Why I'm Waiting

It’s the 15th of March, and I have not preordered a PlayStation Portable.

I, myself, am rather surprised by that fact. I am a videogame enthusiast, am I not?

I love the technology, the stories they tell, the worlds that they create, and the experiences that they provide. I love the way people react to them, the way they get “sucked in.” Watching the news, I even love the way that people are driven to love or hate them.

Then of course, I love playing the games.

So why no PSP for me? I technically own three GameBoy Advances. (That is an awkward plural. I say “technically” because I’m counting the DS for its backwards compatibility.) There is also an original GameBoy Color and a Neo Geo Pocket Color.

I admit, I’m tempted by its large, brilliant screen, its multimedia capabilities, the WiFi, the graphics (Oh lord, the graphics!), and a myriad of other technical reasons. And of course, the games. There are some excellent looking titles at launch. Lumines in particular really calls out to me. I’m all about the music puzzle games.

It’s a compelling system, an ambitious undertaking by a company that really wants to take a bite out of Nintendo’s territory.

So why not? Probably several reasons.

There’s a battery issue. The PSP uses Universal Media Discs, not cartridges. There’s a tiny optical drive in there. That means a motor to spin the disc, and another motor to move the laser to and fro to read the disc. There’s also powering the laser. Granted, the UMD can hold a lot of data, but an optical drive is not something you want to have if in your system if your battery is not up to the task.

I’ve seen my laptop battery drop from 90% to 50% just by watching a DVD. I can only imagine what the actual battery life on the PSP is going to be like. Sony addressed this issue earlier, stating that battery life is a concern that developers will need to address. As of the last time I checked, the battery will last all of two hours if you’re watching a movie on UMD.

If you’re playing a game, it’s a little better. Four to five hours. If you’re using headphones. At half volume. With the brightness turned down to medium. Not using the WiFi capabilities. And if the game doesn’t use a lot of 3D graphics. So, I’m thinking two, maybe three hours for games. I must be spoiled from the 10 hours I get from the Nintendo DS, and that thing has two screens.

Sony has already stated that they’re going to release a bigger battery, and has pointed to their earlier product lines as examples. The Walkman, which initially had a horrible battery life, enjoyed longer playtimes as its technology improved. I think Sony believes that this statement is going to prevent buyer’s remorse. It certainly makes me feel better, but more so for not preordering one.

I would like to point out that they said, “We are going to release a bigger battery.” They did not say, “We are going to integrate a larger capacity battery for the US release.”

Then there’s the Square button issue. When the PSP was released in Japan, there were a few individual PSP units (approximately 5,000) that had a manufacturing defect. The square button would sometimes get stuck in the down position and not come back up. Sony eventually offered repairs for the unlucky early adopters, but there was a period of time when the company even refused to acknowledge the defect. Sony says that they have tracked down the problem and PSPs manufactured in March of this year no longer have this issue. (Plastic casing around the buttons not being trimmed properly.) With the US launch date in less than 9 days, I certainly hope so. I have never called Sony customer service, and I hope I never have to.

Then there’s the fact I have to buy a whole new form of memory storage. They give you a 32 MB Memory Stick Duo to start, because the “first one is always free.” But in order for you to play movies or music, (That you’ve ripped yourself) you’ll have to get a larger one.

Add the fact that this is Sony’s first revision of their first handheld multimedia system, (not to mention the first revision of its operating system) and you have a convincing argument that weighs very heavily towards the “wait until later” course of purchasing.

Oh, and initial reviews of the Japanese units pretty much agree that the headphones and remote suck. Just FYI.

I’m not saying that I’m never going to get one. I just feel that there are a lot of factors that make me want to wait until at least the second revision of the hardware.

I am an early adopter. I’m normally up there in the front lines, at the midnight, with my fully paid preorder slip in my hand.

But this time, I’m just not feeling the push.

Or, maybe I’m just waiting for the other colors that they promised.