Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Backwards Problem

 I had a real shaky start with the Sony Playstation Portable(PSP). I bought it during its launch year in 2005 and a handful of games to go with it. I played it for roughly a week or two and then it went unnoticed for several years. It sat with my games collecting dust, waiting for a day when a game I was truly excited about was released for it. It got passed over many times for the Nintendo DS with its fun, innovative games and long battery life for many airplane trips across the Pacific Ocean. It was a sad little system that just didn’t connect with me the way it could have back in those early days. Many of my friends enjoyed it and spoke highly of it, but for some reason my PSP and I just never had much to say to one another. Then starting in 2008 things slowly began to change.

Zack! Look out behind you!
 I believe it was the upcoming release of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII exclusively for PSP that got me scouring the house for my game system. I had moved twice since the last time I’d played it. I had to dig it up from its early grave, and what may have been most challenging was finding its power cord so it would be charged and ready to play when I bought this new addition to the “Final Fantasy” family. I could reserve an entire Tuesday article for a special rant for all the reasons I dislike the Crisis Core plot as an addition to the “Compilationof Final Fantasy VII,” but despite picking the story apart it was a really fun game and I got a lot of good times out of it. Most importantly, it reconnected me with my dusty, lonely PSP system and was the herald for a bunch of games I would go on to enjoy on the PSP from 2008 to 2011.

Suddenly games I actually wanted to play were coming out on the PSP and it was back in my good graces. It was Square Enix’s new system of choice to re-port old classics. Nippon Ichi Software (NIS) started developing more games for it, and re-porting some of my favorite games to it, including Disgaea and Disgaea 2. The list goes on, and I could bore you with detail, but suffice it to say someone told Sony I like Japanese-style role-playing games and Sony started releasing them in the United States. PSP got my attention after years of lying dormant in a box in the garage.

 Unfortunately, this all came crashing to a halt in August of 2011. My wife and I had recently purchased a 2nd PSP so she could enjoy playing Valkyria Chronicles 2 with me. We had really enjoyed ValkyriaChronicles together on the PS3, but it did not have any form of multiplayer content, until the sequel. So here we are in August 2011 enjoying not one, but two PSP in what I consider their golden years, when they both spontaneously within a month of one another just stop working. The new PSP will not recharge its battery and I’m not in a position to buy a new battery because if it’s not the problem, I have 2 batteries and a broken PSP. Then the original PSP just stopped turning on. It was a sad day. We both had to let go of a game we were deeply involved in playing, Jeanne d’Arc.
Now I knew that early 2012 was bringing the Playstation Vita to the handheld scene. It was to be the successor to the PSP and a question remained, was it going to be backward compatible? Was it going to be able to play PSP games? The answer to that question is complicated. The PSP games I want it to play are on a format called UMD (Universal Media Disc) which at the time of PSP’s launch seemed like the most ridiculous format possible. Apparently Sony, or more specifically the Vita, agrees with me. The Vita does not have a UMD loading dock. It does however play digital copies of the PSP games, if you bought them and downloaded them from the Playstation Network (PSN). This was not the answer I was looking for so I waited and looked for more.

You see, it stands to reason that if I own a copy of a game that I purchased, I should also own the digital copy of it contained within the UMD. So really, all I would need or want is a way to access the digital copy to load it on to a Vita. Then PSP can be left broken and forgotten on the side of the road to make way for new and improved gaming system that will cater to all my needs. Sony offered the Japanese customers the option to transfer many of their UMD games to digital format for a price. That honestly feels like giving me a discount on re-buying something I already own, since it was a different price for each game rather than a flat-rate service charge. However, that’s better than nothing. Here in the US there is nothing.

History is vague on the details of this battle.
This led me briefly to a night of trying to find a way to convert my own UMD to digital format, or simply (dare I post it on the internet) acquire pirate versions of the digital copies. Mind you, I’m only talking about the games I own, and in particular I’m talking about Jeanne d’Arc which I really wanted to finish! However, I abandoned this course pretty soon after getting the idea. I decided I’d probably punish Sony in another way, which is to not buy the PS Vita. I typically don’t buy a system until it has a game I really want to own, so there wasn’t any real pressing urge to buy a Vita when it launched in February. I just would have preferred to upgrade than spend money fixing or buying a replacement PSP. Sony will lose out on about $250 this year in Vita sales and who knows how much in games. I don’t really think that drop in the bucket is a threat to them and I’m not really outraged by this inconvenience. It’s just a shame and a waste.

I feel backward compatibility should be an industry standard. Whenever possible, you should present the opportunity for your customers to continue playing their old games on your new systems. Preferably, you don’t charge them extra, but if that’s what it takes to provide the service, then at least you can say you offer it. I’ve personally never been in this situation, but the lack of this option has cost them a potential customer. I’m sure someday down the road I may be a proud owner of a PS Vita, but it won’t be in 2012. There are just too many good PSP games lying around the house, taunting me, begging me to play them. I can’t toss them aside, and I can’t ignore them. Besides, if PSP is any indication, who knows how long the PS Vita would sit in a box in my shed before they start to make games for it that I’m truly interested in buying?


Related Links
 Sony explains why no Vita UMD transfer for US

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