Sony has released the details of the Japanese version of their Vita Passport system. In it, PSP owners will be able to register their UMD games for play on the PlayStation Vita… for a price.
Users will have to register their UMDs via the UMD Registration Program on their PSP, which will then register the game for use on the Vita. The UMD will be uniquely registered to that person’s PSN account, though it hasn’t been determined just how the UMDs will be identified yet. Not every game or company is involved in the program, though forty companies, including Square Enix, Falcom, and Konami are.
For each game, there’s a price attached to downloading the game onto the PSN, ranging from ¥500 ($6.50) to ¥1500 (about $19.50). A list of games was posted on the Japanese PlayStation site which was translated at NeoGAF.
There are no details regarding if this system will be intact in North America or Europe.
Analysis: On the surface, this is a craven ploy by Sony to make people pay twice for games they legally purchased. Looking deeper, it’s even worse.
It’s not just the fact that Sony’s charging money to register your PSP games with your effort, THEN pay a fee to download them. It’s how they’re doing it and why. First off, why the varying prices? This requires very little effort on Sony’s part unless we’re paying for their DRM schemes, which is a whole other ball of wax. No, the prices determined are wholly arbitrary, determined based on demand and name recognition. While I see Aileen’s point from when we were talking about something only somewhat related (SCEA’s prices of American PSX classics; most of the latest ones are going for the full $9.99, simply because they can), where she said if prices were consistent, they’d all suck. It isn’t even necessary here because we already own the games. Sony’s screwing their customers simply because they can. It’s not even a bandwidth issue; it’s the consumer that pays for the last-mile bandwidth at the worst prices among developed countries and often with a cap.
There’s also the issue of “registering” the UMD. Quite frankly, I think this is to poison the third party well. If you buy a UMD, will you be able to redownload it? Or will that UMD’s “code,” for lack of a better term, be used up already? Just how, exactly, is the game “registered?” Does each PSP UMD have a serial number embedded? It’s not rewriteable hardware; you can’t just stick a cookie file in the code.
Finally, just where are people going to put their downloaded UMD games? The only place they really can go are onto the Sony’s extremely expensive and totally proprietary memory sticks.
So in conclusion, assuming this program comes over to the Americas—and I see no reason why it wouldn’t—you have to pay a second time for the game you already own. In some cases, you’ll be paying a high premium if you own a popular title that you’ve already paid top dollar for, eating up bandwidth you’re paying for in the process and having to buy more memory sticks in order to store the games. In addition, it creates a further lock-in with Sony’s technology, indirectly hurts the pre-owned market, gets customers “trained” on digital (after all, if you own a digital game, you can’t trade it in), and best of all, does all of this at no real cost to Sony. If done as intended, it’s a 100% loss for the consumer and a 100% gain for a company who can’t seem to make any PlayStation line-related decision that doesn’t make consumers feel like crap. This is the kind of business model that executives fantasize about when they masturbate.
My advice is to skip this whole program altogether. The PSP isn’t going away in any iteration; PSP-3000 models will be available new for years, even if Sony bullies GameStop and other hardware retailers into taking them off the shelves. Furthermore, as the Vita gets released, the average consumer will trade in their PSPs to deflect the cost, meaning there will be a glut of used PSPs in very good condition. Lastly, I can’t think of many truly “rare” PSP UMDs; 99% of the games someone would want to play are selling for below MSRP, and the exceptions are niche titles like Dungeons & Dragons Tactics. Considering that this program doesn’t have 100% support, the costs involved, and the hassle, just do what I’ve been doing with the PlayStation 2: keep the system and the games around.