder how long that'll last, given that the company seems to be embracing digital-only distribution on titles such as Patapon 2. But, since older PSPs can also access and play download-only titles, the eventual death of UMD shouldn't make them obsolete.
Digital media support
The Go boasts the same support for music, video and photo files as earlier PSPs, so you should have no trouble transferring gigabytes of media from a PC or via the M2 flash media card. Downloadable movies and TV shows can be purchased directly from the PlayStation Store over Wi-Fi -- there's no more need to use a PS3 or PC as an intermediary. Despite early rumours of a PSP-centric music store, Sony's instead opted for a partnership with eMusic. In other words, users can purchase DRM-free tracks from any online music store (Amazon, iTunes, eMusic and so forth) and simply copy them over to the PSP.
Sony will be releasing software called Media Go to help users manage the PSP's content on their PC. This replaces the older, and not terribly useful, Sony Media Manager software. The company is also promising a feature called 'Sense Me' that will analyse your music library to play music based on the mood that you choose.
Again, it appears that the existing interoperability between the PS3 and the PSP line will be carried over to the Go. That includes the ability to cross-load some games and media, as well as the remote play option that allows you to access PS3-based content from the PSP over the Internet.
We're hoping to get more details on the Go in the weeks and months ahead. Chief among our unanswered questions are: does the Go support video out like the 3000? What's the battery life like? Does the screen have the same weird interlacing issues that bothered some users of the 3000?
Is it worth waiting for?
The PSP Go isn't the PSP 2, to be sure -- it's more like the PSP 1.5. Like Nintendo's done with the DSi, Sony is extending (and, it hopes, revitalising) a portable platform that's sold tens of millions of units worldwide. Considering that this is an evolutionary product -- the only real appeal is the smaller form factor -- the high price is certainly going to be a barrier for those who already own and enjoy a PSP.
On the other hand, owners of the older and heavier PSP 1000 and 2000 may find the Go to be the upgrade they've been waiting for. The PSP 3000, currently £140, will stay on the market, incidentally. But, with the DSi and iPhone/iPod touch competing for the time -- and pockets -- of casual gamers, the ultimate deciding factor may be the quality and desirability of the Go's games.
Additional editing by Nick Hide and Charles Kloet