As early as mid-2006, we were being regaled with tales of a forthcoming UMD-free PSP 2 portable gaming system. In the ensuing three years there have been more rumors as well as the release of the evolutionary PSP-2000 and PSP-3000 systems, both of which are based on the UMD, a Sony-proprietary DVD-like storage device. The UMD has been a constant source of criticism for the PSP, with many claiming it is the major cause of the long load times that plague the majority of games on the system.
Earlier this year we heard more interesting rumors, this one coming from Dave Perry, well known game developer and Chief Creative Officer for Acclaim. The rumors got much more attention than usual because of Perry, and spread like wildfire until Sony dismissed it as untrue. The last shot in the firestorm was Perry asking Sony’s chief John Koeller to ‘confirm the PSP2 WILL have a UMD’, to which there was no reply.
Now about six weeks later we have yet another anonymous source claiming to PocketGamer that they have inside knowledge that not only is the rumor true, but that the system will be announced at E3 in June and ship in time for Christmas.
The rumors gain traction because many folks believe that Sony needs to do *something* more aggressive than what they have been doing, and that the combination of long load times and the failure of UMD movies signals the overall failure of the medium. We know that when the DS Lite launched in mid-2006 the PSP was actually leading the DS in sales worldwide, but has now been outsold by 2:1 and is actually losing market share each month.
The latest rumors feature a PSP2 similar to the fan-made rendering above, with slide-out controls, dual-analog sticks (to address another common criticism), and new to this rumor is a touch-screen. The theory is that this would allow a bigger screen without making the device larger, and allow you to watch video or play simple games (like LocoRoco) without opening the slider.
Of course, with no UMD, games would need to be delivered some other way – and the widespread belief is that Sony’s PlayStation store is the delivery method. Already, PSP owners can grab PSOne Classics and even some PSP games from the ‘UMD Legacy’ collection to direct download to your Memory Stick storage and play.
I am personally somewhat skeptical of this theory because my experience with the PSP and PlayStation store has been one of s-l-o-w delivery. One evening I downloaded a PC game from the Steam service that was ~5GB, and then a ~350MB PSOne game for the PSP, one after the other, and they took about the same amount of time to download despite both connecting wirelessly to the same router. I can’t imagine downloading a series of 1.8GB games at the slow rates I’ve experienced so far, but would be willing to try to get rid of the UMD!
To see the evolution of the PSP, check out the following (picture courtesy of):