LOS ANGELES (CNN/Money) - Sony's entry in the handheld gaming space might be a bit delayed in the U.S., but when it arrives, it's going to have a tremendous amount of publisher support.
Nearly 100 game publishers are making games for the PSP (or PlayStation Portable), which will be released in the U.S. early next year. (Sony plans to ship the device in Japan this holiday season.)
|Sony's PSP will have a tremendous amount of support in the U.S.
The first batch of games will have some familiar titles, including Metal Gear, SpiderMan 2 and Tiger Woods Golf. Electronic Arts, the gaming industry's leading publisher, vowed to have four titles ready for the PSP at launch.
The PSP, which has roughly the same graphical quality as the PS2, is being targeted at an older audience than other handheld gaming machines, with Sony particularly eyeing 18-34 year old males.
"We know they buy more games with more disposable income," said Kaz Hirai, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America.
The PSP will feature a 4.3-inch screen with a 16:9 widescreen ratio, come with built-in stereo speakers. It will support 802.11b wireless connections and have input ports for US 2.0 devices and Sony's proprietary memory stick storage device.
Battery life will vary, depending on how the PS is used, Hirai said. Gamers should be able to play for roughly 10 hours before recharging the device's lithium-ion battery. People using the PSP as a music player will be able to listen for approximately eight hours. And when it's used as a portable movie player, the battery will last 2.5 hours.
Several new peripherals
Sony said it plans to release several peripherals for the PSP, including a USB camera, a GPS device and a keyboard.
Games and other forms of entertainment will be stored on a new storage device known as the Universal Media Disc, which Sony said will hold three times as much data as a CD-ROM.
Sony shocked the gaming industry last year by announcing plans to enter the handheld gaming market with the PSP. Industry observers immediately began envisioning a new type of battle between the company and Nintendo, which has dominated the handheld space to date with its Game Boy system.
"PSP will enter an already crowded space, but one with much growth opportunities," said Hirai. "PSP is a new format and a new business for us. It is a totally new play experience."
While Nintendo will be the PSP's chief competitor at launch, Sony will ultimately face off against a wider selection of companies that make multimedia gadgets, including Apple Computer (and its iPod) and makers of portable DVD players.
Sony has very high expectations for the PSP. In an earnings announcement late last month, the company said it plans to ship 3 million of the machines this year. Less publicly, it's hoping the PSP revolutionizes the portable market in the same way the PlayStation upended home consoles.
Before the PlayStation, game machines skewed young, attracting children and early teens, but not doing much to attract adult gamers. Sony targeted an older audience and opened up new sources of revenue for the industry.
While Nintendo has already made inroads into the adult market with portable gaming machines, analysts say the PSP, with its multimedia functionality, will bring in a new audience.