To UMD or not to UMD?

Games

UMD or Universal Media Disc, made popular by the Sony PSP as its proprietary media format, has long been the bane of gamers around the world. The UMD format is widely held as one of the many reasons why the PSP hasn’t succeeded in a few territories around the globe despite the inferior power of its direct competitor, the Nintendo DS and the DS family. In the early days, movies were also distributed on UMD although this didn’t last too long, so now you can pick up UMD movies second hand in stores and eBay for a song. UMD movies wasn’t a bad idea in theory, but why would you pay for a movie again when you already have it on DVD? So, as was predicted, a lot of gamers (read all) ended up just converting their DVD’s into the .MP4 format using one of many programs that had seemingly sprung up over night. Over time the PSN or Playstation Network was developed by Sony and launched, bringing with it digital media content such as downloadable demos, videos, wallpapers and full retail games that you paid for using a credit card or Sony prepaid PSN card like an iTunes card. This is where I believe things began to unravel as the PSN usually carried games that had been available for a while and were charging full price for them while at the same time you were able to go into any game store and buy the UMD version second hand or brand new, both ways yielding cheaper games than their digital counterparts. I mean why spend $55 on a game on the PSN when it could be yours for 1/2 that price or sometimes less?

This wasn’t such a big deal while the PSP1000, 2000 and 3000 were in existence but then another player was released by Sony to test the digital media content waters and that player was the PSPGo. A lot smaller, lighter and with a better screen than existing PSP’s but with a higher price bracket, the Go struggled to find an audience especially with it’s new digital content alienating existing PSP owners who were lead to believe that their games would be able to be transferred to the Go. This, as we know, never happened so the expectation was placed on us to buy our games again. And much like the UMD movie debacle only a few years earlier, we now know that that didn’t go down too well with gamers then and this piece of news wasn’t going down too well either. Slowly over time the PSN grew their library of games and began to also offer discounted titles as well as the ever popular PSOne games with such classics as Final Fantasy VII, VIII and IX being released over time. These were very well received, as well as the absolutely massive Metal Gear Solid which recounted Solid Snake’s first outing in 3D and sold by the bucketload, including being purchased by this very same blogger 🙂

Still though, there was no way that the PSN was going to compete with the power of the second hand UMD and so the Go was relegated to be known as the black sheep of the Playstation family. Probably another fact that didn’t help the Go was that in Australia, popular games retailer, Electronics Boutique or EB, refused to sell the Go as once they sold it, they didn’t stand to make any money off it due to the lack of UMD sales that went along with it. It was inevitable then that Sony, this year, announced that they intended to stop production of the Go, despite the ever growing list of free games that were made available to any new purchasers of the handheld system. The PSP300 meanwhile continued strong, and Sony announced that they would continue support of the popular handheld system. They also quoted another reason for dropping the PSPGo and that reason is the recently revealed true successor to the PSP, the PS Vita. The Vita, meaning “life” in Latin, was rumoured to be the PSP2 for a few months and was then known as the NGP or Next Generation Portable. It wasn’t until E3 2011 that the official name was revealed during the Sony conference. See more of the PS Vita during the E3 Sony conference here and here.

Now the point of this whole opinion or thought, if you will, is that I’m a recent convert to the PS Vita and will definitely be purchasing one much the chagrin of the poor Laucha (my wife *) I previously thought it was too big as it’s actually larger than an existing PSP and here I was thinking that the idea of new technology was to miniaturise not make it bigger; how wrong was I? 🙂 Now while I have thrown my support behind the Vita I can’t help but think of the game delivery system which is via new High Capacity cartridges not too dissimilar to the Nintendo DS or the newer 3DS. That’s great and all but once again Sony have left a lot of gamers out in the cold with the exclusion of a UMD tray for the discs that everyone owns. So, people who still have UMD games will either have to, 1) buy them again from the PSN, or 2) keep their existing PSP’s and carry two handhelds around. Either proposition isn’t too inviting. It would be great but unrealistic if the Vita’s were ale to copy the UMD straight to it’s memory card but then how do you combat piracy? I don’t pretend to offer an explanation or an answer to this perplexing issue and I acknowledge that it’s easy to have a whine and a bitch and throw sticks from a distance without offering a solution but the difference between Sony and myself is that I’m not getting paid the big bucks to come up with a solution.

So we have a new, powerful handheld getting ready to hit the market towards the end of the year and I’m worried and hoping and praying that it does deliver the goods much like people were expecting from the PSP. Maybe with the high calibre of launch titles and the extremely impressive third party support, people will be too enraptured to see the glaring shortcoming and forgive Sony and throw all their support behind it? I for one was facing a conundrum as I wasn’t sure whether to keep supporting my aging PSP3000 or to embrace the simplicity and convenience of digital content. Seeing as how it’s the only way I’m going to be playing classics such as Wipeout Pulse, Daxter or Grand Theft Auto on the Vita, I think now would be the time to fully embrace the digital revolution and maybe put my UMD collection in storage and accept the fact that my Sony gaming future will be ostensibly UMD free?

* Laucha is spanish for mouse and is my wife’s nickname as she’s a smidge over 5 foot! Any resemblance to any rodent alive or dead is purely coincidental and not meant to offend anyone.

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Japandaman
Founder of Japandaman - Australia's premier Japanese pop culture website!
http://www.japandaman.com