Sony pitches PSP at the oldies too

The PSP will launch in Australia as the Swiss Army Knife for the digital age, combining games, movies, photos and music with new features such as Web browsing at wireless hotspots and sporting coverage from Telstra Bigpond.

Sony revealed its plans for the Australian edition of the PlayStation Portable, which goes on sale on 1 September, at the official PSP press preview this week. Convergence was the keyword for the versatile device, with Sony representatives showing how the PSP would bring together several media on a single platform.

The PSP supports Sony's proprietary storage formats -- Memory Stick and Universal Media Disk (UMD). It can play games and movies (via UMD), and photographs and music (via Memory Stick). The Australian model will also include firmware upgrade 2.0, which adds Web browsing support at wireless hotspots.

"The PSP has been built for the digital wireless connections of the future," said Michael Ephraim, managing director of Sony Computer Entertainment Australia. Ephraim also made reference to the infrared port on the top of the console, the use of which is still a closely guarded secret. SCE Australia's director of market, Travis Plane, said the PSP's union of video, audio, interactive and wireless technology would help "legitimise portable entertainment for an older audience".

"Historically, handhelds have been positioned almost exclusively in the youth market. With PSP, we're going to shake things up a little," he said. "We are launching a new product category from scratch."

Launching with the PSP will be 25 games titles, ranging from famous franchises like Ridge Racer, Medieval, Wipe Out and Metal Gear Solid through to new names such as Everybody Golf and Mercury. There will also be 18 movie titles available on UMD, including hits such as xXx and Hellboy. Sony said this would increase to 37 titles by the end of September.

Sony claims support from many major film companies, including Buena Vista, Universal, Fox, Paramount and Lion's gate, all of whom will be releasing films on UMD for the PSP. Others are expected to follow.

Telstra Bigpond pledged to release coverage packages for various sporting events including AFL, NFL and V8 events. These will be short media excerpts tailored specifically for PSP viewing. Sponsorship is a big part of Sony's plan to break into the older demographic, with their other big partnership being with Perisher Blue.

Harvey Norman also revealed its support for the sporting campaign. Representative, John Slack-Smith, said Harvey Norman believed the PSP would be the "next big thing" in portable entertainment.

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Andrew Kliem

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